The Computer Revolution/E commerce/Small Business
A couple years ago, I bought a distributor's license from Health and Wellness Company with a view to building a retail website. It was wildly held that the internet was capable of putting the small retailer on equal footing with the larger online retailers. The products were top of the line vitamins, protein shakes, and skin care products. The company, which is well known in the industry, had an extensive packaging and distribution network that would alleviate two of the most time consuming and burdensom aspects of running an online business. All I had to do was build a retail site, get orders, and money would begin to flow into my business account while I was sleeping! Ok, so I was a little naive. Here are some of the pitfalls that I encountered whilst attempting to put this futile business venture together.
The first revelation in this endeavor was that quality web design costs money and my meager budget of a few thousand dollars would not buy much.Retailers like Dell computers have multi million dollar budgets for their websites. Still, the catalogue could be done with Open Source software and a third party vendor ( i.e PayPal) to process payments would save a ton of money. I took it upon myself to study some basic HTML so that much of the tedious work on the catalogue could be done myself. The site was built at remarkably little cost about 4 thousand CDN $ but was completed far past the date that was stated for completion.We had agreed in the area of about 6 or 7 thousand at the beginning but the designer had struggled for months with complications with the Open Source software (he'd recommended) was willing to forfeit some of the cost because his tardiness and lack of experience. Questions about the software he posed on the forum sometimes took days to find answers for if they came at all.
After completion the designer informed me that the "bus loads" of traffic he'd promised to drive to the site would cost any where between $1,500 to 3,000 dollars per month. Keywords with reasonably high ranking on Google and Yahoo search engines were not cheap. His fee for maintaining the site (doing updates and addressing technical issues) was $100 per month, plus another $30 for the server.
After mulling this proposition over for a few days,I reasoned that the business of driving traffic to websites too, was new to the designer and that more money spent on this venture would be wasted. I logged onto the site and bought a hundred dollars of my own vitamins,(all I wanted by this time was one sale) called the designer and fired him.
One of the first things I did when trying to decide on a reputable web design company was attend a seminar on internet retailing at the main branch of the public library. It was here that I was informed by an internet expert that there was no organization in the web design industry which measured the quality of work being done. The industry was new and choosing a reputable designer was hit and miss. One of the noteworthy items in my search for a reputable company was that only one of a dozen or so that I talked with actually had an office. All else were working out of their homes or on a part time basis. This first "company" I hired were a husband and wife team who were designing web sites away from their day jobs. They already had a number of web site clients but were taking on new clients regardless of already being overwhelmed by the work load. After the initial payment was made time for my site soon disappeared. Furthermore the quality of work proved suspect and tardy. After less than a month I let them go.
After conducting several interviews with local designers the gentlemen I decided on was working with a high profile design company and doing web sites away from work. This too proved a mistake, although technically and professionally he was leaps and bounds better than the first couple, he failed to deliver on his promises in a timely manner and was also guilty of making claims as to his expertise on web design that were false.