Business Computing Web

DIY Web and Why It’s Not For Everyone

SquareSpace, Weebly and Wix are just three of the dozens of companies offering drag-and-drop web creation. Broadly speaking, the cost ranges from ‘free’, which means a limited set of presentation elements plus an advertising banner on your site (Wix runs banners, SquareSpace does not), perhaps less robust support from the company (support ticket only versus chat, for instance), to $300 and up per year, depending on the level of support, the sophistication of the templates, the amount of bandwidth and storage requirements. E-commerce deployment adds a significant cost dimension.

The interfaces for the three companies I mention here are simple to learn and use and the resulting website looks nice enough. There are limits to site and page customisation. Access to the developer’s platform with SquareSpace requires the higher-priced plans. From there, the stock templates can be customised by editing the CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).

Even so, the site cost is less than $400 a year, all in. So why hire a developer? Easy – time is money. Building a site of any level of complexity takes time.

Let’s say the purpose of a site is to feature a start-up public relations company. The newly-minted CEO signs up, chooses a template, builds a few pages, done, right? Wrong. What about newsletter or e-mail blast integration? Metrics reporting? Social media integration? What about developing effective content to magnetize natural search results? Who will manage these functions for the organisation so that the effort has some tangible, ongoing effect on the development of the brand?

A key role of the developer is to look at what the organisation needs in terms of brand identity and marketing and to suggest an overall strategy that culminates in an effective action plan. In order to remain effective, that plan must be maintain on an ongoing basis and reviewed periodically. That takes time, discipline, knowledge and some experience. In the example of the public relations start-up, who will fulfill that function? The CEO is busy drumming up new clients and managing existng ones to keep the lights on. The marketing/sales/HR/R&D/facilities manager is already wearing a coat-rack full of hats. Realistically, what will happen to the media marketing effort started so valiantly?

A very small company usually doesn’t need a developer, or marketing engineer, as I like to think of the role, on anything like a full-time basis. The level of support an organisation needs in this regard is dependent on what’s being done or made. An intern is not the answer. Sure, a novice with an expensive education should get you the cutting edge in all things media, but that’s just not the case. As a professional in your own area of business, you likely remember how shaky you were until you swept some experience under your belt. Who paid for that experience and for those mistakes? Your employer did back then, but now, you’re the employer and although we’re a few paragraphs further into this article, time is still money. Further, unless you’re experienced in marketing, advertising, content creation, systems analysis and all of the other knowledge and experience that goes into creating a real presence in media for your business, it’s likely you won’t have a clue as to what to look for or what to monitor when your intern or first-timer starts.

So, start with a marketing plan and understand the goals of your web presence further than, “I want to get more business.” Talk to actual web devs who know something about creative, marketing (which is not the same thing) and importantly, research. That’s probably not going to be Tim The IT Guy who runs a Warcraft blog. If your web presence is something more than a marketing vehicle, you’ll need to find developers that can deliver secure web-based applications that work. No, it’s not easy, but if it was, everybody would be doing it. And, in fact, everybody is doing it, just not doing it well. The challenge for the business professional is to be circumspect and humble enough to understand that he or she may not fully understand what’s needed in terms of expertise. Of course, you could hire a analyst like me to uncover your needs, propose unbiased solutions and help to move your plans in the right direction.

Web marketing and application development has matured to an actual discipline that can be very powerful for your business. Don’t sell you business short with a D-I-Y solution that, in all fairness, probably won’t help one little bit.



Business Travel

Five Ways To Make The Most Of Your Business Trip

TravelOne would think that the need for most business travel would have evaporated by now in this era of WebEx, conference call, PDF and PowerPoint communication, but there are still circumstances where the old-fashioned version of FaceTime, that is, real, one-on-one time spent with a prospect, client or colleague, is preferable and necessary. There’s no real substitute for looking someone in the eye while delivering a firm handshake. Not yet, at least.

Traveling for business is time-consuming and expensive, though, so making the best use of that time is important. Here are five ideas that can improve the trip away from home.

Number Five: Stick To The Schedule

Human beings are creatures of routine and you, Business Traveler, are no exception. Staying on target extends to body and mind. That means that if you don’t have a meeting until 1, you should be working on something relating to whatever it is that you do from 9 until it’s time to make your appointment. After all, if you had sent an employee in your stead, wouldn’t you expect productivity while you’re not only paying the travel costs but their salary as well?

Asking yourself “is this the best use of my time” is an excellent yardstick for any set of tasks when at home and just as valid when traveling.  Whether you’re a boss or you report to one, returning home with work done means that you’re able to stay focused in a set of circumstances that are potentially disorienting and that makes you much more worthy of hero status. Use your time as if it’s a valuable, rare commodity because, well, it is.

Number Four: It’s Not Personal

It seems like common sense that traveling to a place that isn’t (really) work or home on business should keep your mind on business, but it’s easier than you think to stray from the mindset you (should probably) have back at the shop.

Try to think of yourself as an ambassador for a country called Your-Business-Name-Here. In that esteemed position, you are the face of your “country” abroad, even if ‘abroad’ means Portland. It’s easy for your personality to unfurl when unfettered by the familiar, but what you put forward on your trip is what your contacts will likely perceive as the most credible and current version of what your organisation is about. In short, it’s not about you. You may have the face of Bob or Clara or John or Tina, but you most definitely will be the face of United General Widgets Incorporated International, LLC. Remember – your countrymen are counting on you.

Number Three: Feed The Beast

Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean that your body and mind are ready for a radical change in routine. If you eat a salad with dinner every night and then walk for a half-hour, you should when you’re away from HQ. If you’re poring through the latest Steele or Patterson novel at home each night before bed, don’t stop because you’re away on business. Routine helps to ground you and validate your individuality, which is doubly important when in a strange place.

Number Two: Avoid Temptation

Traveling away from work can feel a lot like being on a bit of a vacation. You’re away from home, your neighbours and coworkers are nowhere in sight.  But it’s over quickly and no part of the carry-on you take home need be regret. The easiest rule to follow in this regard is this: don’t do anything while on your trip that you wouldn’t do at home, with your spousal counterpart, boss and physician in the room, watching intently. This may seem strait-laced but since it’s easier to stray from the path in a place where nobody knows your name, the kill-switch of common sense may be stuck in the “it’s okay” position.

This conservatism doesn’t only apply to the baser acts that could land you on the local evening news. If you’re likely to head up that alley, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article anyway. There’s more to avoiding temptation while traveling on business than staying away from dirty dancing and the injudicious intake of substances with dubious health benefits. It’s more about avoiding gas-station sushi and karaoke competitions that roll ’till dawn. The temptation to do or try new things is there, but a business trip, where performance and ROI comes into the equation, is not the time to enter the local wet T-shirt tequila limbo contest, even if it is for a good cause. Plus, don’t forget that with smart phones, Twitter, Facebook and The Internet in general, your antics are but one SEND away from making you internet famous – or infamous, which is much, much worse. Permanent, too.

Number One: Gather Intelligence

Since business travel is so all-fired expensive, not just in terms of real travel costs but also because of absence of your set of hands from home base, keeping an open mind, eye and ear about this new place is a bonus opportunity. What’s the local economy about? What are the people about? Is there a feeling for the regional culture that you can absorb through interaction not only with your business contacts but through others you meet? Understanding the macro-scene at your destination means getting away from the hotel lobby and visiting the area with active interest. What would you want to know about the area and the people who live and work there if you were relocating there? What’s important to you given that hypothetical is likely the same thing important to people who live and work there, thus giving you the opportunity to better understand your business foes and friends.

The sometimes-tiresome adventure that is business travel yields fruit on many levels that don’t necessarily apply to the reason for the trip in the first place. Using that time to the fullest are travel points that never expire.