Home – New Forums Tech talk Low budget startup website. What experiences have y’all had?

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  • #968401
    Big Col
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    I’ve made it my hobby of late to figure out the cheapest, quickest and easiest ways to make sites for myself. I’m hoping to apply this knowledge to help out other and thought FlyingSolo would be a great place to start.

    I’m doing a soft launch for a template site solution where microbusinesses can select their design and pages for inclusion then receive a fully functional Joomla based website installed within a day or two. I think I’ve got the systems in place to make it profitable at the current price point of $99. I’d appreciate your feedback on where this falls in the spectrum of pricing and service offering compared to your various attempts to get your own websites up and running.

    http://simplyeasysites.com.au/readytogowebsites/

    Thanks in advance for your feedback.

    #1032993
    BruceR
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    That sounds like a great business idea – and $99!!

    I must admit I did mine cheaper (if my time was valued at about 10 cents an hour!). I learned a bit about Joomla and put it together myself. I did pay for a low cost generic template which was a step up from one of the freebies) but had to do the installation myself – if you don’t have at least some IT interest this could be a very painful and laborious task. $99 sounds like a bargain!

    Joomla is very powerful and I’ve used some of the bells and whistles (or components and extensions!) but have stripped back to a more basic site which is all I really need at this stage.

    Your concept and templates look great and I agree that not “every small business needs a site built from the bottom up”.

    #1032994
    seocourse
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    Big Col, post: 39535 wrote:
    I’ve made it my hobby of late to figure out the cheapest, quickest and easiest ways to make sites for myself. I’m hoping to apply this knowledge to help out other and thought FlyingSolo would be a great place to start.

    I’m doing a soft launch for a template site solution where microbusinesses can select their design and pages for inclusion then receive a fully functional Joomla based website installed within a day or two. I think I’ve got the systems in place to make it profitable at the current price point of $99. I’d appreciate your feedback on where this falls in the spectrum of pricing and service offering compared to your various attempts to get your own websites up and running.

    http://simplyeasysites.com.au/readytogowebsites/

    Thanks in advance for your feedback.

    I have a “similar” system but for SEO… a micro SEO monhtly package… it works well… but funny wise, I usually find that customers that pay more.. complain less…
    so my tip is: make the rules of the game pretty clear.. the last thing you want is to get $99 per site and having to reply to 27 emails from that customer EACH week.

    #1032995
    Big Col
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    @ Bruce – Thanks for the positive feedback. I think there is great value in doing it yourself in terms of a learning experience, especially if a website is going to be a core part of your business. But yes if you are valuing your time on an hourly basis it is usually hard to justify. Congrats on getting through it though!

    @ Gabriel – Thanks for the advice. I’ve budgeted 1/2hour per person “admin” but we’ll have to see if that holds up. Plus it depends on the number I sell per template if I can recoup the time invested in them. I’ll definitely try to keep an eye on it though. Cheers. I’ll have to look into your product too. I’m doing some SEO for various people though it isn’t my core strength.

    Cheers for the replies.

    #1032996
    JohnW
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    Big Col, post: 39535 wrote:
    I’ve made it my hobby of late to figure out the cheapest, quickest and easiest ways to make sites for myself.
    Hi Big Col,
    In ’96 we won a runner up prize at what is now CEBIT for best new Internet technology. That was a DIY build your own website with a very early content management system but it was based on a similar strategy to yours.

    We dropped it very quickly. Here’s why…

    Most companies have their unique company logo and colour scheme. That was a major stumbling block to acceptance of the system. We found it required a huge commitment to developing more and more design templates in a very large range of colour schemes.

    I shudder when I read that you are including a content management system in the your offer. I believe you will find a system like Joomla is much too complicated for most DIYers.

    Then there are images. I’ve been training clients’ staff in the use of CMSs for 16 years and I have to spend more time on showing them how to make web-ready images than on how to use a CMS.

    I don’t want to sound negative but I recommend you undertake a lot of user research. At the prices you propose, you can’t afford to provide personal support.

    People with the skills to develop a program like you propose may be over estimating the technical skills of your target customers and I’m concerned you may be over estimating the oportunity as a result.

    If you want to be brought back to earth on the technical awareness of the real world, check out this Google video where they asked the people of NY, “What is a browser” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4MwTvtyrUQ

    Regs,

    John W

    #1032997
    Big Col
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    Hey John,

    Cheers for the video, slightly painful to watch but funny how true it is.

    I’m doing something slightly different in that I deliver the website ready to receive their content but with no other input required on the customer’s end. The whole principle that I’m working with is that people don’t want to invest time in learning various programs or CMS, they just want the results.

    I can deliver a live functioning site with their choice of design at this price point but I’m keeping notes on the time that I’m putting into various tasks and will review this in a month or so to make sure it is sustainable going forward. Even if the price doubles it will still be a great solution for a decent range of small businesses.

    A content management system like Joomla requires a bit of configuration upfront but I don’t plan on re-inventing the wheel for every install if you catch my drift. I’m not doing any customisations to the backend, it will just be a standard Joomla install.

    I’ve taught my girlfriend and my parents to use Joomla. Setting it up isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but using it solely to update content is pretty user friendly if it is set up right in the first place. I’m not planning to provide personalised training with every site going forward. The info on how to do the basics are easily explained within a page of instructions or a few short videos.

    The logo problem is one that I’ve toyed with a bit. I don’t have a perfect answer for every template. I’m working with the theory that by including enough whitespace customers will be able to incorporate their logo into the website without it clashing against whatever background colour is in place. I’ll expand the range of colours faster than the range of styles but obviously wont have every shade of blue red green etc covered. It would be great to have a really sexy solution where they could choose the precise colour of the site but that is beyond me right now.

    #1032998
    marketingweb
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    My thoughts….

    There are already quite a number of sites that offer free diy websites, http://www.weebly.com being one example.

    Many of the site people ask to have reviewed on here are in fact “diy” sites based on various basic template systems, and unfortunately to anyone with a trained eye, or even most people who aren’t trying to be “encouraging” find the results are often a little poor and dated looking.

    In your case your templates are quite nice and clean which is a bonus. Perhaps they can fit into some middle ground between “I want to do it for free” and “I’m happy to pay a budget priced professional designer”.

    You may have a market for those willing to pay a little bit rather than going for something free, but people on a budget tend to expect a lot for their money as has already been noted. I’m surprised you would expect to be able to only allow 1/2 an hour of support per person. In my experience even if they were paying $25 for your service the average person would expect maybe 2-3 hours worth of support in setting up the site – hey i’m even seen people complaining about lack of support on a free product before!

    The only time the DIY system works is say a company like mailchimp – where they have enough infrastructure, FAQ’s, a rock solid system etc that the average person really can do it themselves. Your system, while good, is not really at that level, and the less rock solid the more support needed.

    The other issue will be with limited templates and “customise it yourself wizzard” all you will end up with is a few clients with exactly the same looking sites. I actually sometimes use templates myself for lower end / budget jobs (always with the client aware), the skill is in how the template gets customised to have a look and feel that is unique to the client. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint) the average diy person doesn’t have a feel for a design or the skills to properly customise a template and so the results achieved by your clients may not be any better than what free sites offer.

    Best of luck with it though, I think you may need it.

    Matt

    #1032999
    Big Col
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    ** takes big gulp before replying to Matt **

    Cheers for your input, you’ve raised some really good points.

    I like to think the difference between what I’m offering and the likes of Weebly and Homestead is in the longer term function of the site. By providing customers with a website that has a solid and common CMS they can update or expand their site with a lot greater flexibility.

    If they want their website re-designed or if they want to add on functionality (eg. shopping cart) they won’t be tied to the offerings of the particular provider. They will be able to get pretty much any designer/developer to work with them. Also, having developed a content rich site, if they ever do want to move from Weebly to obtain the benefits of another CMS then there will be either a time or money cost (probably both) in doing this. These are the sort of products that seem cheap but once you outgrow them it is a pain to disentagle yourself from them.

    So in short I think that Weebly and Homestead are ok in terms of getting a site up quickly and the price tags are alright ;), but I think they are generally a bit short sighted technology wise unless you are planning to stick with a brochure style website in the long run.

    Also re:

    the skill is in how the template gets customised to have a look and feel that is unique to the client

    , I agree in part but also believe that good things can happen with the right starting template. I’ll have to learn to walk the fine line between a generic and a stylish starting template but think I can achieve that with a bit of trial and error.

    Thanks again, I really appreciate your input.

    #1033000
    JohnSheppard
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    I concur with the others guys comments here. You are opening up yourself for a life of hell.

    On top of what they said;

    Look around :) Small business website companies are selling word press. There’s a good reason for it. It’s not because it’s the best in terms of power, its because it’s simple. It requires a whole lot less support.

    While Joomla is not without it’s problems, it own’s WordPress any day of the week in terms of being a proper CMS that does useful things…but…people aren’t willing to take the time to learn it (or can’t). Modules, components, pluggins, menu’s, what are they? With version 1.6 they will now have to know about ACL…hmm…adding sections/categories before being able to add content, thats at least several support emails right there, there’s an endless supply of stumbling blocks…

    I remember when I first started Joomla several years back, it took me several weeks of banging my head against the wall (and I’m a software developer with years of experience on computers). I’m different to most people, I figure it out but 90% of people will pick up the phone straight away or send you an endless stream of emails…

    For $99…you won’t be able to afford the support..(let alone the marketing costs to get them to your site)

    Then….people paying you $99 for a website are doing so because they can’t afford to pay for a real developer. It means when they get stuck (and they will)…they can’t afford to pay you, so instead, they will hassle you endlessly…

    My 2 cents.

    #1033001
    marketingweb
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    Big Col, post: 40379 wrote:
    ** takes big gulp before replying to Matt **

    Lol, Didn’t expect to get that reaction – maybe I came across harsh!

    Basically what i’m getting at is I think the product is good but finding a market for it at that price, that doesn’t send you broke or grey haired may be difficult.

    When something comes so natural to you (eg adding in content in a CMS) it’s easy to forget just how difficult it can be for a non technical person (without training) to complete things you could do in your sleep. This means you have a few options in my mind:

    1) Make it 99% self service by being foolproof (ie asking someone like a 60 year old Aunty who has just “got the internet” to try it as a good test), and have lots of detailed instructions plus everything so “automated” and wizard like that people can’t really do anything wrong. This will be a lot more work, and less options means less flexablity also.

    2) Aim it at semi technical people only, and make this very clear. You would then still need a lot of the above, plus you would have to have a clear USP (unique selling proposition) that will give people in this category a reason to purchase your product over doing it themselves.

    3) Increase your price dramatically to say at least $299 to cover all the support calls and emails etc you WILL get.

    4) Make it clear upfront that this is basic installation and templates only, and provides people everything they need to get going with a bit of self learning on their behalf. Also state that many people find they need help customising and learning to input data, and that support & customisation is available at $X per hour. Problem with this – people always expect email support to be free even if you charge for phone support!

    Hope this helps a bit.

    Matt

    #1033002
    Samot
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    You MUST change your backend to WordPress, Joomla is far to complicated to learn and 100$ won’t give you the time to teach them how to login.

    #1033003
    Big Col
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    You are opening up yourself for a life of hell

    Ha, seems to be a bit of a consensus here, but I’ll respectfully continue along as I had planned.

    You MUST change your backend to WordPress

    I totally recognise that the price point will need to be reviewed once I have a sample of sorts to see what time I’m putting in per sale, but I don’t plan to water down the product. If it is set up correctly in the first place Joomla can be as user friendly as WordPress, it is just getting it there that is the issue.

    On this matter I want to clarify that I’m not aiming at the DIY market rather I’ll set up the site for customer with their main tasks being adding or editing content. For these tasks Joomla is as easy to use as WordPress. Using Joomla just leaves the door open for them to grow their site further down the track, even if that be with the help of a developer. FWIW I encourage other people to use WordPress all the time I just haven’t used it myself in a while.

    Make it clear upfront that this is basic installation and templates only

    I’m working on better defining what my proposition is with this product. It seems clear to me what I’m providing and for whom but it is difficult to communicate this effectively in a half page of text. These dialogues in this forum are definitely helping me to clarify it in my mind, so thanks again for all of your various inputs.

    #1033004
    marvelit
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    I personally think it is too cheap for how much time you end up having to put in to a website, even if it is 5 pages for a client.

    We do web design for our clients, but i tell you what I think it is a super pain in the behind half the time. The amount of emails and editing I need to do is so annoying. Mind you I have gotten a lot better ove rthe last 2 years and have put certain things in place to make sure there is minimal confusion, and I can get the jobs completed as fast as possible.

    Good luck with it, and dont sell yourself too short. Cheap is usually never better, so remember that.

    #1033005
    Big Col
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    Thanks again to all who provided feedback on this one, it is invaluable to have all of your experience at hand even if I do like to learn from my own mistakes.

    This project has taken a bit of a turn. As some suggested, selling templated pre-configured sites I had the following problems:

    Templates not matching up with businesses logos etc, customers needing something slightly different that would require a lot of work and of course the back and forth that made my price point ($100) untenable. I’ve done some cold calling and following that feedback and of course your advice have put together another offering.

    It is along the same lines, using templates (with option of customised) and a standard configuration and it is more targeted this time around. I’m going to release offerings for each of the trades starting with plumbers. One of the main problems that I had with the last one was that the templates weren’t suited to anyone in particular so no-one could just use them “out of the box”.

    The kicker with this one, and something that I really feel hits the market is a guarantee of front page results for Google or a full refund. I’ve given myself 6mths to hit this and am still playing around with the wording of the fine print. Trying to leave it open in terms of what key words/phrases count but still making it a meaningful promise (e.g. the site name won’t count). Any suggestions on this would be welcomed.

    I’m including 6mths of content updates because I’m just not seeing tradies getting that hands on and I really feel that this breaks through one of the initial barriers to purchase being that they no longer have to sit down and write up a heap of content themselves to get online. (Also helps me keep the search results promise).

    The price point will be a bit controversial at $1,490 especially since I’m offering a 50% discount for the first month to get a bit of traction. I feel that it can be profitable at this point and am fine taking a low hourly for the first month as an investment in the business.

    Any thoughts on this new tact will be appreciated.

    #1033006
    PowerofWords
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    Big Col, post: 39642 wrote:
    Hey John,

    I’m doing something slightly different in that I deliver the website ready to receive their content but with no other input required on the customer’s end. The whole principle that I’m working with is that people don’t want to invest time in learning various programs or CMS, they just want the results.

    I think you may be tying yourself into a difficult position. I am going to be offering a CMS package solution (using WordPress and a paid customised theme) and all set up for people for around $750. We’ve found that there are many different desired options for websites (opt-in box, extra long forms, FAQs, floating picture galleries, dynamic headers, no headers just headlines, videos, etc) so its good to allow for different needs even in the budget marketplace.

    Besides, have you got a plumber out lately? It costs $125 just to get your temp turned down and put on a $25 outlet pipe for the hot water.

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