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When Small Businesses Want “Jazzy”

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In a microcosmic sort of way, I recently experienced one of the most prominent challenges that exists between builders of small business web products/solutions and those very small businesses…

When it comes to the web, small businesses sometimes want “jazzy.” (Note: this is not a blanket statement. Many small businesses don’t want “jazzy.” The majority recognize “simple” as the priority. But it’s an actual problem that happens. A lot.)

So back to the example. My barber. First of all, she’s wonderful - and she’s often a great resource to remind me of the world that exists outside the tech snow globe. We always talk about what’s happening in our respective lives and, oftentimes, she asks web questions. “Should I do some Facebook ads?” “How do I get ‘good’ at Google?” 

Recently, we started talking about her website. It’s not great. It’s old. She’s locked out of it. It’s… you get the idea. So I told her I’d whip up something clean, simple, easy-to-update, mobile compatible and user-friendly. Essentially, I was going to get her set up on Tumblr. (The idea is that she could have a few pages listing relevant business info - hours, phone number, social links - and that the blog functionality is where she could post pictures of the haircuts she takes.)  Simple. Easy. In exchange, I said, “Do this: I’ll get you up and running and show you how to do updates yourself for a handful of on-the-house haircuts.”  

“Deal!” she exclaimed.

So I did it. I whipped up a simple Tumblr and before redirecting the domain, showed her the mock up. Simple. Vital business information. Some social buttons. And a handful of haircut pics she had sent over. Days later, I got an email. She wanted something more “jazzy.” 

Jazzy? Apparently the focus on functionality, usability, device compatibility and clarity (which we had discussed prior) took a back seat to “jazzy.”

But the biggest problem with “jazzy?” IT HAS NO DEFINITION. 

And this is a frequent major disconnect between web and small business. On the web side, we’re preaching simplicity, function and form over superfluous flair (i.e., “jazz”), clarity… the list goes on. But a lot of small businesses - again, not all and this is no knock against them - are thinking about their web presences much as they might think about things like signage, print ads, business cards, collateral, brochures, etc. In those instances, style is perhaps a top priority. But in the web, accessibility, form and functionality need to top style. Don’t get me wrong, style and design are critical to a sound web presence. But if you’ve got a site that doesn’t work on, say, a mobile device, no amount of makeup is going to help. And it becomes a built-in hurdle to getting the customer in the door.

So how do we combat the demand for “jazzy” and the deprioritization of form and function? We have to explain it - in a way that’s not condescending. (No small business owner is going to embrace an “internet person” who makes them feel stupid.) Maybe we ask them what “jazzy” is so that we’re essentially facilitating their self-discovery that it’s not terribly relevant when it comes to their web presences. Maybe we show them examples they know and the thought processes behind them.Whatever it is, this is all evidence that there’s an often ignored learning curve. Always be aware of and striving to close it.

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