Software plus service puts smaller business in the web’s big league. CRAIG REARDON
By Craig Reardon
The rapid evolution of technology development is a double-edged sword.
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On the one hand the technology you have just spent months and often years preparing for and researching becomes redundant almost as soon as it’s implemented. On the other it means that technology that was once well beyond the means of smaller organisations rapidly becomes viable.
And website technology is no different.
One of the quietest revolutions ever to hit SMEs is the recent evolution of web technology solutions from carrying a massive and untenable price tag to costing little more than petty cash.
Just a few years ago a fully featured website solution including a content management system, secure shopping cart, customisable subscriber database and email marketing system cost well into six figures.
Nowadays you can get the same fully professional functionalities for less than four figures and a relatively piecemeal monthly license fee. And that can include a professional custom website design to reflect the corporate ID of your business, hosting, support and more!
Sure you won’t own the website technology or software you are leasing, but at that price who cares?
To the public users of your website or e-marketing communication, your web presence looks a million dollars, unaware that you’ve spent less than the annual cost of a modest print directory ad.
Business operators who were early adopters of websites are often astonished to find that the very same budget that bought them a “brochureware” static website at the turn of the millenium can now get them a fully fledged state-of-the-art e-commerce system with more bells and whistles than they could ever dream of.
Of course larger business operators have lived in this “build vs buy” technology world for decades. “Build” being hiring a development firm to custom build the technology from scratch, and “buy” being purchasing or leasing an existing solution from a vendor.
But for SMEs, the problem does not end there.
While incredibly advanced and enabling, the presentation attributes of the world wide web means that the technology is little more than a technological “empty shell”.
You might have the best underlying technology in the world, but if your website content is compromised, it’s easy to come away with proverbial egg on one’s face and worse – a lost sales inquiry.
Enter “service” into the equation.
Once you have the correct website technology for your business, an SME operator’s attention needs to turn to the service or labour component of creating and maintaining your world class website.
This can include specially prepared copywriting and editing, graphic design, layout, search engine optimisation, staff training and support, photography, audio and video production all “populated” (inserted) into the website and underpinned by best practice navigation and usability (a user-friendly and intuitive approach to website design). Once the website is built, the e-marketing services of e-newsletter co-ordination, ongoing search marketing, web 2.0 techniques and more are required on a regular basis.
Many of the technology vendors provide some of these services, although there are limitations including cost, accessibility and the potential for somewhat biased advice.
At the risk of sounding biased myself, another option for an SME is an independent webmaster, who can assist with the co-ordination, content preparation and population, search engine optimisation and ongoing maintenance, support and e-marketing requirements.
I believe this independence is critical. Choosing the wrong technology solution can mean forking out to exit a contract as well as the significant cost of migrating your website to another solution. If your solution can’t achieve what you set out to do, it can also cost lost sales and productivity.
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. www.theeteam.com.au