web design resources
Developing a successful online business

Developing a successful online business

Teacher: Steve Cartwright

Having worked within the Internet arena for numerous years it is all too easy to forget that this is still a relatively new venture for most senior executives, business managers and all the administrative type service departments beneath them. Don’t take me the wrong way, I’m not saying that they have no experience with the Internet, what I am saying is that the vast majority of these individuals fail to realise how to utilise the Internet for the best benefit of their business.

Don’t take my word for this; discuss this very issue with your colleagues and you will quickly understand that although most people recognise the importance of having an Internet presence they fail to realise exactly how the Internet can best serve their business needs.

Although there is some difference between various industry segments, as you would imagine, overall the trend remains the same. The expertise as to what the Internet can do for your business is sadly lacking from many organisations.

I would bet that almost half the people reading this article are at this point saying that here we go with another article packed with sales fluff, either that or they are kidding themselves with the knowledge that their Web site is the be all and end all and that they need to concentrate on their business and not on the Internet.

These people need to wake up and take notice of what is happening around them, before it is too late for their businesses. Although traditional business channels will never be replaced fully, they will be complimented and enhanced by a successful Internet presence.

Some years back who would have imagined a company setting up an online shop with no actual bricks and mortar sales outlets? That is basically what Amazon did and now they are the largest book retailer in the world. How many of their competitors ignored the Internet and how best they could integrate it within their business models, I wonder how many of them still feel this way.

Many businesses now realise that they have to create a viable Internet component in their business to compete, they often jump aboard the Internet as if it was a speeding train, without necessarily looking where it is heading.

It would be nice to be able to write an article that taught you how best to implement the Internet within your business, however I’ll save that topic for a future book maybe…

In this article I intend to give you a few implementation tips that you should consider for your business, I will also give you a few tips in selecting the right Web development company. To close I will detail a few of the things the development company will require of you.

Internet Implimentation Tips.

1. The Internet presence needs to be business driven.

2. Define your business objectives before starting.

3. Plan thoroughly how to implement the Internet into your existing business model.

4. Don’t treat the Internet as a ‘show room’ it can also change the way you do business.

5. Ensure there are senior business executives committed to the project.

6. Understand the legal and security requirements an Internet presence brings.

7. Set up a dedicated project team one that combines both business and IT executives.

8. Include specialist outside key partners (consultants, developers, etc) in your initiative.

9. Appreciate that change to staff attitudes is often more complex than technology to embed in an organisation.

10. Ensure your business sets a realistic budget for any proposed Internet presence. Beware of the ‘too good to be true’ deals, that’s usually just what they are.

Even with the tips given above, the best and most useful tip is to find the right development partner for your organisation, Website Designs Ltd can obviously meet almost all of your requirements, but there are many other suitable organisations out their although I am bound to be biased.

What you do however need to watch out for, are the development organisations that do not have the knowledge and expertise from which your company can benefit. Companies such as Website Designs Ltd are often few and far between when you are searching for a suitably qualified organisation, with this in mind here are a few questions to ask any prospective development firm and I’ve also included some of Website Designs Ltd, typical responses.

Question 1:

What can your agency do for my business?

At first glance many Web design companies seem to have much in common, scratch beneath the surface and you’ll spot the differences between them. Some companies specialise in an arty type design, others in a particular technology and yet others in a particular business sector.

Consider the purpose of your Web site, the expectations and the things it needs to achieve. A different approach is required for a small-animated type-site, than for a monster e-commerce centre. Deciding upon an outline purpose before approaching a design agency can help you in your selection process.

Note: Do not get caught out. Many developers will offer to design your company Web site with little more than basic knowledge of Web development, some others will even treat it more as a sideline to their main business activities and the experience which helps to ensure your expectations are achieved are often missing from such developers. A typical example of this would be the print company that for years has printed your brochures and letterheads and suddenly here they are now offering to design your Web site.

Website Designs Ltd:

Website Designs Ltd together with their strategic partners are experts in all aspects of Internet development; we have been working with companies since 1996 to help them achieve successful online businesses. We specialise in enabling online business, this involves consultancy, Internet development, online marketing and ongoing support and development. We work with our clients through all phases; helping to ensure their Internet presence exceeds all expectations.

Question 1:

Can I see your portfolio?

Have a good look around a company’s portfolio of sites, this can tell you an awful lot about a company and the type of businesses it works with and the developments it has completed so far.

Another good source of information regarding the design capabilities of the agency is to actually look over the Web developer’s own site. Is it functional? Does it work?

If you are really checking the agency out you might also like to ask to see their site statistics? If your dealing with a reputable design agency they will have no problems with this and the results should show you how successful they are at promoting and marketing their own site, a fundamental requirement in my opinion. If a developer cannot attract a sufficient number of visitors to his own site, each day, how can he hope to do so for you?

Website Designs Ltd:

Our portfolio is viewable online by visiting our main Web site at www.website-designs.com. Look at our portfolio of sites, there are also a few actual written references that you can download and view. We also have a large number of projects that we have not mentioned on our Web site, details of these sites are given as required along with our strategic partners references, etc., should they be required.

Our site statistics show that our main Web site www.website-designs.com serves over 100,000 unique sessions per week or around 250,000 page views per week. These statistics are available online and we have no problem in showing clients these statistics as and when required. Our marketing experience speaks for itself.

Question 3:

Will you advise me on what I should do? And do you have any suggestions?

This is certainly one question I would make a point of asking, the answer can say an awful lot about a company. It can show you their level of knowledge and expertise, it will show you their commitment to your company and it could also help you automate business processes and also generate additional revenue streams.

Website Designs Ltd:

Website Designs Ltd prides itself on the levels of expertise contained within the organisation; we not only have technological experts but we also have extensive business expertise. This combined experience is used to the best benefit of our customers, with it we can help and advise on how to utilise the Internet, how to develop new revenue streams and how to automate many business processes.

Such is our expertise in this regard that we offer a full consultancy service, whereby we will work with your organisation to determine the best use of the Internet and Internet technologies within your organisation. We will prepare an extensive document detailing these findings and suggestions from which you can either decide to move forward with us or indeed to seek other external quotations. This is obviously a paid for service, but we do help ensure your business is a success online.

Question 4:

Will you promote our site?

There is absolutely no point in having a Web site if nobody ever visits it, sadly this is true of an enormous amount of Web sites these days, by asking this question you are starting to address this extremely important subject. It also helps, of course, if you’re dealing with a Web design agency that attracts visitors to its own Web site, after all experience counts.

Search Engine promotion actually starts with the design of the site, search engines index pages in numerous different ways and when actually coding a Web page this needs to be taken into account.

Website Designs Ltd:

Website Designs Ltd include for basic metadata development and search engine registration with all developments we undertake. As Search Engine promotion is such an important issue, we also offer a monthly Search Engine optimisation and promotion service.

This promotion service is based upon the numerous years of experience we have in this area, as demonstrated by our own statistics (100,000 unique sessions per week). Website Designs Ltd also offers numerous other online promotional services; these range from reciprocal link generation through to newsletter publishing and subscriber growth.

Website Designs Ltd are your single source for all your Internet Development, Promotional and ongoing Internet needs.

Question 5:

What will you expect from us?

Planning a Web site is a time consuming task that requires an awful lot off effort. Many Web agencies will build and make suggestions based on your initial specification, others will offer a full consultation service helping to ensure your development is developed as best it can be for your business.

Whatever approach you take, be prepared to spend some time developing your company’s Internet site. Meetings need to be attended, directions needs to be given and reports prepared. The content for the site needs to come from somewhere, be it specifically written for the site by an expert employed by the developer from a draft you have already prepared, or alternatively you might like to write this content yourself.

Whatever you decide, the development of an Internet site is a two way process and the developers and the customers must all work together.

Website Designs Ltd:

Initially we need to know about your business and the service and products it has to offer. We need to understand your aims and expectations as well as any budget restraints you might have. Once we have this information we will prepare a quotation with the aim of trying to ensure your aims and expectations are exceeded whilst remaining within your budget. Budget permitting we will also make any suitable suggestions as to things that we believe would either automate business processes or add additional revenue streams.

Once appointed, Website Designs Ltd will require from you any specific content, graphics, and such like within a reasonable and agreed timeframe. Meetings are required and items need to be signed off at certain key phases, this all involves time and preparation and you need to allow enough time in your daily business activities to accomplish these important tasks.

Question 6:

How much will it cost?

Look out for the best value for money as opposed to accepting the lowest possible quotation. In fact it is actually often a false economy to do so, as you will most likely end up dealing with poorer quality developers, find yourself facing a large variation bill or other such like occurrence. Nothing in life is free, the same goes for Web design and development if a deal looks too good to be true then it is most likely to be just that… and you could end up spending twice as much money correcting problems and getting your site in order to meet your expectations than had you selected the correct development agency from the onset.

Website Designs Ltd:

Website Designs Ltd tend to work knowing what the budget restraints of a project are, our approach is to ensure the best possible value for this budget, with suggestions and recommendations being included to help ensure your expectations and aims are achieved.

All quotations are given on a project by project basis, typically on a fixed price basis meaning that we will undertake to develop your site to an approved specification for a set sum of money. Providing that the specification does not change you are then assured of the overall development cost.

Please Note: Website Designs Ltd do not accept all projects, we first ascertain if a realistic budget is available to meet the aims and expectations of your organisation. If the budget is not sufficient in our opinion to meet these goals then we will walk away.

Question 7:

What are your payment terms?

With Web development typically costing tens, hundreds or even millions of dollars this question needs to be addressed. Most Web development agencies will require some form of deposit and then further payments at agreed milestones.

Website Designs Ltd:

Website Designs Ltd tend to operate on two distinct policies:

Projects below $2500.00

On all projects with a value of $2500 (US Dollars) or less then we require full payment with order, this is a strict policy and no exceptions to this policy are possible.

Projects over $2500.00

Our payment terms are strictly:

1/3 of contract value with order

1/3 of contract value upon approval of graphics

1/3 of contract value (remaining balance) upon completion.

Please Note: Government Agencies and Large developments projects are undertaken typically to approved and agreed milestone payments.

Obviously, there are more questions that you could ask of an aspiring web development company but I consider the questions above to be the most important. Just as a last thought, though, there is one other question that you should consider asking and it regards terms and conditions. These are obviously required and should work to the best benefit of the project with all parties fully aware of their responsibilities and commitments. If you don’t agree with a term or condition, mention it before placing the order. It is you’re right, as a customer, to add any particular term or condition you require before placing the order, don’t forget that important fact. By negotiating these items and any others at the start of a project you actually help to ensure the consultation and development phases progress smoothly.

Professional Web design agencies do not require you to know everything about the Internet, they do require you to have predetermined goals and objectives and a realistic budget together with an open mind to digest and evaluate any suitable proposals they may suggest.

The modern Web site needs to be an actual asset to a company rather than a drain on already overstretched resources. By defining your goals and objectives from the beginning you can then measure how successful your Web site development has really been.

It is all too easy to get carried away with technology and ignore the big picture. If you don’t believe me just ask yourself why many companies still insist upon developing their own Internet sites even though the quality and functionality is not up to professional standards. We have all seen such sites it’s a blinkered type approach, with many senior executives having developed these sites, or been heavily involved in their development they appear to be almost blind as to the performance or quality contained within such developments.

It cannot also be cost effective, as the required skills in developing any site are increasing daily and if large development agencies are struggling to keep abreast of technology, techniques and innovations what hope has the in house company department.

Enough said, give your local development agency a call and start working with them to redevelop your Internet presence, it could mean the difference between achieving your goals or not, it really is that simple.

You can contact Website Designs sales office by sending an email to sales@website-designs.com , we operate on a global scale with clients from around the world. Other development agencies can be found by visiting the Cyber Aspect directory at www.cyber-aspect.com

About the teacher:
Steve is the CEO and executive publisher of Cyber Aspect and is the senior management of the publication. Steve is also a regular contributor to the international edition of Cyber Aspect and Web Builder Bulletin. When not working on matters of publishing and news, Steve serves as the CEO of Website Designs Ltd in the United Kingdom and is the founder of the company. Prior to entering the Internet industry, Steve was involved on a senior management level within the international construction industry, working with super skyscrapers throughout the Middle East and other global locations.


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