Sol Minion Development was recently recognized as one of three finalists for the Tempe Chamber's 2015 Entrepreneur of the Year Award, alongside BioStress Imagery and All About Compression (the recipient). After the Beacon Awards ceremony, I was discussing what we did differently from other Web companies. Let's face it, there are a lot of choices for Web design and development firms, but we do stand out because we are actively protecting our client's data and educating them.
It sounds like part of some obscure riddle, but the reality is that ecommerce has grown to encompass more than just an online store. There are more ways to get in front of your potential market and the post-launch marketing is more important than ever. Consumers want information, they want fast and accurate delivery, and they want to save time. Here are a few channels for stores of any size.
When you talk to an architect about building your dream home, you can get a rough idea of the cost by providing some preliminary information. It's not until they dig into specifics - the kind of countertops, number and size of bedrooms, and other important details - that they can provide you with an exact number. The same is true when creating a custom Web site or application. Estimates are often based on little more than an hour-long conversation and a few general examples.
In our last article, we talked about cyber liability insurance, why we carry it, and why it's important for our clients that we do. Now, I'd like to examine the anatomy of a data breach - we'll use the recent Target hack - and look at what the costs would be if it happened to a theoretical small retail store.
You're elated. You've just launched your company's new Web site. Then the euphoria wears off. What happens if someone breaks through the security? What if your data is stolen? What if your customers' data is stolen? How much will it cost to fix? Don't panic. Life happens and there are ways to protect yourself, your business, and your customers.
When I'm talking with other business owners that are just getting started, I frequently hear how they built their site in WordPress themselves because it's so easy. Every time I hear "WordPress", I cringe a little (usually on the inside, but occasionally it creeps into my outward expressions). We manage WordPress sites for a few of our clients, but we advocate for Joomla. Here are a few reasons why.
If the 2014 holiday shopping season showed us anything, it's that people are shopping online more and standing in long lines at stores for mediocre sales less. Though the actual numbers have yet to be released, it's tough to ignore the predictions and the trends of the past few years. If your company has been considering launching an ecommerce initiative, there is planning that must be to considered.
We really don't know who the award is going to, but we were thrilled to be nominated and be named a finalist for the first annual Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the Tempe Chamber of Commerce. It's a new award for 2015 and we're up against some great fellow Chamber members.
Late in 2014, it was brought to our attention that having a button on the Web site so our customers could pay their balance would be really helpful. PayPaloffers some payment button options, but I prefer Stripe for credit card processing. Unfortunately, there were no "pay any amount" extensions for Joomla. ... Until now.
When it comes to your site, a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Many clients want to use imagery on the site to emphasize their point, but aren't sure what resources are available or how to pick the right photo, illustration, or artwork. Here are a few questions to keep in mind when choosing photos.
While discussing Web projects with other business owners, I frequently discuss the merits of Joomla versus WordPress. Many are surprised to learn about previously unknown options. Each platform has it's own merits and drawbacks, but this article will focus some lesser known options.
When it comes to technology, many clients ask me about the advantages of one platform over another. Often, they're focused on one platform or they read somewhere that one platform is better than the other. I'm here to dispel some of the myths and offer some advice on how to pick the best technologies to launch your next idea.
When we're working with clients on their Web site, they often have an idea of their message but may not know the best way to present that content in a way that engages their customers. Sometimes its the content itself that isn't compelling, other times its simply how that content is presented.
In my networking circles, many business owners tell me they want an app. When I ask what they want the app to do they are, more often than not, uncertain. Mobile apps are the hot new commodity, but are a considerable investment and just having one isn't enough. If you don't yet have a mobile Web site, developing an app is certainly getting ahead of yourself. Before jumping in with both feet, you can save a lot time (and money) by doing some up-front planning and strategy to deliver an experience your customers will love and use.
I recently came across an interesting article about the seven deadly sins of Web design. One element in particular got me thinking (not just because we were using it on our own site): the slider. Most sites you see on the Web have rotating panels on the landing page. It's a popular way to present a variety of information, right? According the article yes, but also ineffective. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of alternative examples out there. Well, look no further because we've got a few options for you.
Once an application is finished and you're using it, that's all there is to it, right? Doubtful. Technology changes quickly and some issues don't show up until after the application has been live for days, months or even years. Recently, we started troubleshooting resource alarms on a client's production application and discovered some underlying issues that didn't begin to appear until the system had over a thousand users managing hundreds of thousands of unique data elements.
There are plenty of options out there and most business owners rely on their technology team to make that decision. While it's certainly a good idea to take their advice into account, the decision about where to host the site should really be in your hands. If you don't have an in-house Web team, your resources may change, but you need consistency when it comes to your site. Make sure you have some control over the hosting and make sure you know the requirements of your Web site.
Too often, I meet people who started a project with another designer or developer and have spent a lot of money and still aren't happy with the result (or haven't even seen a result). Business owners are great at what they do: running their business. If they don't have a background in Web technologies and digital marketing practices, it's hard to figure out who to listen to. So, here are three phrases that should be red flags and trigger a deeper evaluation of the individual or company you're interviewing to create your Web site.
When it comes to a digital presence, you want to look good and your first instinct is to find a great Web designer. After all, you're not writing software, so why would you want a developer? As I network with other businesses, I find they tend to fall into two camps: they either believe Web designers are the same as Web developers or they think a Web developer can only write code and can't create a Web site. Well, I'm here to set the record straight.
When it comes to solving our client's business challenges with software, there's a lot that has to happen to make it a reality. The first stage is the proposal and we want our estimate to be as accurate as possible so the client can plan accordingly. To that end, when planning out a custom solution, we focus on four key items: keeping the timeline short, prioritizing features, talking about our client's problems, and talking about the end result
KEEPING THE TIMELINE SHORT
When creating a custom solution, whether it's for employees to use in back-office management tasks or for a customer service channel, we plan to produce the minimum viable product (MVP). An MVP will implement only the core functionality of the software with minimal "bells and whistles" so that a solution can be in place as quickly as possible. If a challenge facing our client means they will cease to exist in 6 months without it, including all the extras and producing the final version in 5-7 months won't help. Our goal is to have an MVP complete and implemented in three months or less.
TALK ABOUT YOUR PROBLEMS
Where our clients see problems, we see challenges and a puzzle to be solved. Like a good psychiatrist, we're great listeners and encourage our clients to tell us about the problems they're facing in their business. Hearing these challenges gives us one piece of the puzzle and some insight into what doesn't currently work, narrowing down the options on our way to a viable solution.
PRIORITIZE FEATURES & STICK TO IT
In order to keep the timeline short and solve the puzzle, priorities need to be set. Lots of ideas will come up during the initial brainstorming and we'll need to transform these into features so they can be prioritized. Once this is done and a plan has been put together, any ideas that come up during the project should be evaluated through this lens. Many times, a new idea can just as easily be added during a future enhancement project rather than disrupting the current momentum toward a solution.
TALK ABOUT THE END RESULT
Prioritizing features and knowing the challenges our clients face is just one part of getting to a solution. Second only to knowing and understanding the problem is knowing the desired outcome of a business process. It could be an email that is triggered, a work order that is created, or an order that is shipped, but that outcome is the other end of the process that our solution will manage. Everything in between will be handled by the software in some way.
Addressing these four items provides the most insight into how we can help our clients. From this information we can propose an appropriate solution and begin devising the architecture of the solution's components.