I Am Probably Not The Right Supplier For Your Web Project Unless...

Web Design Usually Is A Commodity Service

Web App Screen
If you want a simple web site or one that is more complex but is basically the same as hundreds of other web sites then I am probably not the supplier for you.

Many Web Sites Are "Cut & Paste And Tweak" or
Thousands Of Hours Of Development

I can't offer the value for money that other suppliers can because I specialise in a different area, so I would have to create as original work what they can pull of the shelf and reuse.
Nowadays many, possibly most, basic webs sites are based on a range of standard designs (templates) that may be tweaked a bit to make them look different but are basically an off the shelf product customised with your text, photographs and products.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, the problem of creating web sites for most businesses was solved 20 years ago so why waste money reinventing the wheel.

So before spending a lot of money on your web site it may be worth doing an internet search for WordPress to see just how good a site you can get using templates and ask if you actually need to spend more.

More complex sites like good e-commerce ones are usually created by opening an account with a provider like Shopify or Magneto, who hosts your site within an application that they created which is easily customised.

Magneto is an open source product that in theory you could host yourself anywhere that you wanted to, but in practice if you are reading this you are unlikely to have the background to be able to do so successfully.

ECommerce sites or ones of similar complexity will have typically taken the company offering them thousands of hours to develop and they will also have full time developers and support staff.

So in some areas you have to use the existing suppliers as it is impractical to build a site that would be of the standard expected by its users.

This all means that to be a profitable business in web site development you need to specialise and I don't.

And yes, they are a few dodgy suppliers selling a standard design and charging for time not actually spent.

Advanced Web Site Design

With this site the C# dominates the HTML and CSS in terms of volume and complexity.

Where I Can Help

As an example of a more complex site I have put up a simulated car insurance price comparison site here.
Occasionally there are businesses that need more than templates can offer, or don't attempt to offer, but aren't multi thousand hour projects.

For example I recently did a lot of work with a database with over 500,000,000 rows and many web site suppliers have no experience of working with databases of this size. This shouldn't be too surprising as very few businesses have databases of that size either.

This is the sort of where I might be able to help but there are things that you need to be clear about in your own mind.

Is this just an idea that you would like to try out or a fully committed project. Often it is possible to put up a Minimum Viable System that works but looks basic, but finishing it can cost a lot more than getting to that point.

Is it more style over substance or the other way around. I am a substance over style person, so if you have a style expert who needs help with the substance or style doesn't matter that much then we could be a good match.

Do you want to properly support browsers on mobile phones? For example an iPhone 5 has a tiny screen compared to a desktop, so do you want a completely different design or just make do with one that doesn't work very well on the smaller screens?

Do you even care if your site works on this phone, I still use one and there are a lot of sites which are unusable because of a popup that can't be closed!

Finally what platform do you want to host on, Windows/.Net/SQL Server or Linux/PHP/MySQL, obviously there are more options but these are the core choices?

This matters because it may affect who can take over the project in the future. I am more of a Windows person, fairly happy with Unix but at some point you spread yourself too thinly and only those who don't know how much they don't know truly believe that they are experts in both.

This page can't load Google Maps correctly

Google maps error message
A simple issue that costs either the web site supplier or user money to fix.

What Happens When A Cheap Site Needs Altering?

It's only a tiny change and you want to charge me how much?
But there are downsides to this commodity approach, if a supplier is offering web sites for a couple of hundred pounds and many are, then there is simply no margin for support or high quality customer service.

Take Google Maps as an example, many sites use it to display the business's location. This has always been a chargeable service with tiers based on the number of times the information is displayed, including a free tier.

A few years ago Google changed their systems to require each business to have a Google Maps account even if they fell into the free tier.

For various reasons lots of sites now show the map and the text This page can't load Google Maps correctly because the site owner hasn't created a Google Maps account and had their site updated with these account details.

In practice for each of the cheap sites the supplier created he needs to explain to the business owner that they need to create a Google Maps account, wait for these details from the business owner, make the changes to the web site and update the live site.

This is all trivial stuff but would probably total a couple of hours of work per site.

If you only paid a few hundred pounds for your site then these two hours may represent the whole of the profit margin on the original sale.

So the site owner doesn't want to pay half what he paid for the site for this upgrade and the supplier can't afford to do it for free leaving the site looking very, very bad to its visitors.

I recently went to a site as a potential customer, saw this error and thought they care that little about their web site so what should I infer about the rest of their business?

A Stock Image

A Stock Image
A stock image from my library.

One Quick Comment, Stock Images Or Custom Photos?

How much should you over egg things on your website?
If you are on a very tight budget then you may be tempted to use stock images on your web site rather than pay a photographer to take images of your business.

Doing this means that you can have a lot of high quality pictures at a low cost and these picture don't have to represent your business exactly.

However there is a risk to using stock images, if the visitor to your site thinks lovely image, is that really the office, the staff etc. and it isn't then they may feel deceived and be reluctant to do business with you.

And yes, this is a common practice, especially with very small businesses that want to create a better impression.

The office is a bit of a dump stuck in the middle of an industrial estate so let's use an image of the interior of a nice office suite, often with some photogenic people.

Once I walked away from a job based on the client's use of such a photo as the main photo on their home page as it made me doubt everything that they said.

Slightly less deceiving is We don't have any staff so let's use a picture of a group of people on the Contact Us page.

The recruitment business, especially where it is a "one man band working from the living room." seems to do this a lot and it is often quite obvious.

In the distant past stock images were less obvious but for quite a few years now Google has offered an image search. Just right click on the image and select Search Google for image, other search engines also offer something similar.

Facebook Pages

A facebook logo
Facebook has allowed many businesses to have a web presence without being charged.

Why bother with a web site when I can use Facebook?

Facebook pages are free, but how much do they cost?
I know a number of businesses who have dropped their web sites in favour of a Facebook page.

Generally these are businesses that are ticking along quite nicely thank you and they feel that a web site adds very little to what Facebook can offer and costs a lot to create and maintain.

I have a lot of sympathy with this view but there are two issues, to be able to send a message to a Facebook page owner you need to sign in to Facebook.

Ten years ago this probably didn't matter too much, but nowadays
  • Many people who do not have a Facebook account will have decided not to have one so will be unable to contact you.

  • Some people won't be able to create an account as they are at work and need to use a personal email address.

  • Some people won't even be able to access the page as Facebook is blocked on the company network.
Suddenly your free page has cost you a query that may have led to some business.

If you are an hotel this could easily have been a Fri/Sat night stay or even a whole week, if you are a restaurant it may have been a group of 10 wondering if they are too large a group, and if you are a pub it may have been a group of potential regulars looking for a place to hold a meeting as a weekly event.

The second problem that seems to be becoming more prevalent is that Facebook may require the user to log in even to view the site, this is a huge no-no for me.

Also I find that Facebook pages are not that good at showing off a businesses to new customers, they tend to work better for existing customers who want to know which band is playing this Friday.

Less common but possibly more common thab you might expect are searches such as Worcester <Your business> -facebook -twitter -<some other sites>, for some this becomes a habit

Finally many businesses have their pages set up in such a way that a user can see a bit without logging in, then a big login screen appears and obscures the content, which can be dismissed only to quickly reappear.

Other Interesting Pages On Some Of My Sites.
Weight Loss Calculator
Screen shot of weight loss calculator Weight Loss Calculator Tries to simulate the body and report the effects of food and exercise in periods as short as 15 minutes.

This level of detail highlights the effects of a run, bike ride or chocolate bar.

For those who are new to exercise, weight fluctuation due to glycogen usage is made much clearer.
Initial Programming Language
IPL Screen shot Initial Programming Language possibly the easiest way to learn programming on a Windows computer.

Designed to mimic the simplicity of the 1980s home computers where you could get started in minutes...

...but still powerful enough to do pretty complex things.
Learn To Budget
Money Manager Screen shot Learn To Budget MoneyManger.ipl is a free, MS Windows based, computer program that can be used with children and young adults to practice budgeting

Put simply you get paid once a week, you then spend this money on food, rent etc. If you do just this, then you will be able to save some money and then buy cars, holidays etc.
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