Getting started is easy. Getting started right is always a difficult task. Knowing where to begin, who to trust, which ideas will work for you, what you need and what you don't -- it's all a little daunting for the beginner. The thing to remember is that even the most successful online businesses started somewhere. Many started with nothing more than the desire to succeed. The key is that they did get started. Whether you are at the very beginning, or just the beginning of your next phase, we can help you make the right choices today.
Are you new to online business? Websites? Then this the page where you should begin. You will find many of your first questions answered here and perhaps a few things you did not even know that you needed to know.
We have tried to present the information on this page in an easy and non-technical manner for the beginner so that you can quickly take your first steps on this new path. Sometimes, though, you will have questions that are not answered here. That is to be expected and we are ready for those questions too. Please contact us with any questions you might have.
No question is unimportant. You should never refrain from asking. Your questions are important to YOU, and to us, and we will do our very best to answer each and every one.
Here are some answers to some of the more frequently asked questions. Click on the questions linked below to jump to the answers...
- Where do I begin?
- What is consulting and why should I pay for it?
- What do I really need?
- How do I decide between a template, a web page or a full website?
- How do I pick the right design company
- Do I need a domain name?
- Do I need a website?
- What exactly is e-commerce?
- Do I need an e-commerce site?
- What is content?
- What do you mean when you say "substantially complete"?
- What is SEO?
- What are your costs and fees?
Where do I begin?
This is probably our most asked question, and not to be smart about it, let me quote to you from the Reverend Charles Dodgeson writing in his very popular book, Alice in Wonderland:
Begin at the beginning... then go on till you come to the end then stop."
There's more truth than magic in that simple statement. The king (in Alice in Wonderland) knew a great deal about the nature of things when he said those words to the white rabbit. The simple truth is you must always start at the beginning. Not surprisingly, the hard part is knowing where the beginning actually is. In fact, before you begin any journey, whether in the real or virtual worlds, you must know where your starting point is or, more precisely, where you are now.
Think about it. If you drove into a new town and wanted to go to the library you could stop at a pay phone and look up the address in the phone book. But that wouldn't really help you very much if you didn't know the streets in the town. So, you could call the library and ask someone there to tell you how to get there. The first thing they are likely to ask you is, "Where are you now?"
When dealing with your business the same holds true. You need to know where you are now before anyone can suggest the right path to follow to get to where you want to be. That's not silly words. That's the truth!
So, before we (or anyone, really) can answer the question "Where do I begin?" we must fully, and completely, understand where you are now. In order for you to tell us that simple fact you must understand it yourself. You might not believe this but most people we talk to have little idea where they really are in their business right now. They may think they do. And they may think they know where they want to go. Usually, though, they need a little help with both of those things.
This is why it is a good idea to talk to someone who really can help you. We really can help. And we will be glad to talk to you. (see the next question)
What is consulting and why should I pay for it?
It has been said that you get what you pay for. There is an amount of truth in that but it's certainly not always completely true. There are lots of sources of good (valuable) free stuff. There is actually a link over there in the left column of this page to some great free stuff. But when it comes to good advice that will affect the choices you need to make in the direction you want to travel with your business it is probably a good idea to find a knowledgeable professional and find out what they have to say.
It's always up to you what advice you follow and it probably isn't a bad idea to check out free sources, friends and aquaintances, and even opinions of others on topical discussion forums or chat boards. The things is, the geek highschool kid next door may know a lot about HTML coding but he probably knows nothing about the marketing aspects of web design and he certainly knows little or nothing about how to work with your business goals. Having him design a website for you may be cost effective but it may also be a disaster. That person on the open forum may mean well and, after all, they are in the same business as you so they should know a little about the subject of your business. They will certainly be glad to tell you what they believe. But is it really the right advice for your business?
If you think the advice you need will be found in those kinds of sources then you really don't need to waste your time reading here. However, if you are interested in the advice of seasoned professionals with years of experience in business, web design and e-commerce, then you probably want to read on.
You pay for the advice we give because that is the business we are in; providing considered advice and various products and services designed to move you ahead in your business. We look at your specific needs. We consult. We plan. And we deliver solutions. We are backed by years of experience and an expertise developed over those years. And, unlike the kid next door or the friend on the chat forum, we have a vested interest in your success: we want to keep you as a client!
In this case, you do get what you pay for.
What do I really need?
Again, a simple question with a complex answer. The basic answer is we will help you find out just what you do need. Every online business should have, at a minimum, their own domain name and basic web presence. This may be a simple "landing page" style website or a full e-commerce solution. It requires careful examination of your goals, your business plan if you have one, and the various componants that make up your current business situation. From this we can develop a plan to carry you along the path toward your success. Finding out what you really need is a big part of the initial process we will undertake with you. It lays the foundation for what will come next. It is truly worth the effort and the time it may take.
How do I decide between a template, a web page or a full website?
These are just three of many products and serices we offer. It won't be too hard to determine which, if any, of these items you might need. A template is used for creating online listings at various venue sites. A simple web page, often called a "landing page" is perhaps the most basic way to begin a presence on the Internet. A full multi-page website is a big undertaking and commitment but it can be the foundation to a solid e-commerce business. Your actual business ideas and goals, and the speed at which you want to reach them, will be the basis for determining which of these and/or other products and services you may need.
How do I pick the right design company?
There is much more to a well designed website than pretty graphics. There is much more to your success on the Internet than a simple listing template or website. Our Hutch Web Services is more than a simple web design company. We consider all aspects of your business, whether it be large or small. We will discuss your ideas, help you examine your needs, and develop an action plan to reach your goals. We are a full solution e-commerce service provider.
We are, frankly, amazed at how many "pretty" listing templates are purchased every day by sellers who really want to improve their business but who end up being just one more seller lost in the pack. Most of these templates do nothing at all for "identity" or "branding" and often the designer actually harms your prospects of improving sales. The desiner's singular skill in graphic design or HTML coding may produce a pleasing look but ignores key design elements that affect things like dwell time and, ultimately, sales. These elements are overlooked and, in fact, are often unknown to the designer.
A good designer not only knows about these elements and incorporates them into your design, but discusses your goals and develops a solution that addresses your needs.
Do I need a domain name?
This is unquestionably the easiest question we get. The simple answer is "Yes!" Everyone who intends to have any form of Internet presence, whether it's selling on a small venue site or developing a huge e-commerce business must have their own domain name if they really wish their business to be a success. Having your own domain name lets you define your presence, offer more features, functions and services which remain under your direct control and, in fact, levels the playing field between you and your competitors. Indeed, it will give you an edge over those who do not have their own.
Our Hutch Web Services will help you determine a good domain name for your business and help you understand the benefits, costs, and difficulties of having more than one domain name. We can arrange to register your domain name(s) and manage them for you as well. If you already have a domain name we can advise you on its suitability and help you get the most benefit from it. We suggest you talk to us before registering a domain name if you don't already have one.
Do I need a website?
The most likely answer to this question is "Yes" but it is not a certainty. Sure, we design and sell websites of all shapes and sizes but some online businesses just don't need one. We will be glad to discuss this in detail with you.
Having a badly designed website can be ineffective and may actually be harmful for your business. There are a lot of factors to consider here and it is worth taking a little time to see that you are on the right track. If you already have a website you may want to have us examine it to see how it stands up in the market place. There may well be simple changes that could improve your results dramatically. There may be changes that are necessary to prevent loss of business as well.
What exactly is e-commerce?
Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, defines it in this way: Electronic commerce, commonly known as e-commerce or eCommerce, consists of the buying and selling of products or services over electronic systems such as the Internet and other computer networks. The amount of trade conducted electronically has grown dramatically since the wide introduction of the Internet. A wide variety of commerce is conducted in this way, including things such as electronic funds transfer, supply chain management, e-marketing, online marketing, online transaction processing, electronic data interchange (EDI), automated inventory management systems, and automated data collection systems. Modern electronic commerce typically uses the World Wide Web at least at some point in the transaction's lifecycle, although it can encompass a wider range of technologies such as e-mail as well.
A small percentage of electronic commerce is conducted entirely electronically for "virtual" items such as access to premium content on a website, but most electronic commerce eventually involves physical items and their transportation in at least some way.
E-commerce or electronic commerce is generally considered to be the sales aspect of e-business.
Basically, if you are a business with an online presence and you provide products or services as a result of contacts made online, then you are involved in e-commerce.
Do I need my own e-commerce website?
An e-commerce website is just a website designed to support making online sales. Typically this will have a method of displaying products or services, displaying price and other relevant information, and often a way of transacting sales, such as a checkout or shopping cart service. Whether or not you will need one for your business can depend on many factors but is generally based on your desire to actually make sales directly to people via your Internet presence.
We offer many e-commerce solutions ourselves but often refer clients to various venue sites or other e-commerce entities as part of our complete business solution.
What is content?
Content, as it relates to our products and services usually means the text or information that is displayed on a website or other web page or template. Most of the projects we do rely on the client to provide content to us, though we will develop content for the client if they wish us to do so. Content development is an hourly rate service.
Content typically includes photographic images and off-site links and may include other graphic formats as well. The information you are reading at this moment is content for this website.
What do you mean when you say "substantially complete"?
"Substantially complete" is a term we use to refer to the time in a project's duration when it has moved along to the point where useable results are ready. For example, a website is substantially complete, in our terms, when it is ready to be installed on the server and opened to visitors. That is to say, when it can be viewed and used.
That point may not be entirely complete. We may be waiting for some content to be provide by others, including the client, or there may be minor choices like some colors or perhaps a specific graphic or two that still needs to be decided. This give the client time, usually about 30 days, to see the work in place before making final choices on some items.
Substantially complete also determines the point at which final payment on a project is due.
What is SEO?
SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization and refers to the process of making a website more suitable for search engine rating. The better the site, SEO speaking, the better it will do in search engine result pages (SERPs) and a good return there is one of the key elements of being found on the Internet.
Let's consider one of our SEO clients: Beautiful Fairhope (http://www.beautifulfairhope.com/). This site is a place for local photographers to display their work shot in and around the gulf community of Fairhope AL.
Google is the largest and most used search engine on the Internet. If you do a Google search for the term "Fairhope photographs" you will receive more than two million returns. These will be displayed to you at 10 returns to the page, or more than two hundred thousand pages. Most people won't look more than about 10 pages or so to see the sites that have been returned in the search. Therefore if you are on page 45 or 253 or 32,427 your website are not likely to ever be found. The key is to be somewhere in the top few pages.
Beautiful Fairhope shows up in the top position on page one despite the huge number of returns. That's not too shabby at all. It also shows up positioned just as well for the terms Fairhope photos, Fairhope pictures, and pictures of Fairhope. It is also found on the first page for the much broader terms Fairhope AL and Fairhope Alabama. We are proud of our record of SEO success and would be pleased to work with you to move your site upward in search engine results.
What are your costs and fees?
We offer a number of products and services to our clients. Some are available as unit or package arrangements and some are offered by the hour. We will quote prices for those packages listed on both our products and services pages or for custom packages we can build based on your specific needs. Our current hourly rate will be provided upon request.
Although we don't post our prices here on the website they are certainly no secret, as it is also no secret that we charge for the products and services we deliver. We deliver quality products and services to our clients and seek long term relationships with them. We believe that a client satisfied with one project will return when their needs expand or change if we deliver consistantly good quality and value. Our prices are fair and reflect the nature of the service we provide and we are not afraid to provide them to you so you can know what your costs will be.