The Click #010
3 months ago, I received this email:
I am a new start landscape supplies company.
I require an e-commerce site based around a
product catalogue. Do you have any examples
of this type of work that you have done?
PS I AM IN A HURRY TO GET SOMETHING STARTED
I phoned back and got chatting to a hyper-enthusiastic Dundee man. Angus told me his budget: £5000.
Mint came back with a proposal, utilising off-the-peg ecommerce software. Price: £1500.
A quick, cheap website
The Turfandstuff.com site has rough edges. The visual design is rudimentary. The text doesn't give you any feel for Angus, or his company. The checkout is clumsy. Etc, etc. I had to sedate Noam, Mint's designer, before he'd let us launch.
Turf isn't your typical ecommerce product. It is bulky. It perishes. It's a product people might want to inspect before buying. Would turf customers respond to online marketing? Would there be other unforeseen problems?
£3500 in the bank
In the 6 weeks since we launched, we've discovered that people will buy Angus's turf online, even if they live far from Dundee. Plus, we've discovered that AdWords is a cost effective way for him to advertise.
This means it makes sense for Angus to distribute nationally - something that had been a longer term plan. We are still figuring out whether it is better to present the business as a turf specialist or as a landscape supplies company.
But Angus has now had contact with over 100 customers nationwide, either through personally delivering the orders, or arranging them. He can look at his web stats. We're in a much better position to consider those sorts of decisions.
Tomorrow I'm writing the website plan - stage 2. And, with all we've learnt, we are in a great position to drive things forward.
When quick and dirty doesn't work
Before you rush off and ask your website designer to slash 70% off the budget, it is worth noting that quick, cheap versions aren't always appropriate.
If your site primarily acts to promote your company, then the site must demonstrate the consideration and attention that you give your customers. This polish takes time and money. (If you want to try something cheap, consider a fantastic one page
If your site needs to plug into complex back-end systems, then this will normally involve expensive systems integration work.
Why prototyping is becoming more feasible
Quick prototyping was part of the dot-com hype. It died when people got burnt.
What's changed? The rise and rise of cheap or free MySQL/PHP web apps like Wordpress, Mambo, PHP-Nuke and JShop (used for Turfandstuff.com). Apps that let you quickly build rough solutions for many needs.