Archive for April, 2009
As Web site designers, We hear from a lot of Web site owners with stories about how they have had bad experiences with other Web site developers. As much as we love getting new clients, we don’t really like that they had these bad expereinces before working with us. We’ve been collecting some stories from Web site owners, and having them share what happened, and what they learned from the negative experience.
Many of the stories share a similar them: they hired an individual person and it didn’t work out. Hiring a firm like Curvine costs more, but it increases chances that the project will go smoothly.
Profile #1: Jill Nussinow, TheVeggieQueen.com
The story: “I searched for someone to work on my site by asking around. A fairly high profile person in the publishing world had the person who I hired do his site. I figured that if he was good enough for that guy, then he must be good enough for me. The WG (web guy) and I had a few conversations and he had great ideas. I told him what I wanted done and he sent me an agreement. One of the main things that I wanted was a content management system so that I could update my site myself. I signed the agreement and paid the requested 50% for the project. The work began and within a couple of weeks, nothing more happened. He emailed me that he was on vacation. So I patiently waited. Part of the project was done. I asked when he’d get to the rest. He did a couple more little things and then stopped returning phone calls and emails. He left the project incomplete.”
The lesson: “What I learned: no matter what you’re told, don’t believe the big guys or the people that you get as references. Check out the person’s work well, and be sure that there is good communication. To this day, I have no idea what happened. This guy knows that I won’t be recommending him.”
Profile #2: Jacob Morgan, Social Media Consultant
The Story: “One of my blog readers told me he would help redesign my site for only $500 which I thought was a good price so I agreed. I started receiving a few templates for things and things seemed like they were going in the right direction. There were changes I wanted to done and a direction that I wanted the designer to go in. However he refused to talk with me via phone so all of the communication had to be done via chat and email which can be quite convoluted when discussing design. To make a long story short the project took 3 months to complete after I threatened a law suit. We went back and forth with design elements and still, he refused to speak with me via telephone, in fact he ended up passing me off to some random middle man that had apparently just joined his team. The designer told me he hated me, that I was exploiting him, and that he was disgusted with me. I later found out that he had also manipulated a few other people and that my situation was not unique, fortunately I paid a lot less than the others. My site design was completed but is still not 100%. I actually have one of the weirdest experiences out of anyone I know. The guy was into all sorts of weird mayan calendars and spiritual things and would bring all of this up into our design conversations, was quite odd.”
The Lesson: Jacob provided some great tips, which we’ve printed below.
- If a price is too good to be true it usually is
- Make sure your designer will speak with you via the telephone
- Get some previous references of clients
- Don’t let your emotions get in the way of business, my designer went off on random tangents dealing with spirituality and mayan calendars (before he told me he hated me) but I always had to stay on track, the guy was a bit nuts in my opinion.
- Don’t ever pay the whole fee up front (I didn’t)
Profile #3: Deb Barrett, Window Dressings, Inc.
The story: “My relationship with my webmaster turned sour after a 4 year relationship . She built the site and maintained. In the summer of 2008 we entered into a refresh project to reflect a change in focus of my company and get ready for an e commerce product launch. I supplied all the content as well as layouts, etc and she was to code it numerous emails later, several face to face meetings and total frustration we ended our relationship- by an email telling me she wasn’t going to charge me for the work she had already done and she didn’t have time to look at the project for several months. Basically she got in over her head and didn’t know how to gracefully tell me or figure it out. I have since send out several RFPs to finish the project and all the developers have told me the site was so screwed up it would cost thousands to fix. This is a project that was originally quoted at $400. needless to say, almost 1 year later I am hoping to launch the products next month.”
The lesson: “Don’t assume that your supplier /developer is well versed or has the skill set you need. Yes, she knew code and built the original site but web development has change dramatically in 4 years and she didn’t keep up. She didn’t know how to embed my blog on the my home page. I googled it and sent her the instructions. I guess you get what you pay for. What started out as a good relationship- you help me and I’ll help you turned sour and you get sticker shock when the experts tell you what its going to really cost. Though I am a total novice at web development and I am one of those people who knows just enough to be dangerous; I learned that with time and the power of wordpress and google and the complete generosity of those communities I built the site myself! I am only having to pay for a customization tweaking!”
Profile #4 Mark Goodman, Advanced Wellness Specialists
The story: “We had a web designer who came in and he gave us a great presentation. Boasted about good success. Even had a recommendation from one of our clients. We gave him one third of the quote down. He went off and did what looked like a knock off of one of his previous sites. Worse than that, he announced that he did not like the name of our company, so he changed the name of the company. He was extremely proud of the fact and said that he had vetted the name change and site among his group of peers. All of whom agreed with him. We fired him.”
The Lesson: “What we learned is that we need to be responsible for our content. And to believe in ourselves.”
Build it and they will come! This might be a great line for a movie, but not a very smart belief about your website or blog. The fact is not only do you have to build it, you have to let your potential customers know the site exists. That is if you want to monetize your site.
Virtually any business would benefit from having a website and/or blog and yet without a systemized and consistent marketing plan you may likely not realize optimum benefit for your time, money and effort invested.
This is especially true in a downturn economy. Now more than ever, you should put daily effort into the marketing of your sites. It’s actually a lot simpler than most people realize. Mind you, simple does not necessarily mean easy. It takes effort and time. And yet, ask anyone who makes money from their sites, it is worth it.
Before I share some strategies to get visitors to your site let’s talk about what they have to find once there. You absolutely must have a way for visitors to opt in to your subscriber list. It can be with a free eBook, mp3, eReport, teleseminar or any number of complimentary offers.
It never ceases to amaze me how often someone can hear this and yet, fail to put an opt in box on their site. Tsk. Tsk. Don’t make this fatal mistake.
Building a responsive opt in subscriber list is smart business. You are going to work much harder to continually try to find potential customers if you don’t build a list beginning now.
Let’s assume you have a well positioned opt in box on your site; you have a great offer and you have a very functional site. Now comes the really fun part; attracting people to your site.
Driving people to a website or blog is an ongoing process. Not a day should go by that you don’t have something in place that will encourage people to visit.
Although there are dozens upon dozens of ways to attract visitors, here are a few of my favorites.
Sig file is short for Signature File. To optimize your promotional opportunities insert a sig file at the end of your emails with an offer of some sort. Most email programs have the capability of the Sig File automatically being inserted each time you send out an email message.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Ning are just a few of the thousands of locations you can build a following. One that will visit your site and opt in for a high value offer. However, to optimize your time select only a handful to participate in rather than spreading yourself too thin.
Also referred to as a news release, press release or press statement; a media release is written for the purpose of announcing something to the media, which has news value. A media release can be mailed, faxed or emailed to editors and publishers at newspapers, magazines, radio stations, television stations and online resources.
When you email your media release it is customary to put the information in the body of your email message rather than as an attachment.
You can easily distribute your press release online to many outlets to announce a giveaway, a new site or a new bloog. There are both paid and free services available on the Internet.
Articles are one of the best ways to build visibility, credibility and traffic. As with Social Networks there are thousands to choose from. You choice of where to distribute articles should be based on who the readership is. No need to post articles in areas where you won’t get good visibility from you market.
Advertising in targeted locations can be a very effective way to drive traffic to a site. There are two primary forms of advertising:
For very targeted markets you should consider buying online advertising. The advantage is you can reach your market quickly. The disadvantage is you will like have an increase in your junk and spam emails sent to the email address you use for the advertisement.
Posting on other blogs
Visit blogs that are likely to have a similar readership as your market. Read postings and comment on postings. Make your comments substantial. In most cases you can put a link back to your website or landing page. If your comments are of value to blog visitors you will likely have people clicking on your link.
Forums are online communities where you hold discussions with other people who have similar interests. They are also referred to as Web Forums; Discussion Groups; Message Boards; Message Groups; Bulletin Boards.
To locate forums specific to your market and topic(s) go to Google and input “forum + ___________) Fill in the blank with your topic or market.
As with blog postings and Yahoo Groups, forums are simply another avenue to network and build visibility. The more value you bring to a forum, the more valuable this resource becomes to you in your marketing efforts.
In conclusion, the best thing to do is have a very systemized approach to how you plan to attract visitors to your site. The more focused you are, the more likely you will reap great results.
Kathleen Gage works with spiritually aware speakers, authors, coaches and consultants who are ready to turn their knowledge into money-making products and services. She does this by teaching them how to publish their works via books, eBased information products, teleseminars, webinars and any medium that can be distributed via the Internet. Visit www.kathleengage.com to learn more.
It is Earth Day 2009. Environmentalism is at an all time high. Everything is going green these days. Even Web sites, apparently.
Even Web sites? Yeah, we were perplexed too. We recieved this link from a client the other day: http://www.co2stats.com/
Do others have tips on how you can “green” a Web site?
We get this question A LOT. By a lot, I mean, every day. It is often the first question people ask.
Short answer: it depends on what you need and want.
Background: I always chuckle a little when people ask this question before we have the specifics of what they want or need. Imagine this scenario: someone walks into an Autonation dealership (a franchise of car dealerships, mainly in the south that sells many different brands of cars) and says “how much does a car cost?” They haven’t explained what kind of car they want. Do they need a Ford F150? That isn’t a car I guess, but I’m sure the delaership sells them too. Do they want a Toyota Prius? A minivan? A used sub-compact? Or are they looking for a Rolls Royce? The sales person will probably laugh or be bewildered by the question.
That’s how it is with Web sites: a lot of choices. Instead of number of seats, number of optional accessories, we price Web sites based on the amount of work involved. We’ll ask some questions to try and figure what is necessary and what the client wants. Key questions:
- Is there a logo for the business or are we creating one?
- How many pages will be on the Web site?
- Is there a shopping cart? There are several follow up questions if the answer is yes.
- Do we need to write the content for the Web site or will it be provided?
- Will the content need to be edited?
- Does the client want a Content Management System installed?
- Are there other calculators or interactive sections of the Web site? Several follow up questions if the answer is Yes.
Also, it is important to know that the same answers to these questions can generate vastly different prices from different providers. There are at least 4 different types of Web site development providers, in order of pricing:
- $ Templates: There are many providers who will provide a pre-designed template and put your content into it. This is a great way to save money, but often the design of your Web site will suffer.
- $$ India: There are many firms that do most of the work in places where labor is cheap. Keep in mind that design is subjective and linked to a designer’s culture, so a design made by an expert in India may not be great for your audience.
- $$$ Freelancers: There are many people who work for themselves from home. They can do great work on a budget. One downside can be reliability: if the designer gets busy or something happens to them, you may be on your own.
- $$$$ Firm: This is what we are, a company of Web site developers. Naturally, we think this is the best approach! But seriously, this approach is great, but not as inexpensive as the others. Note also, even among firms, there is a wide variety of quality and pricing.
That’s all from me, I’ve invited some other Web site developers to comment below.
In the course of our business, we come across people who are ask us to salvage a project that went “off the rails” with another Web site developer. Each of these projects teaches a lesson (to us, the business, and even the original Web site developer). We recently contacted some business owners to have them contribute some stories and what they learned. Here are some projects that ended poorly, and what we can all can take from them:
Web site Development Story #1: Lori Karmel WeTakeTheCake.com
Story: “I hired an outside company to redesign my company website and design a new shopping cart. The fee was $15,000 paid in three installments. I hired them in May 2008, I was begging them to have me ready to launch by October before entering my busiest season. As it turns out, they outsourced the shopping cart without telling me and did not hire the company UNTIL October when we were suppose to launch. We were featured in In Style Magazine for one of our products and the issue came out at the end of November but the cart was not functioning properly and the site crashed multiple times a day. The cart was not intuitive and customers were frustrated and abandoned their order. As it turns out the site was not set up with proper keywords and we lost our search engine rankings. We had a number one ranking with Google. We lost $50,000 in sales from our holiday season. ”
Lesson: Get it in writing. “What I have learned is that I should have asked for a list of what I was required to supply. Once I supplied what they asked for, a time line should have been in effect with penalties for not meeting the deadlines, leaving plenty of room for testing it. Also, get it in writing if any part of your site will be outsourced to another company and who will be responsible for their work.”
Web site Development Story #2: Susie Shina www.susieshina.com
Story: I contracted with a company from India whose portfolio looked great. I’m an rising fitness author/personality with minimal website developing knowledge. The communication issues were unbelievable…I blame myself for not knowing what I needed/wanted to promote my projects BUT they couldn’t guide me through the process. Anyhoo – 5 month process, $5000 down the drain – can’t use the site. I hired a us team to try and salvage the project but there were so many errors in the coding that we couldn’t use it. I could go on and on – ugh – I feel taken advantage of because of my lack of knowledge.
Lesson: Be careful with outsourcing! “I’m much wiser now – I’ve had to study up – which is something I didn’t want to do – leave it to the professionals right?! – I will not outsource to other countries again and now feel guilty that I did it in the first place – serves me right”
Web site Development Story #3: Tom Harnish
Story: “We hired a freelancer to build a site and a shopping cart for us. A stormy genius it turned out. He was a handful to manage. Did great work, but fell in love with someone in England. Packed up and moved at the worst possible time in the development effort. We subsequently sold the business, but the developer claimed he did the work for us, not the company, and demanded the new owners pay him thousands of dollars for a ‘license’ even though we’d paid him first hourly, and then a salary when he contemplated suicide due to lack of funds. We responded with dozens of emails and company checks that made it clear he’d done the work for the company, but said he had a back door and would bring the system down if the new owners didn’t play ball. And he didn’t at the worst possible time during the Christmas buying rush.”
Lesson: Get a written contract, and consider working with a team instead of just one person.
As a business that serves other businesses, it is important to us that we know how companies make decisions. For examples, we need to know how small businesses choose Web site developers. From our research and experience, businesses choose Web site designers and other vendors using one or more of several techniques:
Ask a friend or colleague: The first thing many people do is they contact someone they know and ask for help in selecting a vendor. Anne Lindsay, owner of Anne Lindsay Photography says “When I need a new piece of equipment, web tools, photography equipment I usually do some internet research, call or email a friend or professional association I trust and then make an informed decision.”
Do an Internet Search: People will also often do an Internet Search, or look thorugh the Yelllow Pages or something similar. With that said, many people use this method in concert with other strategies. Alex Rosenstein, a real estate agent with Windermere Real Estate, says “the [vendors] that I find on my own (through Internet searches, mailings or advertisements) are always backed up by a conversation with some of their past clients.”
Make sure they are Budget-friendly: Once they contact a vendor, one of the first questions potential clients ask is about price. It is akin to searching for a new car; you don’t want to end up at the Mercedes dealership when you have $15,000 to spend (and likewise, you don’t want to be at the Kia dealership when you have $80,000 to spend). Kate Conwell, owner of Pure Body Fitness says “I start by asking others if they have worked with someone they like, and then I find out that person/company’s pricing. If the price is within my budget then I contact them for a meeting to see if our personalities mesh before I make a final decision.”
The Personality Match: The meeting with the sales person or service provider is very important. Nicole Wexler, owner of Turquoise Decor says ”After narrowing down the choice to three, I interview each one personally. Expertise, professionalism and qualifications do top my list of requirements, but in the event of all three being suitable candidates, the tie is usually broken based on which person I like the most and who seems the most trustworthy”
Use people who are clients of yours: Some people start their search to people who they already have a business relationship with. This can be very helpful in fostering additional business down the road. Joe Kennedy, editor of the Bellevue Business Journal says “Being part of ‘the media,’ it is very easy for me to know who to choose for services, as well as who to refer. I first go to clients (formerly known as advertisers) who work with … the re-launching Bellevue Business Journal.
We find this information helpful, perhaps other small business owners will benefit as well.