November 7, 2017

Lifespan of a Website

Some things never change. But that doesn’t apply to technology, and it certainly doesn’t apply to  websites. Websites created today look nothing like those created 5 years ago. The landscape of technology and websites has changed, rendering many older website designs obsolete.

When asked about the typical lifespan of a website, you’ll likely hear us say, “Well, it depends.” We’ve found the typical website lifespan is 2-4 years. According to a recent study of marketing websites, the average website lifespan is 2 years 7 months. While this study was focused on websites of medium and larger businesses, considering the lifespan of a website (specifically, yours) is good for a business of any size.

Multiple factors contribute to your website’s life expectancy. Some are related to changes in web technologies and visitors’ expectations or perceptions.  Others have to do with changes in your business or industry.  Here are some things to consider for a business of any size; in any industry or market.

Design standards

Fonts – Web-safe fonts used to be very limited. Now, thanks to platforms like Google Fonts, designers have more typography options to make a website unique and current.

Elements – Websites have cycled through various standards such as gradients, drop-shadows, and beveled buttons. Now flat design is “in”. Other design elements such as footer size, menus, page layouts, imagery, video integration and prominent Calls-to-Action have also changed.

Current 'best practices'

Fast loading – Google seems to have a hand in everything related to the web. They say, “Jump!”, and we all ask, “How high?”. In an effort to improve user experience, Google has speed requirements and penalizes sites that don’t load quickly. So, Google says, “Load quickly!”, and we ask, “How fast?”. A fast-loading website is a current best practice and you should take note of the load-time of your website.

Functionality – Updated programming can increase functionality, affect usability and accessibility, and enhance the user experience with your website. Changes in technology or a substantial shift in ‘best-practices’ are also markers that an upgrade or redesign is in order.

User devices change

Monitors – Remember the days of using a single, CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor? (If you’re too young to remember those…….well….I just don’t know what to say.) We know those days are long gone. Users now have large, touch screen, high-resolution LCD (liquid crystal display) monitors. As these devices improve, it may negatively impact an outdated website.

Mobile devices - Having a mobile-friendly website is not an option; it is a necessity. Responsive design displays your website based on the size of the user’s device. If your site isn’t responsive, it’s like a dinosaur – it not only looks old, it’s harder to use on a wide range of devices. Also, Google ranks websites using their Mobile Index. So, if your site is not mobile-friendly, it won’t rank well in search results.

Your business changes

Growth/Change – Businesses are like living organisms, growing or changing. If the main message of your business has changed, it should be reflected on your website. It’s also important to consider your industry. If your industry is talking about things differently today than they were 3 or 4 years ago, you may need to adjust your message; and that means keeping your website current.

Competition – What are your competitors doing? If they have recently redesigned their website, they may have an advantage over your business. Potential customers may view those businesses as more qualified, experienced or dependable. A redesigned site may also offer more convenience – it may be easier for a potential customer to do business with someone else.

Here’s the bottom line

If your website is outdated, the perception of your clients may be that your ideas and business practices are outdated, too.

Your website needs to be:
  • fast
  • mobile-friendly
  • user-friendly
  • search optimized
  • content-rich
  • and, it needs to look good
Your website ages when technology, your business or your visitors change. Keeping your site current and relevant is important and sometimes that means making the decision for a redesign.

Encore Web Works provides custom website design & development, web application and online business system programming. We design, develop and manage all of the components for custom web systems for organizations of all sizes.  

October 10, 2017

The Rise and Fall of Would-Be Millionaires

Over the past 16 years since founding Encore Web Works, I’ve met with many people who earnestly believe they have the next “million-dollar idea”.  Typically, they come to us because they want us to take their idea from the concept stage into a working product (cloud, SaaS, PaaS, application etc).  

A few of those wanna-be millionaires were able to execute their ideas and we were thrilled to help with their successes.  However, the large majority did not make it past our first few conversations due to critical planning and expectation mistakes.

Here are the most common misapprehensions I’ve seen and how to avoid them. (Note this is not intended as an exhaustive list.  This is just the most common items from my experiences when meeting potential entrepreneurs and hopeful tycoons.)

  1.  Problem - Lack of market research. “I think it’s a great idea, everyone else will too!”  Have you ever thought of a great idea only to find out that you’re the only one who thinks it’s great?  I’m reminded of the “Jump to Conclusions Mat” from the movie Office Space (1999).    Solution – Do some market research.  Find out if there is a market and/or potential demand for your idea and if there is any way to monetize it (make a profit).  Pick someone to be a devil’s advocate and challenge him or her to shoot holes in your idea. This will help you determine if your idea is sound and if it can overcome the challenges it may face.
  2.  Problem - Lack of planning.  “I’m the idea man/woman.  I don’t need to think about the details.”   A French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery has been credited with saying “A goal without a plan is just a wish”. This is a simple truth.  An idea without a plan will never evolve from a concept to a reality.   Solution – Develop a road map with specific milestones to accomplish your goal or idea.  Even if you don’t fully know how to “get there”, put some estimated actionable (aka doable) plans into a timeline.  This will quickly help illuminate the holes in your knowledge base and help you identify areas where you need to get more information.
  3. Problem - Lack of reasonable expectations. “This should be successful by next quarter.  No problem.”  If someone hasn’t done any market research and hasn’t planned a road map, it is likely he or she will have an unreasonable expectation of how long a project could take to complete.  Solution – Find the right partner or people with experience to help you.  The right people (people with experience, technical knowledge, management abilities, etc.) can make all the difference and can provide you with some educated estimates about how long things should take to develop/make/build.
  4. Problem - Lack of experience. “I’ve never done this before, but how hard can it be?”  It’s easy to see successful people or businesses and believe they are “overnight” successes.  This is rarely the truth.  Most success stories have a long backstory and list of problems that have been overcome.  Solution  Talk to some successful business owners and ask them some questions about challenges, problems, and what-not-to-do’s.  Learn from the mistakes of others and avoid some of their pain.
  5. Problem - Lack of funding.  Big Hat, no cattle.   New entrepreneurs are often surprised that it requires capital to build a business.  It’s a cliché but it’s true.  It takes money to make money.  Solution - Using your market research, your roadmap (planning), educated estimates and advise from the right partners, you’ll have a good estimate on how much money it will require to build your idea.  Make sure you figure out how to get the capital you need before you start.  The worst thing you can do is to “spend” yourself half-way through a project and realize you must abandon it due to lack of funds.
  6. Problem - Lack of commitment/no project hero.  “I’m just going to turn this over to you so you can make it a success.”   In my opinion, this is the worst of the problems I’ve seen.   No one will be as passionate about your new idea as you.  If you aren’t willing to be the advocate for your project, why would anyone else?   Solution – Understand the level of effort it will take to accomplish your goal (see the previous suggestions), understand the risks involved, and be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to accomplish it.  If you’re unwilling to do these things, it probably means you don’t believe in your idea and should walk away.

The items above all equate to a simple concept that is not simple to execute; Planning.  Coming up with a great idea is the easy part.  Planning a specific strategy to accomplish the idea is the hard part.  But if you genuinely have a great idea and are willing to do the work to make it through all the stages, you may just be that next “millionaire”.   Our nation was built by people with great ideas and the courage to make them happen.  Good Luck!

September 8, 2017

Custom Cloud Applications and Business Systems

Productivity in the workplace is a hot topic. With the increasing use of electronic devices and the accessibility of information on the web, many employers and managers are concerned about employee productivity. While this may be a valid concern for an organization, cloud and web technologies also offer opportunities to streamline operations, foster growth, and increase the bottom line.

Custom cloud-based applications help organizations simplify processes, consolidate information, and improve workflow and efficiency. Many companies utilize online business systems to ease a pain-point or improve customer service.  (Think of a cloud-based application as a program that runs on the Internet, rather than software installation on a computer.)

Your organization has a unique personality, and with it, may come some unique challenges. Don’t settle for a one-size-fits-all software program that doesn’t meet your needs. Doing so often translates to investing in a system that includes extra bells and whistles that don’t serve a purpose for your business.  With the right development partner, a custom solution can be tailored to address your specific needs with room for expansion as your business grows or needs evolve.

The possibilities are endless.  Custom cloud applications may include:
  • Online forms systems
  • Data transfer systems
  • Workflow systems (secure communications, employee timesheets, document client info, etc.)
  • CRM (Customer Relations Management)
  • Customer portals
  • Online product activation systems
  • Online rebate systems
  • Mobile phone texting systems
  • and many more...

 Allan F. Mogensen, creator of Work Simplification, was on the right track when he coined the phrase, “Work Smarter…Not Harder”.  Online business systems help organizations streamline operations and minimize risk of data loss; working smarter, not harder.
  • Automate repetitive tasks
  • Provide real-time data
  • Enhance customer service
  • Streamline workflow
  • Data security and audit trails
  • Daily backups to preserve data integrity 
  • Automatic disaster recovery

Web-connected devices may bring some headaches for employers and managers, but cloud technologies and online business systems also bring opportunities for increasing productivity, and that equals increasing the bottom line.

Encore Web Works provides custom web/cloud application and online business system programming. We design, develop and manage all of the components for custom online systems for organizations of all sizes.