Never mind “Autopilot.” What about the people who are afraid to fly? Thoughts on creating website building software for small businesses.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years is that no matter how easy something may be, some folks have a tendency to stay clear away from it. And not because they don’t want to, but perhaps there’s a perception-based fear that keeps them away. They once could have had a bad experience with something or heard from the grape vine to stay away from certain goods, services, or experiences, regardless of how easy or beneficial it may be.

When we talk about small businesses and websites, there’s one thing that rings true. The perception is that a lot of time and effort is needed to create, manage, and drive success with a website. For those small business owners who actually board the flight per se, they’ll realize that the process has been streamlined quite a bit in recent years.

Much like aviation, the website building industry has come a long way. What once took weeks to build in a text editor can now take 15 minutes without any coding whatsoever. The overhead is much lower in terms of time and effort, but due to technological advances, the yield is even higher that it was before (and the chance for carpal tunnel is lower!). Autopilot has become very advanced.

But what about those who just don’t want to fly?

Recently, our research team at Automattic conducted some thorough research on the small business market within the United States.  Part of what we found was that many small business owners understand the need of having a website, but are plagued by thoughts of impending difficulty or a huge investment in time that takes away from their business focus.

If you look back to the first time you ever took a flight, you probably remember that taking off was the most difficult parts of that flight — at least for me it was. I remember the plane scrambling down the runway at what seemed like terminal velocity. It was loud, shaky, and my stomach dipped when the aircraft lifted off the ground. The physical pressure I felt disoriented me and I forgot why I was even on the flight in the first place. The more altitude we gained, the less worrisome I became. Once we reached cruising speeds and altitude, the ride was smoother, quieter (except for the child in row 4), and I felt silly for worrying so much in anticipation. Millions of people fly everyday without issue, and now I could too!

The web isn’t so different from flying in this regard—both are a vector for reaching a goal. For a small business owner who isn’t a serial entrepreneur, chances are high that it may be their first time setting up a website for their business. so the reluctancy to get started is completely understandable. From small businesses owners I know personally who have or have had more than one business, it tends to get a little easier for them as they gain experience, as with most things in life.

How do we communicate better ease of use and lower the perception barrier for creating a website?

It’s surprising for me to see folks reluctant to use a tool to help them succeed when they already took the biggest leap of all — they started a small business. Our product is continuously getting better and easier to use. As mentioned above it literally takes minutes to create a website now. They can be extremely easily maintained and set on auto pilot with tools like Jetpack Publicize. It does take a little effort to add new content and keep a site fresh, but with some modifications to business process, it can be easy.  I think as designers we need to work more on changing customers’ perception of exactly what kind of overhead is needed to create and maintain a website using the very tools we’re building. We can’t expect for everyone to have a web 101 prerequisite when they land on or for the first time. The faster we can change this perception, the faster we can get folks to having a successful website.

Originally written for Automattic Design

Photo by Mark Cook on Unsplash

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