or is it just pretty?
In my business, I often come across businesses without a website. Almost equally, I find businesses with websites that don't work.
For the former group–businesses without websites–it's pretty easy to convince their owners that they should have a website. After all, your website can work for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 365 days a year.
For the group that already has a website, but it doesn't work, what do I mean by that?
Most paid-for websites function but they don't work. Put another way, they're pretty and offer neat little widgets and gizmos and whatnots, but they don't really act as a silent salesperson for the business.
Of course, if your website had one sole purpose, it would be to sell your products or services. At the very least, it would be a lead-capture site, where prospects could find your contact info and store hours.
Let's expand on this a bit.
Having a website has a lot of benefits to a business: It can help you establish your brand, reputation, credibility, expertise, and authority. It can also sell for you 24×7. Plus, it can help you capture prospective leads so that you can be proactive and contact them after they express interest in what you have to offer.
Obviously, there are many good things about having a website. But think of it like this: Your website should serve one sole purpose. And it's a purpose you have to define.
Do you want it to sell for you? Market for you? Capture leads? Be nothing more than a signpost telling people how to contact you?
In other words, what do you want visitors to do once they get to your site? If you want them to leave their contact info, then your website serves the purpose of lead-gen and you can market to them via direct mail, telephone, and/or email.
If, on the other hand, you want them to pick up the phone, then your website really is functioning as a receptionist or telephone operator/greeter.
You can extend these scenarios to define many more roles your website could fill.
So, ask yourself this: When a visitor comes across your site, what action do you want them to take? (And, by the way, it could be multiple things–just make darned sure you don't get too scattered in your focus.)
What is the one next thing you want them to do? You are trying to sell them on something–their next action.
THAT is the purpose of your website.