Let’s get this out of the way; I have Spidey senses. Yup, that’s right, I’m the kind of guy who can meet someone or talk to them on the phone and pretty much know what’s coming. I’m not Kreskin, but I sometimes amaze myself on how accurate a strong feeling I get very early comes to fruition later on.

website ideas
Creative Commons License Sean MacEntee via Compfight

Thus was the case when, yesterday, I got a call from someone who wanted to talk to me about the possibility of my creating a website for them. When people call you about the possibility of contracts, usually you’ll get that little spark of interest (okay, big spark of interest) and you become animated, even when you’re trying to stay in control of yourself.

In this case, within about 10 seconds, I knew he wasn’t going to be a buyer. He hadn’t stated it, but the Spidey senses picked up on it. Still, I went ahead and made an appointment to meet him for breakfast this morning at Denny’s; not that I necessarily feel Denny’s is the best restaurant in the world, but it was a convenient place for both of us, plus I knew they’d always have tables available.

I met the “potential” client, and I kind of knew what was coming. For the next 90 minutes, we talked all sorts of things, mainly website things, but he wasn’t really listening. He had his ideas and thoughts on things, but none of it had to do with what I’d tried to tell him as far as steps were concerned.

When he got around to asking about price, I tried telling him that he had a lot of work to do as far as deciding how he wanted his layout, what he wanted to do, etc. Then I gave him a price, and at that point he started quoting me prices from other websites that he’d been visiting, and of course they were all lower than what I charge. He even gave me the domain names so I could check them out later, which I took because I always like looking at websites, even of people who do what I do, as a point of comparison.

I probably need to learn to charge for this kind of access to my time, even on a Saturday. I gave him 90 minutes of consulting that I’m sure he’s not going to use even 10% of. It was a major waste of my time; at least he decided he didn’t want to eat anything, so I only had to pay for my meal. He was a nice guy, and we talked about a couple other things, so it wasn’t a total waste. But I could have used that time for other, more productive things.

Pick me
Aftab Uzzaman via Compfight

By the way, I have checked out the two websites he told me about, along with the pricing. My thought on the site going in, that he said would build him a total website, with everything he wanted, for only $500, was that they’d start off with a template that he’d have to use. Instead, what they offer are website packages based on the number of pages you want, and, based on what they’re showing as examples of their work, they’re not going to be able to give him what he wants for the prices they’re quoting. He saw a low price, but without understanding exactly what his needs are, which I tried to tell him, he’s not going to end up with what he wants.

I’ll charge to go back in and fix things, which I’ve done on a couple of occasions, including some optimization, but it’s so much easier to work on getting the whole thing correct the first time since, as with the project I highlighted above, I just might have to go in and recode things. The other site was only a hosting site; nothing much more to say about that.

Looking to cut corners on price won’t do you a lot of good if you can’t get what you want. If you’re not sure what it is you want and someone is offering you advice, especially free advice, usually it’s a good thing to do more listening than talking, unless they ask you a specific question.

I definitely need to learn to start charging something for my time, in advance, if I think it’s going to go long because, as a consultant, I believe I offered some very good and specific advice. I could have told him everything he needed to hear in 30 minutes and been done if he would have only listened; if that was free time, I wouldn’t have minded so much.

He also took 3 calls during that meeting. I would bet I’ll never hear from him again, but there’s no way he could ever tell anyone that I didn’t give him superior information; I’m like Joe Dimaggio in that regard. Reputation has to always be maintained, especially when someone recommended you.

Enough of that; I know what you’re asking me: “What did you tell him?”

I’m not going to recount the entire conversation, because we’ll never get out of here, and I’ve already been accused of writing some very long posts. Here are the basics if you’re going to have a commerce website:

* Realize that, at the very least, you need to have an idea of what color you want the background and fonts to be

* You need to list how you want your products to be aligned. For instance, if you’re selling shoes, do you want a page of all blue shoes, all size 7 shoes, all Hush Puppies (only brand of shoe I know off the top of my head), designer shoes, sneakers,… in other words, how do you want to categorize your inventory

* How do you want your inventory to show on a site: big or small images; 4, 8, 16, etc, number of images on a page; rotating images on a page; descriptions on each item or one major description for each page

* Is your inventory replaceable, or are you selling one of a kind items

* How you hope to price your items; will each item have a flat rate; will you offer coupons or discounts based on different criteria

* How are you hoping to market your site, or how are you hoping to use it

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These are the things I told him he needed to think about before moving forward with a plan on wanting a commerce website; he didn’t write any of it down, which is why I’m thinking he’s not going to get what he wants. If you think of these things first, then it’s easier to talk to someone about building your commerce website for you, or even for you to build your commerce website yourself if you have the knowledge on how to get it done, because everything else can be discussed on the back end.

I also told him two other important things that don’t necessarily need to be discussed up front, but are very crucial:

* One, who’s going to write the content for the site. If you as the client write some of the content for your own site, it’s much easier for the person creating the site to either just plug in what you wrote or, if you have someone trying to optimize your site, it’s easier to optimize and alter something else that’s already written. If the website creator has to do it, you then impact number…

* Two; pricing for building websites is always based on time. If someone tells you they can build you a website in a couple of hours, it probably means they already have templates available, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, if you want custom websites, all the variables you might want adds to the time it takes to build one. I actually wrote an article on whether people should have a website that talks about some of this, along with an outline of things one should consider.

I’d love to hear other views on this concept of planning before one builds a website. I can honestly say that I’ve done that for all my websites except one, and right now I’m in the process of thinking about how I can modify that website so it’ll start doing for me what I was always hoping it would do. I wish I’d had someone who could have given me even 30 minutes before building that one; oh well,…
 

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