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Services

Best Practices, Part 7: Timeline

by Brian Harris on March 22, 2012

Most Bold Universe solutions involve rapid build phases. In our Discover->Design->Develop process, the segments that consume the most time are figuring out what tools to include (functional discovery, project approval) and arriving at a look and feel for them (digital presence construction, design approval). To make sure we are building the right solution for our customer, these two phases generally take as long or longer than the actual development and configuration of the solution.

Design
Some solution designs take longer than others. Bold Universe estimates developing an approved design to take about two and a half weeks. In that time a design for the home page, an internal page (usually the blog) and elements for external sites such as Twitter and Facebook are created and aproved.

Content
While Bold Universe is developing/revising the design, our clients are developing their text for their webpages following our best practices recommendations for audience, voice, and content. While we often proceed without every piece of content finished (risking increased development cycles), we prefer to begin construction with a complete body of content.

Development
Once a design is approved and content is submitted, Bold Universe solutions take about four weeks to build, depending on the required site functionality (ecommerce generally makes a project take a little more time). Somewhere at roughly halfway through that period (roughly two weeks) customers are invited in to tour the site and provide feedback. The remaining time in the project is typically spent tweaking the solution to customer preference.

TIMELINE SUMMARY
Not every project takes this long (our fastest launch, including logo development, business cards, and a complete website with blog entries, was completed in under a week–you can imagine the wagers on that bet were pretty steep); some take considerably longer. The major factor that influences timeline is customer feedback. When customers respond quickly with feedback, projects tend to launch ahead of schedule. Because customers are running businesses while participating in the construction of their website, the timeline usually takes about eight weeks from project approval to launch. Bold Universe makes every effort to accommodate scheduling needs on a case-by-case basis.

This installment of our best practices for small business website development completes our initial 7 of 7 charter.

  1. audience
  2. voice
  3. colors and textures
  4. website environment
  5. content
  6. functionality
  7. timeline (you are here)

While we have been posting these seven best practices for small business website development recommendations we received a few suggestions for additional entries and will extend our charter past these seven. If you have suggestions for best practices recommendations/advice topics, please let us know.

Next topic: SEO

If you have questions about best practices for business websites; if you’re interested in putting e-commerce or social media on a website; if you would like to learn more about Bold Universe services or solutions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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Best Practices, Part 6: Functionality

by Brian Harris on March 9, 2012

Best Practices, Part 6: Functionality

When we say “Web 2.0” these days, many people draw different conclusions about our meaning. What we mean to say is “websites that offer modern website functionality.” At the turn of the century, we weren’t calling it “Web 1.0″ but functionality consisted of Contact Us and Opt In types of interactivity. On websites of that genre the primary function of the website was to serve as a 24/7 online brochure.

The functionality that make modern small business websites equitable are ecommerce and social media tools. These allow businesses to conduct online transactions on both commercial and social levels.

Ecommerce
Ecommerce (or e-commerce) means different things for different companies. Some companies (like Bold Universe) cannot sell anything until the product requirements are well documented. Some companies have off-the-shelf products to move. Some companies sell to businesses (B-to-B); while others sell to government (B-to-G); and many sell to individual consumers (B-to-C).

When a company has pre-manufactured products on a shelf and ready to sell, they need to configure a catalog and shopping cart. This permits users to review product details and virtually look at the product and make a purchasing decision. If they choose to buy, they add it to a cart and process the order, typically with a credit card. An online transaction is created and the order is fulfilled, most often by shipping the product to the customer’s specified address via UPS, FedEX, or USPS.

In most B-to-B and B-to-G relationships, transactions are bulk and some negotiation is necessary before a formal order is generated. The name for this preorder transaction is Request For Quote (RFQ). In an RFQ a buying agent requests a quote for some number (usually a large number) of products, sometimes specifying criteria such as schedule and even budget. The manufacturer (or distributer) receiving an RFQ formulates a proposed price and usually specifies a timeline to fulfill the order. This is one round or loop in the RFQ process. The process can cycle, sometimes for several iterations, with each side negotiating criteria (number of products, quality of products, timeline for delivery, etc.) to try and articulate a final order. If the process is suitable to the purchasing agent an order is created. If not, the purchasing agent may begin the process with another seller.

Whether your business needs a catalog/cart or RFQ system (or both) Bold Universe is ready to build this functionality into a solution custom-tailored to fit your needs.

Social Media
By simply putting a blog on a business website a company is taking the first step into social media engagement of their audience. This tool allows a business to demonstrate expertise and for their customers to post moderated comments in return. This two-way conversation allows the company to directly engage with its audience and propagates increased visibility within search engines.

Additionally the website can be tied to one or more accounts on popular social media venues. The usual suspects are: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube, FlickR, and Wikipedia (yes, Wikipedia is social media!). Each of these venues allows multiple users to congregate and communicate. For each of the venues that your company has a presence, a “bug” (small, iconic logo) can be placed within the user interface (UI) of your website that links to that venue.

Bold Universe specializes in building solutions that include Blogs, social bookmarking, social media links, and other social engagement tools.

FUNCTIONALITY SUMMARY
Your website serves to inform your audience about your products and services. More importantly it provides customers and prospects with a means (beyond a Contact Us page) to engage and interact with you. To conduct business you will want a catalog/cart or RFQ system or both. To engage your audience you will need to embrace social media and publish at a minimum blog content. Additionally you should engage your audience in relevant social media venues.

Next topic: Timeline

If you have questions about best practices for business websites; if you’re interested in putting e-commerce or social media on a website; if you would like to learn more about Bold Universe services or solutions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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Best Practices, Part 4: Website Environment

by Brian Harris on February 15, 2012

PLATFORM
Most businesses these days have some form of web presence; often it’s a business listing on a commercial site, a MySpace or Facebook page or just a Twitter account. If your business is on the Internet, you have made a good start. If you are one of the great number of businesses that has shared presence in an environment like MySpace, you have probably found your options quite constrained. Commercial listings on business indexes, even with shopping carts often detract from your business. Inclusion in sites like these alone doesn’t speak very highly about a business in general,; it promotes comparative browsing (leading precious viewers away from your site before conversion to customer); distracting advertisement that sometimes comes with Javascript or other errors is common; and the constraints are very limiting from a business perspective.

At Bold Universe we believe your company should be placed in a dedicated site. For reasons that involve cost of setup and easy of use, we prefer and endorse the WordPress platform. It is a phenomenal development environment for small businesses. The Wordpress dashboard is extremely easy to use, the platform itself is extremely flexible, and the whole operation is tailored for single webmaster control while being scalable to support multiple content managers/blog authors.

When we build a site for a customer, Bold Universe adds social bookmarking and keyword meta data tools. These tools help your audience virally promote your brand and find you among search engine results.

Once a dedicated online website is established, Bold recommends and is happy to set up presence on Facebook and Twitter. Twitter pages can be tailored to look/feel like the website in terms of background graphics and colors, but design constraints on Facebook are limited to Avatar adjustment. Beyond Facebook and Twitter, Bold Universe recommends the creation of Wikipedia pages, MySpace accounts and YouTube channels.

These various external social media venues help feed your primary website with viewers. This method of audience attraction is called inbound marketing. Not only does it make your business appear more competitive in the eyes of your customers, it increases your overall search engine rankings. Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter content is very easy to maintain. Youtube and Wikipedia come with learning curves but they are not steep. Youtube channels are best suited for companies with a large stock of video material already on hand.

ANIMATION
Animation is a fabulous way to catch the attention of your audience. At Bold Universe, every member of our development team has experience with Flash animation; frankly we love to animate. When we get realistic with our customers we usually discover that neither budget nor timeline permit animation. Flash development is time-consuming and once completed tends to be very limited in terms of usage. Editing and resizing animation is time-consuming. If language, logo, or content needs to be changed, it becomes expensive to maintain the site.

WEBSITE ENVIRONMENT SUMMARY
Bold Universe recommends Wordpress. It is very easy to maintain once we put the controls in the hands of our customers. We can and have developed in a variety of other platforms and are happy to discuss any platform but we endorse Wordpress.

While we love animation (and animating) it is typically expensive and the return on investment is risky and typically low over simpler, easier to deploy alternatives. If your web project requires animation, we can help accomplish your goals affordably.

Next topic: Content

If you have questions about best practices for business websites; if you’re interested in putting e-commerce or social media on a website; if you would like to learn more about Bold Universe services or solutions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

A quick note about add-on platform options. Wordpress is a mainstream tool and development platform so there are hundreds of add-on options for extending what your website can do. On the back-end, Wordpress works well with tools such as Hubspot’s products that help businesses the return on investment for the effort they put into their web efforts.

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