Your Website Sucks (and that’s okay)

  • 1
  • August 09, 2013

When people enter into the creative process with violetminded, they usually have a pretty decent idea of the kind of website that they want. They have catchy words that they use — bold, dynamic, exciting — and amazing digital dreams for their online biz.

Their enthusiasm is contagious! And, me being me (enthusiastic to a fault sometimes — hello loud!), I want to know more about the business they’ve built over the last while. I’m curious about their Perfect People, their business model, their revenue, and their messaging.

Then, they tell me that they’ve just started their biz.

(Cue car screeching to a halt. Or a record scratch of disbelief. Or sad trombones. Whatever works for you.)

They’re concerned because their website is a mess (or they don’t have one) and they believe that in order to be taken seriously, they need the most badass website imaginable. They see what Big Budget Design does for the Big Names in the online world. (There’s that contagious enthusiasm again.)

But here’s where the whole thing comes apart: time and money.

Start-ups that aren’t funded by investment capital (and some that are) are on a tight budget and an even tighter timeline. Every penny is magnitudes of importance — it could be going to paying an engineer to produce the software or to the solo entrepreneur as she struggles to pay rent. Those pennies have emotional charge to them.

Lately, I’ve taken to saying:

“Listen, sweetpea. Your website? It sucks. I’m not going to deny that. But here’s the awesome thing about being brand new: that’s okay.”

Now why in the world would I tell potential clients that they’re not ready for me? (Yet.)

I follow the Agile Manifesto (read about that here), whose over-arching tenet is: get it shipped and improve as you go.

That’s what business — especially digital business — is about. And that’s why I send the newbies on a different quest: to get it “good enough” and get it out the digital door. Why invest thousands of dollars in a business website when your business isn’t sure what it is? (Yet.) Why spend anywhere from four months to a year getting a website polished and prepped when that could be time spent hustling your biz and getting money in your bank account?

Usually, there isn’t a good reason to invest in a website right out of the gate.

Here’s where you need to invest first:

  • Great branding, which includes solid messaging (and that’s where copywriters come in)
  • A technically oriented virtual assistant to get you set up with your online tools
  • A WordPress Security expert, to make sure that your installation is as bulletproof as it can be
  • A premium WordPress theme that you (or your new technically savvy VA) can customize fairly easily

A professionally designed (and gorgeous) website is the least useful thing for you until you…

  • have an established brand with products and services that make your people sing from the rooftops
  • know who your Perfect People are
  • have your messaging in place and can confidently articulate who you are, what you do, and why you do it

The exceptions are:

  • Community start-ups: if you’re building a business around building a community, then you need to invest in great web design AND development right out of the gate, or you’ll lose your Perfect People as soon as they land on your page
  • eCommerce: if your business is to sell a lot of physical products (not necessarily the stuff you can find in online marketplaces), then investing in solid web development will save you YEARS of headaches down the line. Do it right or don’t do it at all. If you build with the wrong backend, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

The tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) version:

Before you invest in a high-touch, super customized online space, make sure that you’ve done your legwork beforehand. Showing up with a dream in your eye is amazing (omgenthusiasm!), but enthusiasm does not a sustainable business make. Once you’ve proven your concept — whether that concept is a product, service, or content — then you can move onto making sure that your content and your online space are aligned.

If your website sucks (and you’re brand new), don’t fret. There’ll be time for that.

If your website sucks (and you’ve been at it a while), then it’s time to make a change.

About Amanda Farough

The visionary. Ardent adorer of trailblazing entrepreneurs and rebellious rulers. Mama in many, many capacities (but especially to two younglings). Sometimes podcaster. Always nerd. The Force is strong with this one.


  • Amazing post! Amanda have me this very advice months ago, and I believe she’s bang on. Thanks momma!

  • Love this Amanda. I did a two part video series on website shame a while back addressing exactly this – but you say it all much more eloquently! Not to mention, there are a lot of charlatans hiding behind big shiny websites. So a big shiny website does not a reputable business make either.

    I found that it took me almost a year to test and tweak and figure out what in the heckfire direction my business was going to go in and during that time, I had a so-so website that did the trick. For sure I had a bit of website shame, but it didn’t really matter because I was providing rocking services and getting excellent referrals. Then when I had the brand clarity AND the cash in my bank, I upgraded my site. (Well, technically I built my own site, but I wasn’t getting paid while I was designing and coding so, you know.) I’m 100% with you on this, sister. This conversation needs to be had.

    • I’ve redesigned violetminded I don’t know how many times (yes, I do… but it’s an alarming number that I don’t wanna share) and it wasn’t until this iteration that I’ve felt like I actually nailed everything from the messaging to the creative direction.

      It’s HARD to build an online space around a business, let alone a business that’s brand-spanking-new.

      (PS. I’ma email you to discuss further. There’s something in this. Yes, there is.)

  • Nikki Groom says:

    ADORE this post. I could’ve worked with you when I first started out, as you know. Buuut I hadn’t the first clue about the direction I wanted to go in. I went elsewhere . . . and now we’ve come full circle, and I am SO SO SO excited to unveil the new site. It’s simply GORGEOUS. As are YOU. As is everything you touch. <3 <3 <3 Big love, muffin. xoxo

    • It was important that you get your website going with a Good For Now design — it meant that you could feel comfy enough to grow and evolve and change without having to sweat bullets about not looking professional (enough).

      And now that we’ve come full circle, it’s been worth the whole journey. (And, for what it’s worth, I’ve loved your evolution. You’re gorgeous in every way imaginable, bb.)

  • Mindie Kniss says:

    Great point! I needed to read this 6 years ago. ;-)
    Thankfully, with premium theme options today, it’s easier to get started with a small budget and work up from there. I’m forwarding this on to a friend who’s just beginning.

    • And there’s no shame in being a beginner! We’ve all gotta start somewhere, right? Going through the design process with fear in your heart is a surefire way to miss the marker, though.

      It’s have fun or don’t bother, amirite?

  • Robert says:

    If I could insert this:

    • Great branding, which includes solid messaging (and that’s where copywriters come in)

    into my clients head matrix like my job would be so much easier… 

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