Learning about small businesses (Site building study #3)

These are the results of a user research study investigating mental models related to building and customising a website. Results are split across five posts:

Background | Segments: Bloggers · Small Businesses · Site Builders | Conclusions

The research group sorted participants into three segments, based on their current understanding of how people use WordPress. These segments are based on a handful of data points and warrant further study to confirm the categories. For now, these segments allow researchers to group WordPress’ extensive userbase into behavioural categories and learn characteristics specific to each group.

For this study, we focussed on three segments: bloggers, small businesses, and site builders (people who build sites for others). Let’s learn about small businesses next.

Small businesses are the most varied group since businesses range widely depending on their nature. This is a difficult group to generalise about and researchers observed a diverse range of experiences.


Small businesses tend not to be technically inclined. Out of necessity, they’ve taught themselves to build a website. They spend a lot of time building and maintaining their site, but they don’t enjoy the process. They’d be happy to pass that responsibility to somebody else if funds allowed, and it’s often one of the first things they’ll do once their business becomes successful.

I’m not internet savvy at all…even though I’ve been a computer programmer for 26 years.

Choosing products

They have very specific needs for their website, and often struggle to build exactly what they want.

Small businesses rely very heavily on recommendations. They feel overwhelmed by all the options available to them and don’t know what’s the best path to follow. They rely on word of mouth or published tutorials online.

I’m not thrilled with it, but I don’t have to deal with it.

While they’d appreciate a solution that ticks all the boxes, they often lack the time and interest to build something themselves. A ready-made solution that gets them 90% of the way there is often preferable to something they need to build themselves, even if it isn’t a perfect solution.


Growth isn’t always their primary goal—stability and self-sufficiency are more critical. While small businesses probably wouldn’t mind an influx of extra cash, their primary aim is to be able to support themselves and their families. Many small businesses want to diversify their offerings, so they aren’t reliant on a single source of income and their revenue becomes more stable.

I’m always going to be grateful for WordPress because it’s a low barrier for entry. It just takes time and dedication.

Price sensitivity

Once their business has reached a certain level of success, owners become comfortable paying for services. Before that, they stick to free solutions and avoid paying for things they don’t need to.

Small businesses consider a website an investment. They may have a solution that works well enough now, but they’d love to spend more for a better site and may be saving up for one.


  • To drive traffic to their website
  • To support themselves doing something they’re passionate about
  • To grow their business

Pain points

  • Building a site that meets their needs is challenging
  • Technical jargon is hard to decipher
  • Lack of interest in the process of site building
  • Tend to be short on both money and time

Typical sitebuilding journey


  1. Decrease jargon in user interfaces.
  2. Simplify interfaces as much as possible, and reveal complexity progressively.
  3. Provide extension packages or pluginPlugin A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites. WordPress plugins are written in the PHP programming language and integrate seamlessly with WordPress. These can be free in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory https://wordpress.org/plugins/ or can be cost-based plugin from a third-party recommendations tailored to specific use cases.
  4. Connect businesses with service providers directly so that they can delegate tasks more efficiently.
#gutenberg, #research