Love their style

The phrase “time is money” is a common mantra of business owners – particularly those who own small local businesses. It’s often a challenge to be certain you’re investing in the right resources at the right time. Too late and you lose market share, or fail to gain at the pace of the competitor who was more fearless. Too soon and you risk tying up money that may be needed for higher priority items.

Even when a business owner has the personal expertise or aptitude to fill some or all of the business’s needs and therefore save out of pocket costs, it doesn’t make sense to take on the load when it detracts from his or her primary responsibility or when tasks don’t get done because they’re not high enough on the list of competing priorities.

Caitie Norman and Jena Carros of Charmaine’s, Inc. had struggled for over a year to find time to create a web presence before coming to me. Caitie, the salon coordinator, had increasingly heard about the idea of WordPress as a Content Management System (CMS) for web sites and thought she would use it to build the salon’s first ever website – when she found the time to figure it all out. Given Jena’s load as the salon’s co-owner as well as one of its stylists, plus a part-time position as her church’s youth coordinator, Jena really needed to leave the task to Caitie. However, Caitie is a busy lady herself. In addition to her position at the salon, she’s a full-time university student.

The duo had a family connection who had a technical background that included some knowledge of HTML. Combined with Caitie’s general aptitude for the web, it might have been enough to net them a web site without outside involvement.

Nothing, however, exists in a vacuum.

The greater the investment in gaining knowledge and expertise, the more professional the results. But trying to replicate the work of a professional takes time and money, and it’s difficult to match years of experience without having spent years oneself. Plus, a pro knows how to come in and get the job done without having to first take the time figure out *how* to get it done. These are all things that Caitie, Jena and others have learned on a journey that begins at “We can build our own web site,” then takes a sharp right when the path intersects with reality.

The minute we launched the project, I put up a single, temporary page that hinted at the design to come, and provided all information necessary to contact the salon to set up an appointment. I also included links to a map and directions, as well as to the salon’s active Facebook page. This gave them a basic presence almost immediately, and allowed us the time needed to develop the site properly. Too many of these pages are labeled “Coming Soon,” and we chose to avoid that murky phrase, instead providing only information to allow visitors to get in touch or connect on Facebook.

We kept costs down by starting with a pre-designed WordPress template, also known as a theme. When not building a theme myself, I always go with high-quality, well-coded themes from design shops I trust. We chose the Studio theme from Organic Themes because it had the basic structure we wanted, as well as design elements that exuded calm relaxation. With moderate customization of the template, I created the warm, welcoming vibe we wanted for this high-style but small-town hair salon.

Caitie Norman wrote all of the content, and placed most of it in the site herself. We got together for a training session, and if she hit a snag I walked her through the problem via video so she’d be able to take care of it herself in the future. Caitie also maximized efficiency and gave the site a little extra panache by using a camera phone app to quickly capture and upload great-looking stylist, product and blog photos.

The Charmaine’s, Inc. web site is one of my favorite projects, and should serve as inspiration for any small business owner who has a tight budget, but is willing to learn and work toward a memorable web presence.