Planning For Building A Commerce Website

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
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


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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12 thoughts on “Planning For Building A Commerce Website”

  1. Of course, I am NOT the person who really should be responding to this post because I have absolutely no knowledge when it comes to such things. But I do know what is pleasing to the eye.

    I know I don’t like clutter so if your website has alot of ads and clicks that take me to one page after another then I don’t stay very long.

    You raise some really good points, Mr. Expert!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Beverly. And you really are the person who should respond to it because you’re a possible consumer. But by commerce site, just so you know, I was talking more about sites that sell products specifically, such as rings, blankets, jewelry, etc. Those kinds of sites wouldn’t have ads for anything except their own products, but if those sites are junky, who wants to stick around?

      And, it’s not a bad template for building a regular website either.

  2. In my many years of doing business there is one thing I learned for sure. There are just a certain group of people that you do not want as customers.

    And for this reason: They never understand what they need to going in and the back end of the deal is where all the work and heartache is, because they didn’t pay attention in the first place. Make use of those spidey senses and cut those people out before the waitress gets there to take your order. You’ll be way ahead.

    1. That’s very good advice, Milford. Sometimes I’m a bit too nice for my own good, it would seem. I keep hoping one day I’ll be wrong, though, and for my benefit.

  3. Hi Mitch,
    I can’t believe anyone has ever accused you of writing some very long posts. 🙂
    I understand your points, and it’s frustrating to spend your time with someone when you sense it will just be a complete waste of time (there are always better things to be doing!). Milford wrote it better above than I could that there are self-centered people out there that will just waste your time and not even realize it (I can’t believe this clown took 3 calls while you were meeting with him). All this said, 99% of the time your “spidey” senses will be right – it’s just the 1% of the time that the guaranteed time-waster turns out to be the biggest new account of the year, or mentions your name to the person that turns into that.
    I don’t know what the answer is, but I agree with your post – be it long or not.
    ~ Steve (aka the trade show guru)
    PS. I love breakfast at Denny’s, but haven’t been in a long time. Do they still have the grand slam?

    Trade Show Guru´s last blog post..Spiderman War

    1. I know Steve, I was stunned also!

      One of these days I hope to meet that 1%, the one that’s going to make me rich. I do go by the credo that one doesn’t judge a book by its cover, which is probably why even people who irritate me most of the time won’t know it unless they’re really pushy. But that was an encounter that I should have kept to 30 minutes; my bad.

  4. Coming from my direct sales background, having sites myself and helping others with there’s, I almost cried thinking; someone else understands! LOL

    Oh yea, those wonderful “site builders”; are people still using those? And the ones that charge that much for it….clients should understand….they’re not site designers, they’re fill-in-the-blank specialists.

    Dennis Edell´s last blog post..UPDATED – We Will Stay Do-Follow, But…

    1. Not only that, but it’s the same kind of recommendation I make to new consultants, that being to try to determine what your time is worth to see if it makes sense to let someone else handles other parts of it. This guy wants to go with a template, then learn HTML so he can sell his wares. By the time he’s done, he’ll have spent WAY more money than what I probably would have charged. But we’ll see.

  5. I see it all the time – there are many people out there who are struggling to set up a business online and expect to pay next to nothing and get a fully optimized website. Anyone can create a website, especially these days with WYSIWYG software all over the place. But getting a website which looks professional and actually converts surfers to customers is another ball game. Next time you want to have breakfast, I’d be happy to sit down with you and actually listen, and use, your advice!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Virtual. I should probably set up a weekly conversation of some sort to talk about this sort of thing. I mean, we’re not talking about every site looking like it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, which happens. we’re talking about consistent and professional looking sites that at least give yourself a chance to look like a competent business person.

  6. I think that I have some spidey sense too. I can tell from a phone call whether a person will be a dream client or if they are just going to be a thorn in my side.

    Unfortunately, I am still at the point where I am willing put up with people who I know will end up being hard to work with. I think that it is a combination of me still learning how to run a business and being eager for more work.

    I hope that eventually I will get to the point where I will be able to pick and choose the people I work with.

    1. Keith, I think we all hope to get to that point, and some do. But I know some guys who have let people push them around for years just because they pay well; not me.

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