As a budding business or a small business, attempting to transition into the online ether can sometimes feel like a monumental mind-boggling feat, so many considerations, details, tasks and questions. From as basic to which hosting package, (WHAT IS A HOSTING PACKAGE?!) to as confusing as how to convert R.O.I. to revenue. It is incredibly daunting, and this feeling of intimidation can paralyze small businesses in their attempt to be successful online. I have seen three primary ways in which this can happen:
- Established off-line business’s see it as an inconvenience with little return so ignore the opportunity completely.
- Smaller business’s i.e. sole-traders with next to nothing marketing budgets attempt to do it all them selves and become drowned in information and give up serious work on it, leaving a token webpage behind them to put on their business cards
- A business is aware that being on-line is not an option it’s a necessity but has no in-house vested interest in the workings of the online market, so outsources the work to an agent who serves them up a template site and toddles off on their way.
These attitudes are more common than not. There are more than 240 million dead websites on the internet making it a junkyard of extra ordinary proportions. This www. wastage can be partly attributed to the misleading messages we are constantly being fed, that e-commerce is easy, anyone can do it, it’ll take you no time at all. The internet is easy and convenient for consumers, Not for business’s. Can you go on a weekend trip to Berlin and have merry ole time, yes. Can you organize moving yourself and your family over to start a new efficient hipster life in Berlin in a couple of hours? No. Don’t allow anyone fool you into believing e-commerce success is easy, it is not. The web is the fastest growing, fastest changing market the world has ever seen, cracking it and keeping up with it is continuous hard-work. However, it is also an unprecedentedly democratic marketplace where the right attitude alone can serve anyone rewards on a scale that would be impossible off-line.
So start with the right attitude.
If you are in the process of moving your business online, or are just getting to grips with e-commerce, don’t take a step back, take a step forward!
There is a tendency for everyone outside of coders, developers, web designers and generally officially trained internet people, to avoid the details of their website and online presence and place an untold amount of trust on either an agent or a online service, that comfort you that getting online is quick and easy. This is misleading, it is not quick and not easy, there are four year degree courses specifically for it. Now this is not to say we all need to go back to college and get a degree in web development to get a website! Or dement yourself trying to get to grips with the technical in’s and outs of html. Of course not, but be aware there are currently debates of introducing coding as a school subject. This is indicator enough of how fast it is becoming the new universal language.
But don’t let that worry you.
You might not speak fluent German when you decide to move to Germany but you are more than likely going to familiarize yourself with the culture, understand their traits and customs and maybe pick up a useful phrase or two to get you by. Almost every area in life can be broken down into culture and language, while you can get by without a fluency of language, lack of understanding of a culture can have unpleasant consequences. This same attitude can to apply to your move online, there is both a culture and a language. So if you’re thinking of moving online your first goal is to understand the culture.
This is a very simple but useful step, you probably already do it: dedicate a little time per day to internet surfing, now push this a little further and begin analyzing your own behavior online, make a couple of notes on what you use it for, what you particularly enjoyed on it, what irritated you about it etc. be specific etc. ‘The page took a long time to load”, “I couldn’t tell if I’d clicked the button or not”, “there was no search bar to quickly find what I was looking for”, “There were too many pop-up ads” Really think about it and come up with your own. You should find yourself getting increasingly more critical and more specific. Research your notes, online of course, i.e. type, why is a website taking a long time to load? Into your search bar, Don’t get fixated on asking the right questions or finding the exact answers, just give the time to reading and absorbing little bits and pieces that interest You about the web. You should start to grasp little pieces of language and knowledge that will help you in setting up your own website.
With this extra knowledge and confidence, now would be an appropriate time to return your attention to your own site. You really need to interrogate this well before approaching any external avenue. What are your priorities for your website, (aside from: good S.E.O, which is a must and basic priority for all websites, if you have little experience website building I would recommend consulting a professional on this) is it fast to load? Is it easy to use, is the navigation designed to allow people to find what they want quickly? Think of building your website like building your house, it has to be that close to your heart. N.B. Bad S.E.O. is the equivalent of burying your house underground with a secret passage way as an entrance! Obviously how it looks on completion and the content are important to you, you don’t want a house with horrible paint jobs and ugly furniture but all of that can be easily modified. With a little time and effort you should be able to mange the superficial look of your website yourself. What you won’t be able to do is go re-installing the damp-proof layer in your walls! You need to ensure the plan is that which will work best for your consumer and the build is solid.
With this in mind you now realize the importance of Understanding what you need done and researching the best possible way to achieve what you need done. Research who it is you need to work with, if your site is going to have a large complex infra-structure, retail stores with large amount of products you are more than likely going to need a developer And a web-designer, if your site is smaller and acting more as informational ad-on to your off-line business then a competent web-designer will more than likely be able to fill your needs. Before committing to any agent you should ensure their style meets or is flexible enough to meet yours. You should look for an agent that is non-compromising in craftmen-ship rather than the cheapest, look for someone who doesn’t intimidate you with complex computer language but strives for a clear line of communication, someone who respects what you want and will interpret it in the most sensible fashion.
Once you find this agent you must commit yourself to being part of the process, understand what’s going on and the direction it’s going. At all stages remind and revisit what you want this site to do, who you want to click on it and how you want to make them feel. It is a designers job to design, layout and build but it is your job to have a clear brief and enough knowledge to have a hand in guiding this process and protecting yourself from being left short.