You make some great points in this post. It is absolutely true that if you want your online business to be noticed it has to have a decent looking site. I've noticed that some web design companies actually use a set of templates for all the sites they make so I would add that choice of a web designer is important. Always put some time into researching web designers before you pick one. You want to make sure that they don't say they have "thousands of custom templates to choose from" and that the word they have done doesn't all look the same.
One reason I think that people might go the "free" route is they can not start making money until they put the site up. Perhaps they plan to upgrade once they have made enough to do so? Just a thought.
Paul - absolutely! There are a lot of bad web developers out there. A lot of them believe simply because they know how to install Wordpress, a template and some plug ins that they are "web developers" but not so. And yes it is very true the word "customize" is used loosely. I can change the background color and it could be considered "customized" which many of these companies do. Also you have to look at the words web designer / web developer they are very different. A web designer is an individual who strictly designs graphics for the web unlike a print designer who designs for print (magazine ads, flyers, brochures, etc) these are two different expertises. A true web developer is someone that knows how to write code, it is ok if they use free templates BUT the key difference is that they are able to customize functionality to match your needs. For example they are able to take a pre existing template and change the navigation bar to do extra things that do not come in the pre packaged template, also if there is a plugin that you would like to use but you may have something else installed and it conflicts with something else, they would know how to trace it down and fix it. Some thing are subtle that you may not know one big thing that I came across are utilizing the social media functions such as Facebook. You may use a plugin that allows you to "Like" a product or page and then you may want to use the Facebook Connect feature but a lot of times there may be a conflict with these two scripts, where users are unable to login using their Facebook credentials. A true developer would be able to recognize this and manipulate the code to make it work, where your basic "web installer" wouldn't.
Here are some pointers to detect a real developers:
- Able to code from scratch (which means that they are able to read and put together the logic of a preexisting script)
- Will be able to properly educate you on the performance of your website such as loading speed, using the right technology, or any user experience issues.
- Will be able to make major adjustment to your website such as plugin functionality, template restructuring, etc.
Also I would like to point out that Wix operates in Flash which means a lot of mobile is out of the question, websites should be mobile optimized nowadays.
Hope this helps
Your tips are excellent and very to-the-point, Danny. Aspiring home-based business owners need something simple to follow, and shouldn't get caught up in a whirlwind of fantasy. Too many try and fail becauase of lofty expectations. Seeing a web developer kick those supercilious dreams down a notch helps tremendously. Best to deal with the reality of online businesses than spend too much time and money into a black hole of ultimate failure.
Using standard, default templates only hurt the business owner - I'll definitely agree with you on that. While there are more and more of them being developed all the time at sites like templatemonster.com, there are even more people trying to go the online business route and one is bound to run into a store that looks identical to another. If I came across two fragrance stores that looked almost exactly the same, had similar prices and even similar names, which one would I buy from? For me, it'd probably come down to the shipping, how well they described their products and their overall web content, and where they were located. Or, I may just throw my hands in the air and get my bottle at Sephora, their big-name competitor. It's even worse if the development was done very shoddily or the scripts didn't work as intended.
Investing in some quality web development, branding and copywriting will go very far in the end. I get that most people won't want to put down such a big deposit on a risky venture, but if they're serious about it, it's worth it. Business is all about risk, really.
That's nice to read so many useful tips! Thanks for sharing.
Hello Danny and to rest of you...
I totally agree with you all with the template route which is why I am totally in freak mode trying to find a good wed developer and designer for my online (e-commerce) website. I have been looking for weeks, which brought me to this forum LOL. Though the people who self promote here are not what I look for and use the the tacky generic templates I see everywhere...
Why would I pay so much money, if I can just learn to do it myself... I would rather wait and find an amazing creator to make my website stand out from my other compeditors from day one then waste my time and money hiring a cheap tacky person..which is why its taking so long... and in away getting to become a more and more scary...
The reason I replied here was Danny or Jean are you web developers or designers if so can you help me??? If you read my post
you will see where I am at.. and if my money I have put aside is reasonable... I can manage more for a amazing person just ask my parents... but trying not to...
PLEASE HELP I RAEALLY WANT TO DO THIS RIGHT FROM DAY ONE!!! I know how quickly things can flop if u dont do things properly..
Many thanks in adcance...
I just saw a lot of people posting about e-commerce and websites. As I am a professional web developer I want to point out a few things:
- You are only as successful as your website and a lot of the "free" templates and sites are basic platforms that are geared to a wide audience and most likely will lack what you would require as a business.
- There is never a one size fits all
- Good web development is crucial for customer retention and user experience
- Just because you are making some sales doesn't mean it is working for you, what if you sell 100 items per week but you lost another 300 because your customers got lost or it was not customer friendly?
- Every business is unique and your customer will behave different, you have to make sure you monitor your website traffic not just "how may" people visit your website but also a) where do they come from b) where do they go c) how long do they stay d) how many pageviews e) abandon carts. All of these metrics allow you to understand your customer better and "fine tune" your website. For example, if you have a lot of abandon carts it could mean several things such as your shipping rates are too high, you processing is too long, they don't trust your security, etc. those are things that have to be worked on and adjusted to turn these window shoppers into paying customers.
- Keep in mind that people have your competitor at their finger tips, if you look like you "saved" money on your website and they go to another site that looks like it is owned by a bigger company, you may lose that one.
- On the web "image" is all you have especially when someone never did business with you.
- Free templates are free so they are in heavy use with other companies. You don't want to get the "the website looks like your competitors"
I dealt with a lot of people that went the "free" route because they didn't have to funds but they would have been better off, waiting and saving until they were able to hire a season developer.