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What do you want in a website builder
Website builder and small business
alanc




msg:3366426
 2:48 pm on Jun 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hello everyone,

This is my first post to the board and I'd first like to say hello and comment on what a great resource this board is. I'm hoping some of you may be help me out here which would be very much appreciated.

I'd like to pick some peoples brains if possible please. I'm researching website builder systems and am trying to identify what aspects are important to a business user. Obviously as I am from a technical background my perspective on it is different to business owner.

For any business owners, even those with existing custom developed websites I'd be interested and very grateful if you could help me with what your top 5 items would be that you would consider important from a website builder.

For example:
1) Ease of use
2) Feature Set
3) Price
4) Support
5) Turnaround time
6) Reporting on Sales conversions
7) Anything else?

Also from a feature set angle what features would you look for in a website builder?
1) Shopping cart
2) Good reporting on Traffic and site activity and Sales information
3) Blog
4) Forum
5) Good at Search Engine Optimisation
6) Calendars
7) Mailing Lists
8) Newsletter
9) Anything else?

I'd really appricate any help or comments anyone could give. Also if anyone feel this post would be better places in a different area please let me know.

Thanks in Advance.
Alan

 

jtara




msg:3366574
 5:50 pm on Jun 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

What's a website builder? (Or what's your definition?)

If it's what I'm thinking it is, here's the most important concern for the small business owner:

"Now, how do I create a REAL website?"

rocknbil




msg:3366625
 6:48 pm on Jun 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

Website builder and small business

(Presuming what is normally called a CMS.)

Here's the deal with most small businesses that have not already taken the plunge into the Internet:

- I have a business to run, and don't have time or interest in learning something new and technical.
- I'm barely making it as it is, and don't see how investing all this money is going to help me. It's just going to cost me more money and create more work for me.
- I've tried this, paid someone thousands of dollars and got absolutely nothing out of it. Never again!

Although a standard slogan in business is "quality, fast, or cheap - pick any two, you can't get all three" many business owners will only take the leap if they can get all three. This is especially true for small businesses. The Internet scares them. So you have to bridge the three points above before you can even get them to consider it, then step up to the plate. It's almost more trouble than it's worth. :-(

jtara




msg:3366631
 6:59 pm on Jun 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

presuming what is normally called a CMS.

I wasn't. A CMS can be used to build a real website.

But since we are presuming quite different things, that gets us back to the question, "what's a website builder?"

I was thinking more of the "no experience required, anybody can do it!", point, click, choose a layout, choose some cute animated icons stuff that some budget web hosts offer.

Unfortunately, IMO, "no experience required, anybody can do it!" is a fallacy.

Anyway, I think the poster is jumping the gun. Even professionals can't agree even on what a "website builder" is. I think that has to be settled before he worries about what a small business owner wants from one.

What's a website builder? :)

aspdaddy




msg:3367906
 8:49 pm on Jun 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

"Now, how do I create a REAL website?"

Thats not what Im hearing from SME's in the UK.

What I am starting to hear is why would anyone bother with the hassle of learning HTML these days when theres so many other ways to publish/promote your business online. Remember Many SME's are run by control freaks so be able to build it themselves is a big plus :)

I think ease of use is top.

What's a website builder?

Something that helps non-techies build websites.

Lorel




msg:3368086
 12:57 am on Jun 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

I haven't seen one yet that incorporates CSS in a logical manner, validates and doesn't put out a bunch of code bloat. But that's nigh impossible considering the nature of the beast.

[edited by: Lorel at 12:57 am (utc) on June 15, 2007]

alanc




msg:3368476
 11:32 am on Jun 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hi,

Some interest points raised here and I'll try to addresss them in terms of where I was coming from with the initial post

What is a website builder. I first read that and thought to myself. Eveyone knows what it is but on reflection it is a good point. What is it. Is it just a CMS or is it more. Is it a DIY solution or something else. I guess it is different things to different people.

Lets say for now its a solution that allows a website to be built and ignore who needs to do the building.

rocknbil is correct. The traditional small business user needs to focus on their business not on learing tools to build a website. They may have been burnt before or they may not see the benefit of a website.

So then what do they want. They want someone to build it for them but possibly to make some minor changes or.... What about a solution that they can make their own changes and it is so intuative that it doesnt require training or help files. Now wouldn't that be something. That goes back to aspdaddies comment about ease of use.

What the purpose of a website for a business owner. Its to add value. Its to increase sales, reduce calls (by providing bbasic information) etc. If a site doesnt confirm to the latest standard but renders fine on the major browsers isnt that acceptable. Once you achieve quality, fast, AND cheap as rocknbill says isn't that the goal.

I agree its nigh on impossible to get all three right now bit if you could then what. Do you need an all singing all dancing shopping cart? I dont think so. 80% of users use about only 20% of functionality software.

So based on the above, from a business ownsers perspective, not a designers or website builders what would you want to happen.

Do you want someone to build it for you.
Do you want to be able to update anything? Even news for example
What is a key feature
What would make you move if you had an outdated website?

I welcome the feedback.

Thanks
Alan

abbeyvet




msg:3368549
 12:56 pm on Jun 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

There is no perfect solution, no perfect tool. As any craftsman will tell you the art is in picking the right tool for the job.

I may be wrong, but your posts sounds like you have a tool in mind and are trying to make it into the perfect solution for small business.

The mechanics of getting a site online and keeping it updated is such a trivial matter nowadays. The time involved in ensuring it continues to contribute to the bottom line is not trivial, but thats not really a tool related issue, it's to do with things like creating good content, search engine placement, marketing, providing a good customer experience etc.

What about a solution that they can make their own changes and it is so intuative that it doesnt require training or help files. Now wouldn't that be something.

Pretty much any CMS can accomplish that at the contributing user level.

quality, fast, AND cheap

"Pick any two" is the traditional follow on to that - I don't think it's changed any.

80% of users use about only 20% of functionality software.

That doesn't mean they won't buy or don't want to buy the other 80%. If it did practically no computer to-day would be running Windows.

And it's about functionality for most businesses. I deal with small businesses all the time, many of them with fewer than 5 employees. Their needs are VERY diverse, as an example here are just a few things that they have requested lately:

1. A means of integrating a secure and automatic download system which works seamlessly to fulfill eBay sales, with a non-technical owner able to administer it all.

2. An automated appointment booking system, with real time availability of various personnel, booking completed and confirmed online and SMS reminders automatically sent to customers prior to their appointments.

3. A password protected system which allows workers in remote locations to collaborate on creating documentation in real time.

etc etc

Is there one tool that can do all that? Those are real small businesses, with real problems that need solving.

BananaFish




msg:3369243
 2:44 am on Jun 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

I guess website builders are a lot like manufactured homes or prefabs, they're for people that can't afford real homes, or websites, in this case. But don't get me wrong, I'm not scoffing at this topic, I'm sure there is a market out there.

jdMorgan




msg:3369258
 3:50 am on Jun 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

If you want to impress this crowd, then a 'decent' Web site builder will have basic SEO built-in from the start; Force the use of a page <title> that is relevant to the business' product or service -- and more than just the business name. Force the use of a proper Meta Description tag. Do not put anything important in images. No frames. No dynamic URLs. No JavaScript or cookies required to function. Three to five solid paragraphs of text minimum on each of three to five pages, minimum. No "About us" page -- The home page is the one that should be "about us."

The above is over-simplified, but as someone involved with SEO, I get to fix these "Web site builder" sites fairly often, and end up correcting very fundamental errors -- Not only are the sites not optimized, but the cumulative effect of the mistakes that can be made with these "builder" tools is to badly de-optimize the site: Bad <title>s, no Meta description, all the company name and contact info buried in unindexable images, no on-page factors -- Some sites don't even mention what it is that they are offering -- They assume you know from their company name! Well, I might deduce it, but I wouldn't count on the search engines to do it...

Make sure that you leave your clients with the knowledge that they will need to seek out relevant sites and get links from them. And that they should also link out to relevant authority sites to provide their visitors with more information. They should also be made aware of Pay-Per-Click advertising as an additional marketing channel -- and especially if they fail on the linking quest.

Again, my personal view is that Web site builders are mostly "really awful" and most sites built with them will never rank well in natural search results. Sites built with them are often nothing more than online business cards, and when I see big Web companies that should certainlY! know better promoting them I think, "They should be ashamed of themselves." So my advice if you are designing a Web site builder is to make sure that fundamental SEO factors cannot be done incorrectly -- e.g. refuse to accept the company name only as a page title, enforce minimum paragraph, keyword/keyphrase, and page counts, and then, in the words of a famous physicist named Albert, "Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler."

Best,
Jim

[edited by: jdMorgan at 3:55 am (utc) on June 16, 2007]

alanc




msg:3370873
 10:12 am on Jun 18, 2007 (gmt 0)


Thanks for the feedback on this. It is very informative and it is good to see all the different perspectives on this.

1) abbeyvet - Given the nature of your clients (Small business) how would they have come across the important of selling on eBay and hence requesting that as a feature. Also is this just a once off or is the ability to sell on eBay something thats becoming more popular?

2) In terms of the 80 / 20. abbeyvet said
"That doesn't mean they won't buy or don't want to buy the other 80%. If it did practically no computer to-day would be running Windows"

but if you didnt have to buy that other 80% then wouldnt most people refuse it unless it came to the point where they needed it? I use Word and Excel every day but I dont use half the functionality.

3) So if I am to take anything from this it would be. Keep it simple and SEO is king?

Thx again

vincevincevince




msg:3370877
 10:20 am on Jun 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

A website builder can be very powerful and effective, or it can be a clone of an early Microsoft Frontpage version without any of the bits which worked properly.

For a top-notch website builder, this is what I would demand:

Three versions - different bits of software - all connecting to the same site.

Version 1: Designer
Full access for editing and implementing templates and CSS. Make it as easy as you can, but give the designer raw control over the HTML as well. Very few designers worth hiring don't know their HTML well enough to be able to code the exact effect they want.

Version 2: Administrator
Add content, edit content, change configuration, etc.

Version 3: Office
Direct link to module features such as: incoming orders, stock, etc. for a shop; comments for a blog; incoming contact forms; etc.
Add and modify-own access for the content where set by someone with the Administrator version

Each version needs to be a true different version, not just the same thing with bits disabled. It needs to be designed with the end user in mind, not easy programming by the software engineer.

abbeyvet




msg:3370882
 10:22 am on Jun 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

how would they have come across the important of selling on eBay

EVERYONE knows about eBay. There are a lot of small businesses for whom it is an important sales/marketing channel.
if you didnt have to buy that other 80% then wouldnt most people refuse it

Not necessarily. It's about thinking to the future. For many small businesses getting a meaningful website online (ie not simply an online brochure) is a big step. They not only want it to contribute to the bottom line right now, they want it flexible enough that it can cope with future requirements.

The days when a small business wanted a brochure that looked nice and had their phone number on it and little more or had little or no knowledge of the web are fast fading. Young business owners are web savvy, media literate and planning to use the web to make their businesses run more efficiently and to interact with their customers in a meaningful way. They want functional, not just pretty.

Keep it simple

It's worth repeating JD Morgan's Einstein quote:
"Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler."

It is easy to confuse being small with being simple. Many small businesses are not simple at all.

alanc




msg:3370889
 10:28 am on Jun 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

I know eveyone know about eBay but I've built many sites and never one has any client even mentioned it. Not that may be due to my geographical location in that media coverage isn't really focused on this. It just seems that possibly business are more aware in the US and UK than they are here (Ireland). Given that I'd see it more of a challenge to try and move them to this rather than being asked.

Also I take you point about future proofing but lets take a site you developed for a client. At most would it be simple text changes that they would prefer to do (assuming a non technical office). The wont use half the features in a WISIWIG editor. Also isnt a new business very price / cost focused so by saying well you can have a,b,c but dont have to pay for d,e,f until you need to not a ideal alternative for them. I'm not saying they can't have d,e,f. They can at any time but they probably wont use it so dont have to pay for it.

- regards

alanc




msg:3370891
 10:31 am on Jun 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

I very much agree with vincevincevince on the point

"It needs to be designed with the end user in mind, not easy programming by the software engineer."

The end user is a DIY user. They dont want to spend time figuring things out once the site is built. They are business people. The are there to run a business and generate sales. They are busy people. They dont have time to be updating websites.

Alot of designers, web develops seen to build what they think the customer wants rather than what the customer wants.

andye




msg:3370955
 12:00 pm on Jun 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

This is a crowded market, I'd recommend taking a detailed look at the competition before starting work on a new business in this area. You'll need a clear USP.

jtara




msg:3371133
 3:08 pm on Jun 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

1) abbeyvet - Given the nature of your clients (Small business) how would they have come across the important of selling on eBay and hence requesting that as a feature. Also is this just a once off or is the ability to sell on eBay something thats becoming more popular?

I think you missed abbeyvet's point completely: EVERY website is a one-off! Every business has unique needs!

I think there is more opportunity in identifying niches and providing a tool that can serve those niches well, minimizing the customization needed to fit the customer's needs to the tool's capabilities

No, "selling on eBay" is NOT an appropriate feature for a "web builder". OK, perhaps one that is bloated and tries to be everything to everyone. But then there's no way it's going to qualify as "simple".

alanc




msg:3373235
 9:04 am on Jun 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

Ok all points taken. Thanks for taking the time to respond and provide the feedback.

-Alan

alanc




msg:3373347
 11:45 am on Jun 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

Another quick question

What are people thoughs on the ability to deactivate pages so they are no longer live on the site rather than just straight deletion.

Thanks
Alan

aspdaddy




msg:3379545
 8:23 pm on Jun 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

One thing id like is the ability to add html, iv just been using one to create holding pages and want to add some youtube code

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