Thursday, January 7, 2010

Websites on a Budget (or with no budget)

Ah, the tangled web of web design! This topic comes up frequently, where can you start?  Before you do, consider the following and avoid wasting time and money.  
  • Purpose- is it a brochure site, primary route to drive sales, an e-commerce site?
  • Budget-  how much can you spend - and remember even "free" takes up your time (or someone else's). 
  • Content management solutions- think beyond the first site build - so you have a glitzy site by a pro web developer - are you happy to incur a cost each time you need a change?  Or do you need to alter content quickly, with a WYSIWYG editor.
  • Your capacity - can you / should you do it on your own?  Do you need outside help?
  • Logos and branding - if you have a logo, can you access it in various formats and integrate into the website, maintaining a good quality?  If you don’t have a logo yet, tackling your corporate branding and website at the same time is a good idea.
  • Key Messages – Decide on key messages.  Be concise, avoid repetition, redraft for tight copy.     
Getting online - the options
  • Online web design packages: Free and inexpensive online solutions do the job for many start up and small businesses with a limited budget.  Step-by-step support, templates, packages for e-mail marketing, hosting, multiple mailboxes and sometimes even logo design provide a good, if not unique starter solution.  If you can use Word, you can use solutions like provided by Google SitesMicrosoft Office Live Small BusinessGoDaddy and Vistaprint .  Easy content management is what these solutions are all about. Do your research on limitations though - for example, Microsoft's solution is good but will not integrate with the Isle of Man (.im ) country code TLD.  You can get a site up with a couple of hours work.  
  • Online Packages with professional support:  Specialist support or pro-designers work for you with the above online packages.  Source specialists through the provider or companies like Elance.  
  • Freelance Contractors: Can be seemingly very cheap (hmmm) but what is the working relationship and ultimate cost?  When outsourcing to a remote worker, make sure you have a clear working agreement, clear communication / reporting, set project milestones with outputs, a completion date defined and a payment structure that works for you both. Get referrals and testimonials when working with freelancers. 
  • Web design / marketing companies*: Pro services create pro websites that will grow with your company's needs. Bonuses are that they take care of your marketing and CRM needs and you can have an ongoing relationship with them.  Talk about content management at the outset.  There may be a system such as Graffiticms  that can work for you. Compare providers and meet them face to face.
*Note: The Department of Trade and Industry's Business Support Scheme can help with funding for web design as part of a Marketing Project.  Isle of Man service providers accredited for this scheme will be able to assist.  

  • Relying on a trusty friend-of-a-friend who can sort your new business website for you, no problem is risky.  Do you really trust them with your fledgling business and apply pressure at  deadlines?
  • Learning real web development (mark up and coding) takes up lots of time and won't make you any money unless it is your core business.  
  • Freelancers who are not near enough to deal with personally when they do not deliver can ruin projects, schedules and budgets. 
  • Poor web copy is easily created.  Review, edit and get someone to check for you.  
The bottom line: Keep it simple, think it through and choose a solution that meets your needs.  Web design can be a quick and satisfying way to get your business online without spending huge amounts of cash

IoM BIC has a blog

2010 resolution:  share knowledge and information more effectively. 

I’m Kate, incubator manager at the Isle of Man Business and Innovation Centre.

I’ll share information and articles relevant to early stage businesses and entrepreneurs on my blog.  I’ll also write about the Isle of Man Business and Innovation Centre's activities, the Isle of Man as a place to do business and business incubation generally.  Three things close to my heart.

For existing members of the Isle of Man Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) or any start-ups on the Isle of Man, I hope the posts will add to your knowledge bank, inspire you and give you links to some good resources.

Early stage businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs share many common issues.  Mostly, these are solved by sharing knowledge, working together or asking others.  I know this from personal experience (I set up my own business, My PA and have encountered many new and growing businesses at the BIC), through many hours of internet and other research and through contacts and colleagues on and off Island.

I'm happy to share to save others time and boost their business. Guest bloggers are welcome on this site.  To write an article on a particular topic, just get in touch.

Make 2010 the year to jump start and power up your business!