By Stefan Sojka
It takes a lot of hard work to make everything look so easy.
I had a potential client call recently, excited about a new e-commerce Website they wanted to launch. The domain name sounded great and they had plans to go viral and generate big sales.
In one short phone call, they described their idea. They had clearly been thinking about this for a long time. I filled an A4 page with notes, as they proceeded to describe their vision; a totally customised, world-class, elegant, classy, beautiful, powerful, enterprise-level entity with enough bells and whistles to form an orchestra.
It was our first phone call, so I asked: “Have you prepared a brief?” The answer? “No.” “Do you have a budget?” “Uh… no… as small as possible, please, because I am just getting started…”
There is nothing wrong with starting off small and dreaming big – most successful businesses do – but it suddenly dawned on me that I was the first person to ever put pen to paper on this project. It was a big idea without an ounce of actual work put into it. These plans were hatched during a few months of daydreaming and Web surfing, dictated over the phone to me, who was now expected to make all those daydreams come true. Easier said than done.
If you want to start any business, you usually put a lot of planning into it – why would an online business be any different? In fact, a Web-based business often requires more planning and preparation than most ‘real world’ businesses. This is due to the additional layers of complexity, combined with the inherent risks and costs of getting things wrong. There are awesome e-commerce packages available and countless other great resources. There’s a rapidly maturing industry of Web professionals too, but time is money. The more time you can put in yourself, the better.
It is understandable, I guess. Websites that generate millions (if not billions) of dollars all look so elegant and simple. Everything has been carefully engineered (after 1,000 iterations) to look fresh, clean and effortless. Add to that the use of the word “free” and “easy” in just about every online advert and one would be forgiven for getting the impression that Web enterprises were a piece of cake. Getting ‘something’ online might be easy, but getting exactly what you want could involve a few hard yards.
Everything you want to happen on your Website needs to be told to happen that way …in code. It is often just as hard making a site elegant and clean, as it is to make it look messy and clunky. When you bring e-commerce into it, things can get complicated. You are engineering an experience that ends in people handing over their credit card details. It’s like running a shop with no shopkeeper – it has to be pretty special to get someone to willingly open up their wallet and serve themselves.
Even static Websites can take a lot of work to get right. One site we recently launched took 7 people 266 hours. Fortunately, the site owner put in a huge chunk of that time, saving money and delivering a far better end result.
So, if you have a great idea for an online business, write it down, make a plan, do your research, set aside as much time and money as you possibly can, define everything in intimate detail – then seek out professional help to make it happen. That way you’ll both be on the same page and have a far greater chance of making your dream come alive.