I thought I would do a series of articles on technology. After all I have been in high-tech for over 2 decades and I do know more than most people want to know about technology and how to use it. First let me tell you about my tech-trek (my technology background). Then I want to cover technology for three areas of your business:
- Websites (Tech-Talk Part 1)
- Shopping Carts (Tech-Talk Part 2)
- Communication Software – including webinars, Skype, and teleseminar (Tech-Talk Part 3)
When I was in high school we were still using Fortran and punch cards. I learned the Touring language in university, worked on VAX computer systems in College, programmed algorithms and algebraic equations into the first personal computer purchased for the Biophysic lab at the University, ushered out the Cromemco mainframe system for research and followed these introductions with many years of implementing, learning, supporting, and writing manuals & helps systems for hundreds of proprietary software and hardware products.
I loved it and Yes I am a tech-geek at heart.
Tech-Talk Part 1 – Websites
A website is an absolute necessity for all business today. If a potential client cannot find you online then your business basically does not exist (check out point #3 “No Growth Focus = Decline” in this past article “4 Things That Lead to Business Failure“). Having an online presence is important and a good start. Having an optimized presence that can be found by search engines in best. If you do not understand what it takes to ‘be found’ or to ‘be optimized for search engines’ then hire someone to implement that for you and create a plan to continue to be found year after year.
Other reasons you will want a website are:
- Support brand and image recognition
- For clients to find your business and contact you
- Provide support and solve problems
- Connect and stay-in-touch
- Build a client list
- Sell services and products
What to Use
For years business owners were at the mercy of web designers as to how their website would be created and managed. Designing a website was an expensive marketing tool for a business sometimes costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now there are free tools that make it easier to create something that is consistent and will not go unsupported because the company went under. Unless you are a large company needing a lot of customized function (like a bank needs for security, or a manufacturer may need for regulations management) my recommendation for small business is to always to use WordPress. It has a lot of built in function, it is free to use, there are thousands of applications and widgets you can purchase for a reasonable price, and you can customize it with templates that you can purchase from other coders for little money. Since there are so many people writing code for this application it is also likely to be supported for many years to come.
When I set up my website I purchased a template I liked for about $20, I purchased an image I could use to create my banner (~$35), I paid for my brand creation (~$700), I wrote all my own copy (after paying for training ~$1000), I paid for someone to set up my website (~$500), I purchased my web-hosting (~$125 / year), I purchased my domain name (~$30 with email and privacy per year), I had a members site installed (~$150) and 1ShoppingCart added ($250 + ongoing support) and I use WordPress (Free).
I can do most of my own updating but I still pay for ongoing support to update pages and products. As you can see, depending on what you need, free does not mean without cost.
Let me answer this section in a Q&A format.
- Do I need to know HTML?
- That depends on what you are trying to do and whether you have a great team to do the work. There is usually a small amount of HTML that must be understood to manage any customization. For instance, I am writing this blog post in my WordPress editor. It looks like writing in Microsoft Word and is very easy to use. Sometimes I want numbering to do something different than the crude tools of this editor will allow, so I have to go in and manually set the HTML lists to number my way. If you do not know any HTML then make sure you have someone on your team that does (an employee, support company, or contractor).
- How many pages should my website be?
- Do I need a blog?
- A few years ago when someone asked me “do I have to be on Facebook?” I would answer, maybe not yet, but you likely will need to in the near future. Well now you need to be on social media, Facebook included and I’m thinking the same thing about the blog. I think it would be wise to start with a website that easily has the option to turn on and use the blogging feature if you are not going to start now, but I would encourage you to start writing a blog as soon as you can.
- What other things can I have on my website?
- The wonderful thing about using WordPress is there are hundreds of thousands of programmers creating widgets and ad-ons for websites. I’m sure there are many different things you can add to a website that I know nothing about. Here are a few things I have on my websites.
- Do I need more than one domain name?
- You will need a domain name that matches your business. It is worth trying to get the name that is your businesses name. If it is unavailable that raises red flags for me around trademark infringement. As for other domain names, I like owning the domains for my products. I buy domains for a year based on brand and product development. If I don’t use them I let them go. I usually own between 15 and 30 domains, including my personal name.
Who Can Help
As you can tell I have been at this for a while and know enough to truly enjoy coding directly in HTML. In fact, when I do my sales pages I do code directly in HTML and it is like a little vacation from my day-to-day activities. That said, when I designed my website layout, wrote the copy, and purchased the domains, I did not set it up myself. I got an expert to set up my hosting, implement the template structure, manage the backups, upload the original content, implement additional widgets, and connect my social media. This saved my 10’s of hours, if not weeks of work.
My recommendation is to know what you need, understand your brand, effectively define the best way to reach your target market, and then hire the expert to implement it.