Tag Archives: small business

Business Ethics and Web Design

A question was posed on Quora recently about scams from purported “web designers”. I have always taken business ethics very seriously and recognise that my customers have a choice over whether they use me or someone else.  I felt compelled to give an answer to this question.
Whether you would call some of these true ‘scams’ or just shady practices all comes down to your level of business ethics. To me, these are all deceitful and deliberate attempts to  mislead the customer.

Offshoring the work but not telling the customer

Offshoring work but using local contact details such as a local phone number, business address to make out that the business is located close by. For a lot of business owners the fact they can pick up the phone to speak with or arrange to meet face to face the designer of their website is important. Hiding the the fact that the work is actually being done thousands of miles away in a different time zone by people who are freelancers is definitely suspect.
Business offshoringShould the business owner want to update their website, unless the freelancer has done a good job of marking up and commenting their code, who ever has the task of unpicking the existing code to make changes has a harder job on their hands.

Fake reviews and testimonials

Fake reviews and testimonials. I don’t mean ‘the friend you asked to favourably review your web design business in exchange for a few beers’, type of thing. I know of one web design agency close to me that have created an entirely fictitious person, business and backstory in order to create a review on their website. It is elaborate, detailed and a complete falsehood. If they will go to the effort of creating a fake testimonial for themselves, what else are they prepared to make up or be creative about?  I wrote in greater depth on this story in Sharp Practices by Web Designers.

Cookie Cutter Site development

 ‘Cookie cutter’ web site development. There is a marketing firm not far from me that advertise their ability to create websites for incredibly low prices. It is only when you look at the output they have created that you recognise a startling similarity between all their sites. They have used the same web-builder tool for all of them and worse than that, they have used an identical template for all sites.  Every site they produce is a clone of the last.
Web site clonesThe only differences being background colors, text, logos and any images. The layouts, menus and structure are identical. They have taken a tool the business owner could have used themselves, dropped in the content (no doubt created by the business owner) and have the cheek to call themselves ‘web designers’.

Unethical SEO Services

SEO Services. There are some genuine and professional SEO service providers out there. They seem to be outnumbered by the scammers and crooks who promise “top ranking in Google” or “first page in all search engines”. For the business owner who knows little about how the search engines work (and let’s face it, that is most business owners) but is keen for their business to grow, these sort of promises sound ideal. Of course what the SEO scammer does not say, is that the top ranking is either for the most obscure ‘long tail key word’, or achieved through dubious means. The former has no meaningful impact on the business since very few searches are made for that ‘long tail key word’ whilst the latter has a dramatic effect upon their business once the search engines punish the site for employing suspect methods to raise its ranking.

Inflating Prices

Over charging. The situation that comes to mind most readily is the web design agency that says they can handle domain registration and / or hosting. They then massively inflate the costs incurred when invoicing the customer. I’ve seen bills for hundreds of dollars for registering a domain or hosting it.web agencies that overcharge
When you investigate where it is being hosted, it is easy to see that the real price is around $60 / year. Meanwhile the customer is being charged $500. In my view this is taking advantage of the customers lack of knowledge to make a fast buck.

To me, as a web designer / web developer, integrity is everything. I need and want my customers to trust me and heed the well given advice I offer them. To be less than 100% honest at all times risks damaging that hard earned trust. I want the relationship with my customers to be a partnership that stands the test of time; treating them as idiots or ‘cash cows’ to be milked feels plain wrong.

How long to set up a shop and sell online?

How long does it take to set up a shop and sell online?

I’ve been asked this question several times in the last week.  When you turn it around and ask the questioner how long they reckon it will take, the answer is usually several hours, if not days.

What if it took less than 30 minutes to set up your own shop and begin selling on line, wouldn’t you do it?  Of course you would!

You design handmade jewelry, knit incredible garments, print custom T shirts or make amazing items of artwork and sell them to friends / family and through local independent shops.

No doubt your customers are delighted with your products and tell all their friends about you. But you are still only tapping into the tiniest proportion of your available market. Unless someone happens to know you / one of your friends or be in that independent shop, they have no chance of knowing about your product and thus making a purchase.

The answer (of course), is to sell online.  However, several conversations in just the last week show that for many people the idea of setting up their own shop is a daunting one, and one they expect to be complex and problematical.

Let me let you into a secret. It isn’t! You could easily have a shop of your own up and running in around 30 minutes.    Here’s how.

1. Assuming you have a website running WordPress, install the WooCommerce plug in. WooCommerce is part of the organisation that builds WordPress itself and it is the biggest (by a long way) e-commerce platform on WordPress.   Not got a WordPress website – no problem. Just about every server can handle WordPress*, it is easy to set up a simple WordPress site, styled to look like your current website and put links to it from the relevant places in your main site.

2. Configure WooCommerce – set up your location, currency, whether it is a physical or downloadable product (e.g. an e book), customise any email confirmations you want the system to send.

3. Download the Payment Gateway plug in of your choice (PayPal, Stripe, Amazon Pay, WorldPay etc) and configure your account.

4. Connect WooCommerce to your chosen payment gateway and link using the provided API key.

5. Create a product to sell in WooCommerce. Ideally with a product description, images, size / colour options etc.

6. Begin selling!

It is as simple as that.  In 30 minutes or so, your reach will have gone from local to potentially global.  What’s stopping you?   You have a great product, why not sell it as widely as possible!

At QD Design we can assist you through the process. From simple advice and guidance, to setting up the WooCommerce platform and Payment Gateway or even building the complete WordPress site to contain it all.

We eat, sleep and breath the web and want to help businesses make the most out of it. Call us for a chat or drop us an email and we will get back to you.


*If your server really can’t support WordPress, we need to talk, urgently!  You are being hosted on a device that may well be compromising your websites speed and thus your position in Google search results (Google hates slow sites and penalises them over faster ones).

Scam Alert! Domain SEO Services

If you own or manage a domain you need to read this.

I manage quite a few domains and, as such, see a fair number of domain communications each month.  One recent e mail stood out.  There was something about it that wasn’t quite right.

  1. It had no letter head or logo and the sender was not who I have my domains registered with.  In fact the layout and style of the message is deliberately ‘vanilla’.
  2. Whilst this domain is up for renewal this year, I knew it was in October and not the Spring when the renewal was due.
  3. The wording was both very lengthy and hard to understand.  Again a deliberate ploy to confuse anyone that receives such a mail that it really needs to be acted upon.
  4. The incentive to “Buy Now” seemed just a bit too forceful and smacked of a con.

So what is it?

Well it isn’t a domain renewal notice even though it has a domain name, a duration of service and even a start date.  It is an offer to buy “Domain SEO Service” and  “to purchase a search engine traffic generator”.

No clear details are given on what these products will do for your website.  The one thing that is clear is that Google takes an incredibly dim view of attempts to artificially increase a sites ranking in the search results.  So much so, that sites have been penalised and in some cases banned when it has been discovered they have tried to manipulate the Google search results.

It is not worth the risk.

You do not need to pay to have your domain name submitted to and indexed by the search engines.  This could be the worst $75 you might ever spend.

You DO need to engage someone to help you optimse the content of your site and effectively focus it around your chosen keyword(s).  Your web designer should be able to advise on how best to go about doing this.

This Domain SEO Service Expiration Notice is a very clever and cynical scam.  It deliberately creates a sense of apparent urgency around the renewal of a service and hopes that the recipient either is in too much of a hurry to read it or not knowledgeable enough to know that it is unnecessary.  The originators know that in many small and medium sized businesses, the staff are working flat out and spending 5 – 10 minutes trying to work out whether something is genuine, is time they simply do not have.

If / when you get your domain renewal notice in the mail, or something that looks like one; read it very carefully before acting upon it.  It may not be quite what it seems.

Why DIY websites frequently fail to deliver

Pitfalls of DIY web Design

Recently I participated in a Marketing Seminar at the Business Gateway in Aberdeen, facilitated by the excellent Liz Pirrie.  Listening to the great bunch of people passionately describing their businesses – animal welfare, fitness trainers, payroll services, pollution control consultants, luxury soap manufacturer, the variety was huge – and their hectic days; it was obvious that as a small business owner you have many, often competing, priorities ….

  • Sourcing and managing suppliers
  • Fulfilling customer orders
  • Client / customer communications
  • Product / service development
  • Filing accounts
  • Forward planning and scheduling
  • Updating details in the customer database / CRM
  • Market research
  • IT “housekeeping”
  • Networking
  • Exercise and health
  • Time for family and friends

I was exhausted just listening to them!  It got me thinking, ‘why, when you have so much on your plate already, would you ever would ever consider making your own website’?

It is true, if you require a website for your business, you are faced with a bewildering range of choices.  ‘Doing it yourself’ using one of the apparently “easy to use” template based services can be very appealing.

However, is it such a good idea?  Are there any drawbacks to using a template driven site builder for your businesses website?  Yes there are, and before opting for a DIY template website, here are seven you should be aware of before opting for DIY.

 1.  Learning Curve – The adverts for these services are full of people smiling happily whilst they create an amazing looking website in less time than it takes to rustle up a sandwich. It is largely a con.  As with any tool, working out how to use it, and use it effectively, takes time.  Business owners can often take 40 – 50 hours to learn how to use the web development tool and then craft the finished website for their firm.  Whilst the business owner has been beavering away creating a website, what else could (perhaps more importantly – should) they have been doing?  And, have they truly saved any money by doing it themselves?  Take those 40 -50 hours and multiply by the hourly rate charged to a customer.  They may well find that a professional web designer would have cost them less (and created the site far more quickly) than the business owner has managed to do themselves using a template.time flies

2.  No differentiation – Using a template means that everyone that adopts that tool starts out with the same basic framework. More than likely, the resulting website will resemble each other.  Access to the same font packages, same image galleries and same basic colour schemes all but guarantee a site is going to be similar to other sites derived from the same source.  We all want to stand out, we all want our business to look different; using a template significantly reduces our ability to reflect our businesses true identity in our website.

sheep
Don’t be a sheep and use a template, employ a web designer instead!

3.  User Experience – Whilst a template does allow you to create a website, will it be a good website and will it work for your customers? Most of us make a snap decisions about a product or service in the first few seconds of viewing its website.  Without a good understanding of User Experience (UX) and thus User Interface (UI) design, the business owner employing a template is stuck with the UI and UX that the template builder had in mind.  Poorly placed navigation links, hard to read colour combinations, unresponsive designs will all drive the site visitor back to the search results and onto another site – another potential customer lost.

 4.  Transfer-ability – In many cases, you can’t easily move a site or its contents when it is based on a template service. If the business happens to outgrow the service provided by the template hosts or gets fed up with their less than stellar support, they might discover they are stuck with the template hosts as they are not be able to download their content to go elsewhere.  They are not far short of being a “hostage”!Hostage to the template

5.  Backups – Most templates back up their systems in case of a crash but don’t necessarily protect you from yourself. If you accidentally delete an entire page from your website it may be gone for good.  As an aside, if a site is created in a template it is worth backing it up to your local machine so you have the text and images just in case you remove something important.  Imagine how long it would take to restore an entire page of information, source the graphics you previously used and re-configure the links you had on the page.

6.  Total cost – The template will cost more in the long run. Most templates are based on a monthly fee.  This can be upwards of $25 / £18 per month.  Add that up over a couple of years and compare to site hosting fees.  Over the course of a few years the small business will have spent more than it would have taken to have their site built by a web designer and have it hosted.templates cost you more

7.  Lastly, Value versus Cost – Yes, going down the template route might appear to be cheaper (though you might be questioning this now too) but will the website give the business the Value it needs and requires?  A good website will help to draw customers to a business whilst a poor one might actively turn them away.  Small businesses usually have a very specific goal in mind for their websites.  Attract, engage, retain and convert visitors to customers.  If a site fails at any one of these stages then it clearly hasn’t succeeded as a business tool.  Knowing how to attract, engage, retain and convert visitors is what you are paying the web designer for.

Do your business a favour and don’t trust to luck and a template.  Engage a web design professional to make your business website a success.  It will let you get on with successfully managing your business!

QD Design have been making outstanding websites for smaller businesses and start-ups since 2004.  We know exactly the challenges small business face and can help and advise on the best options for any small business looking to get onto the web.