As the web industry fragments and the amount of information about eBusiness available online escalates, the smaller business operator can be excused for feeling both dazed and confused by the whole online world.
In fact, one of the reasons for smaller business in this country’s relatively low adoption of a professional web presence can be summarised with two key questions:
1. Where do I start?
2. Who do I trust?
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And who has time to properly research let alone keep up with the latest developments in one of the fastest growing industries in business history?
You needn’t feel like you need a degree in Computer Science to understand the fundamentals of eBusiness – provided you can understand a handful of key concepts.
As we have highlighted in this blog on several occasions, the industry has changed significantly in the last five years, which has changed the face of the online world – at least as it pertains to SMEs – forever.
While developments in social networking have received the bulk of the attention, the bigger development for SME operators has been the evolution of a range of website and eMarketing platforms that put what were once expensive online capabilities well within reach of the smallest business.
But with this development has come a fundamental change in what SME operators need to understand about the online world.
Now there are three key terms they need to understand to be able to adopt and maintain a professional online presence and keep expenditure to a minimum. These are as follows.
1. ‘Website Platform’
In the not so distant past, the only realistic option for the smaller business operator when it came to arranging a professional website was to work with a ‘web designer’ who would in turn use a web design program or even raw HTML code to create your website.
Typically though, these websites had no tools or features to be able to operate different aspects of the website yourself. This meant that every time you wanted any design, content or technology change you had to go back to the designer leading to expense for you and a nice cash cow for them.
As a result the smarter website development firms developed website ‘platforms’ – essentially an integrated range of website tools and functionalities over which a design could be overlaid.
Nowadays it’s this underlying website platform that holds the real value – allowing you to add and edit new content, create email marketing campaigns, create forms and surveys, sell online and many other essential capabilities that puts the power of your website into your hands and not your web designer’s.
On average it takes only a matter of months and in some cases weeks for your website to need new design elements, content and/or technology.
Scalability refers to the ability of your website to affordably grow with you as your design, content and technology needs also grow – that is it is able to ‘bolt on’ new functionality and design elements easily and affordably and without having to reinvent the wheel.
Unfortunately the online landscape is littered with the corpses of websites that in failing to be truly scalable, have had to be discarded, costing their owners significant time and money as they have had to start a new website again from scratch.
So not only does your website needs a good website platform, but that platform in turn needs to be as scalable as possible. This capability will save you thousands of dollars in both real dollars and productivity over time.
How many places do you store your client contact details in? Chances are it’s several. And every time you need to alter a detail it ruins your productivity.
What about your website functionality? Does your website automatically integrate with shopping carts, databases, email marketing systems and other tools? Or instead do you have a chain of ‘manual processes’ in place to ensure each bit is up to date?
Integration is critical to increasing productivity, reducing duplication and minimising errors. Look for systems that can integrate client and other data requirements seamlessly.
So your website platform needs to be both scalable and fully integrated.
Look for independent advice
One of the difficulties on getting advice on these important concepts is obtaining a truly independent opinion on your requirements.
The fact is, not only are most consultants aligned to one technology or designer, but most are passionate about their choice, ie. they will fit your requirements into their technology choice, not vice versa.
Unfortunately passion for their chosen technology has little to do with the needs of their clients – which are as diverse as the people behind them.
As the web industry continues to fragment, leading to an ever-increasing range of tool and service requirements, holistic and independent advice becomes more critical than ever.
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Craig Reardon is a leading eBusiness educator and founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which provide the gamut of ‘pre-built’ website solutions, technologies and services to SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.