Category: Online

by Adrian :: 3.04.11

The Big Bang of F-Commerce

Notice the website address?

It’s a matter of time—within the next five or so years—before more business will be done on Facebook than Amazon Sumeet Jain, Principal, CMEA Capital

Take a look at the snap I took in the London underground. You’d expect it to be Gillette.co.uk – but no, it’s facebook.com/GilletteUK.

At the time of writing let’s set the scene: if Facebook were a country it would be the third largest on earth!

Facebook is becoming the world’s largest marketplace. Take a look at Digital Tomorrow Today’s piece on 10 Facebook Facts, UK brands cannot ignore.

Facebook now accounts for 1 in 6 page views in the UK, that’s twice the number of page views received by Google.

As Facebook camps at the offices of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) waiting for their banking license, we’ll soon see the ability to cash-out of Facebook credits. As soon as we can do this please hold onto your hats: we’re about to experience the “Big Bang of F-Commerce“. Facebook credits could become the official currency of the online economy.

Each step closer to Facebook’s FSA license is another nail in Paypal’s coffin. In an imminent massacre, Facebook has enough users to obliterate Paypal and other Merchants creating a new economy – the Facebook economy. It’s not just about Facebook scooping up the existing economy it’s more about the new economy it creates. Facebook will empower small business. It has never been viable for low value items to be sold online because the online transaction costs are too high and that’s ignoring the investment required to create an engaging e-commerce site and then there’s the challenge of driving traffic to the site: never an easy proposition.

So here comes Facebook bringing the transaction costs down to basis points. Without investment, Facebook will allow us to create an online store at the touch of a button in the world’s largest marketplace and drive viewers to our site through the good old fashioned power of “Word of Mouth”.

And it’s not just about transacting online – a future Facebook payment system would most likely allow for purchases both online and at the point of sale. Using Facebook Credits, an individual could one day walk into a retailer and use their NFC-enabled mobile phone to purchase goods. Facebook could combine payments, loyalty, discounts and viral marketing all delivered via a mobile phone.

For further reading why not pay eConsultancy a visit?

In three to five years, 10 percent to 15 percent of total consumer spending in developed countries may go through sites such as Facebook Mike Fauscette, Analyst, IDC Consulting

Anyone who still believes in 2010 that Facebook isn’t going directly drive a massive commerce opportunity for merchants and retailers alike on that platform will find themselves this time next year in 2011 wishing for their own Christmas miracleKaren Webster, President, pymnts.com.

 

There are many things you could be doing to ready your business for this opportunity. Please get in touch to chat through a few ideas.

by Adrian :: 30.03.11

Libraries should be leading the RaceOnline2012 campaign

It’s crazy that funding is being pulled on the libraries in the UK. Surely these are hubs waiting to help with Martha Lane FoxRace Online 2012 campaign?

Below follows a post from my personal blog about how we could create a Digital Hub in Woodbridge, Suffolk. I prepared the document as part of the consultation process initiated country wide.

Thoughts?

Woodbridge Library: a Digital Hub. Let’s Race Online.

Source: Suffolkcoastal.gov.uk

Background

We are all unsure of whether Suffolk County Council is in the position to continue to fund the Woodbridge Library expenditure of circa £300k per annum. There is now an urgent need to reduce costs and/or turn to alternate funding models to preserve and enhance the current service provision. The threat to continuity of service is of great concern to the local community (not necessarily limited to the current library users)

Opportunity

As a current user of the Woodbridge Library (only, however, on behalf of our young children) my observation is that there is an opportunity to tap into a demographic of user that isn’t currently engaged in this community hub: those that create and consume media digitally (online). If we were to bring this demographic into the user base of the Woodbridge Library, we’d create a subsidiary revenue stream, and support structure of digitally inclined people who would both help with the ongoing running of the existing library services (stacking books, staffing help desk etc) as well as help create a critically needed Race Online 2012 (see below) presence in Woodbridge

Current Observations

Out of town Suffolk has a poor reputation for the provision of higher speed broadband. There are currently few “digital spaces” for owner managed businesses who have harnessed the power of digital to meet, work and build a “startup culture” network.  Woodbridge Library has a wonderful new purpose-built building including a conference room in it. I have discovered that this room is for hire at a charge of £35 per half day. It can accommodate 25 guests. It’s modern, beautifully appointed and light and airy. This charge may initially sound understated but I later discovered that there is no provision of internet! – neither cabled or wifi anywhere in the Library. Should this required internet facility be offered, I can see no reason why the room would not be in great demand and command a daily rate way in excess of the current one. Not only that, but the occupancy would rise dramatically. I am yet to see the room in use by any group other than the library staff. Not only would the room be a fantastic facility but would increase the footfall to- and user base of- the library.

Building a Digital Hub in Woodbridge

In terms of the above and whilst the provision of internet (both cabled and wifi) would be a great way to boost the library revenue stream I feel that the space described above could be used in a more meaningful way both boosting the revenue stream and creating a digital hub in Woodbridge expanding the user demographic of the Library to create a pool of progressive digitally inclined volunteers who would support the current and proposed community initiatives. If the room were to be used to create a members only hot desking work environment the Woodbridge Library could become a digital hub in Suffolk. Paid membership would entitle users to access a “hotdesk” in the facility for up to 10 hours a week – booked online on first-come-first-served basis this facility could produce up to £10k per month (roughly 120 members of £80 per month)

The setup cost would be minimal and involve purchasing workstations:  this could be sponsored by one of the private digital agencies in Suffolk.

Race Online 2012 – A community initiative in Woodbridge

Going forward it is critical that those who have been digitally empowered help those who have been excluded (for whatever reason: social, economic or lack of knowledge/empowerment/confidence/facilities). The Library’s support base continues to be threatened by the Digital Divide and rather than fight it, the Libraries need to embrace this and play a central role in bridging this divide. Race Online 2012 is a national campaign to give Britain’s socially and digitally excluded equal access to life-changing power of technology – founded and championed by Martha Lane Fox – the UK Government’s digital champion (see http://raceonline2012.org )

Conclusion

What better way to transform the Woodbridge Library into a digital hub – creating a precious revenue stream to preserve the existing services but also to recruit a new digital demographic who can also help in the Race Online initiative?

Next Steps

A group within the Suffolk Digital Community would be fully prepared to develop a comprehensive plan if the above achieves any traction. It goes without say that this would be a project for the community by the community and would be funded by the volunteers.

Do you agree with me? Could you help with a strategy like this? Please comment below and let’s rally some support please.

Dual posted on Fatideas.com – you can download a PDF of the document I submitted

 

by Adrian :: 18.03.11

You can teach yourself anything with Lynda.com

I wanted to share with you the most amazing online learning library. Using my subscription with Lynda.com, I’ve just taught myself a basic skill in Final Cut Express– a video editing suite. I happen to think video editing is a bit of a life skill in this day and age but I’ve had several false starts with trying to teach myself – it’s always a matter of trying to find an entry point. Lynda.com sorted that out for me.

There really isn’t a better resource on the web for teaching yourself anything whether it be a software package-  a development language – do take a look for yourself.

So I sat through Lynda.com’s Final Cut Express Course – took me less than 3 hours and ran it on a second monitor next to the project I was working on. So from Zero to the below in 3 hours (and a lot of fiddling I admit) – I also admit that my first editing project has some rough edges but it’s a great start (in my most humble opinion)

Anybody can do anything now – and to think the membership is an all-you-can-eat learning membership of $25 per month – no contract committment.- how many self-learn books lie on my shelves unopened?

by Adrian :: 7.12.10

Dreamforce Day 1: Top 5 learnings

Today was always going to be a low-key day as it’s the run-up to Benioff’s opening keynote on Tuesday (have you registered to watch the live webcast – I’ve travelled five and half thousand miles for it- trust me, it’ll be worth it).

Although today’s event I attended called Cloudstock is primarily targeted at the developer community, I still learnt  enough to share 5 things:

1. There is nothing that prepares you for the scale of an event of this size.

Close to 30,000 people are expected to have registered to attend Dreamforce and everything works and works like clockwork (everything except the WiFi that is). When first arriving, I didn’t have to queue when registering. I walked up to a terminal entered my email address – my badge was printed and I then walked up to a materials issue desk where my badge was scanned and I was handed all the bits I needed.

2. Salesforce.com *is* truly disruptive and they’ve put a few noses out of joint:

Out on the street outside the conference venue there are warring factions. I first saw this tweet from Marc Benioff

Microsoft can run anti-salesforce WSJ ads, protest our cust events, and even sue us. But they can not stop the cloud. The force is with us!

Stepping out for some fresh air I was nearly knocked over by a Microsoft Segway slamming the Salesforce.com cloud and promoting some crazy Microsoft alternative. Oracle had placed huge posters in windows of surrounding buildings claiming to be the #1 CRM solution. Benioff (who came from Oracle) returned the gesture with a placards claiming that “30,000 attendees at Dreamforce can’t be wrong”  I’ll get some of this action on camera tomorrow. That edgy, disruptive feeling  made me feel it was worth traveling so far.

3. You need to have reliable and robust internet connectivity to work in the cloud

I watched both Google and Salesforce.com flounder yesterday in their demos (poor chaps) when even their cabled internet access wobbled – in fact it stopped working for a large part of their sessions. This is just such a deal breaker: its the greatest threat to Cloud adoption and because the internet backbone is so weak outside the major cities in the UK it can’t really promise a revolution to off-premise working (yet one hopes) It felt staggering that we suffered so many outages at an event in San Francisco organised by the people who claim to be leading the Cloud Revolution: not a great example

4. Advantages of scale, speed and cost

Developing applications in the cloud now allows large and small enterprise to deploy scalable, custom built software solutions quickly and cost-effectively. I’m not a developer and a lot of what I heard went straight over the top of my head (especially the contined use of acronyms) but I have a firm grasp that this wave of change is here to transform small business and we need to grasp it with open arms as it will be a great differentiator and enabler: very, very exciting.

5. The UK didn’t go completely unnoticed.

I am definitely one of the few delegates from the UK. The event is awash with friendly event staff who are around to help you with anything you need: and they love our accents (they don’t notice that mine still has a bit of a South African twang to it)

Tomorrow is a big day: Benioff’s keynote (we’ve been told to take in snacks as he likes to talk!) – and then the Gala Party featuring Stevie Wonder – between that its going to be packed with learning, networking and lots of thinking… in the cloud.

PS: If you can’t figure out what’s on the small billboard in the above photo – click here

by Adrian :: 6.12.10

My questions for Dreamforce

Over 27,000 cloud computer enthusiasts are congregating in San Francisco this week. We’re being hosted by Marc Benioff the Founder and CEO of Salesforce.com at a conference called Dreamforce. Benioff has grown Salesforce.com from a startup in a rented apartment into the world’s fastest growing software company in less than a decade.

A few months ago, I was at the Royal Festival Hall where Benioff presented to a circa 2,000 head audience in a London gathering called CloudForce at the  Royal Festival Hall. In the Youtube clip below he says:

As we’ve travelled around the world in the last 12 years our message has been clear: Cloud computing is the future. The first time I came to London I did not play at the Royal Festival Hall- and I think there were about 4 people that showed up – two of them were lost and the other two came for the free food!

There are a few things I’m hoping to figure out at Dreamforce
1) Is, as Benioff evangelises, Cloud Computing and more specifically Salesforce.com really for companies of any size? My experience is that SMEs in Europe are battling to afford the per seat charges that Salesforce.com expect. Is pricing the barrier and what is the extent of customisation. I advised a big-budgeted financial services company (with 800 employees globally) who were looking at Salesforce.com and, disappointingly, they couldn’t afford it.
2) Are the hurdles in the European race to Cloud Computing higher than our compatriots’ in the US? Firstly there’s the culture, fear and lack of understanding. Secondly there’s the bandwidth issue in the UK – working in the cloud can’t be achieved on bandwidth speeds that most of the population outside the major cities have to settle for. Why are we Europeans slower to adopt new technologies?
3) At Cloudforce London, Benioff promised a UK data centre in 2011 – but is this enough to alleviate worries about data being transported across borders. I need to understand more.
4) How easy and feasible is it for SMEs to custom develop applications on the force.com platform and is this something on which I should be looking to skill up?

Of course I’m also looking forward to hearing President Bill Clinton’s address and Stevie Wonder sing at the Gala concert on Tuesday night. For those who won’t be here you can register to watch Benioff’s keynote online on Tuesday afternoon European time. It’s really something you won’t regret.

by Adrian :: 4.12.10

Why account in the Cloud?

Again drawing on experience, let me tell you why in 2010 running a finance function in a small business is less complex, costly and gives you a competitive edge.

In the days before the cloud

No two ways about it, but, in 2004, once we’d delivered on quality: my Digital Agency’s competitive edge was sadly reduced to price. Design and Development skills were slowly becoming commoditised by the technology platforms and freelance and outsource markets. We had to cut cost wherever we could as our clients demanded price reduction. We had a highly skilled team in Sofia, Bulgaria and not only did the developers cost far less than in the UK but their skill and qualification was deeper. (they’d all qualified at Sofia University mostly with degrees in mathematics and computer science)

Setting up the finance function

As the business grew, personally, I needed to move away from the finance stuff (my time was more valuable in the sales function as by that stage we had 10 hungry mouths to feed in London and 30 in Bulgaria) Since we already had an existing business in Sofia, it was as a no brainer to have our finance function relocated there. Again, there was no shortage of skilled accountants in Sofia, and like-for-like I hired a Bulgarian controller for a fifth of what I’d ended up paying in London and kept a desk free in London for a badly needed account manager.

Sounded practical and achievable, but..

This all sounded like a credible plan but this decision cost me a fortune because, at the time, the technology was a barrier not an enabler. Like any UK business we were forced to settle for Sage, a server-based accounting package. To cut a long story short, I ended up throwing £25k at the software and hardware and another £10k at a consultant who had to come and set it all up so that we could have more than one use in more than one geography. Sadly, I gave up because it took more than a year to get going and I couldn’t afford to be without a growing finance function. Regrettably, it ended in me having to make our BG controller redundant.

Would it be different in 2010?

Oh yes! The Cloud would have enabled me to make my plan work quickly and cost-effectively. A flexible web-based accounting package didn’t exist in those dark ages. Today I could turn to one of the three leading Cloud Based Accounting package providers in the UK: Kashflow, Xero or Freeagent. I wouldn’t have had to invest in consultants, expensive accounting packages and servers that needed continual maintenance and upgrade. Even before wanting to move the finance function to Sofia I remember having to go into the office to work on Sage because I couldn’t access the data with any reliability even though I had stumped up an additional license for my laptop or home computer.

AoB runs its finances in the cloud and while I’m writing this article I’ve just had an email in from a client asking for a copy of an invoice. I logged into the system from my Peet’s Coffee shop in San Francisco and it was in his inbox instantaneously I could just have easily done it on my iPhone if I’d been out an about. If you’re a client of mine, you’ll be used to me raising fee notes on my iPhone that we both agree on when I’m sitting in front of you.

The Cloud is more flexible, scalable and less monolithic and costly

I also wanted to point out that a Sage server license for line 50 which most small businesses still get flogged (most probably recommended by their Accountants)- with all its inflexibility and sluggishness costs a small business annually circa eight times as much compared to a Cloud computing solution. And that’s not where it ends – Sage’s bolt on support, payroll and other solutions are far more expensive than the equivalent offering from the Cloud providers.

AoB has just put a plan together…

for a client to help them move their finance function to the Cloud. We’ve shaved substantial budget and shortened their billing and collection cycle which has, in the first 3 months, paid for our fees. This saving excludes all the administrator’s time we’ve freed-up from paper pushing allowing her to do things that add value to the business making her job far more fulfilling.

by Adrian :: 3.12.10

Social Software for Business and the death of email.

Email isn’t a collaboration tool

I’m not the first to claim that email will slowly be phased out of our workplace as the tool of choice. To explain this rather ballsy statement I need to start by ensuring you don’t glaze over when I talk about an tired old term:  Web2.0

Explaining Web2.0

If you asked me, I could write an epistle on how Web2.0 brought us social software that changed our lives forever, helping us to share, discover and collaborate: how it liberated access to the vast information stores we never imagined. My awards would go to Wikipedia (wiki) , Delicious (social bookmarking) and Twitter (social networking)

Enterprise2.0

Knowing and understanding how Web 2.0 continues to enrich our lives, we’re now ready to introduce Enterprise 2.0 into the equation. That’s an easy jump: it’s all about taking the principles and value of Web2.0 into the workplace. Don’t get confused by the word Enterprise because I’ve experienced Enterprise 2.0 tools adding enormous value to a modest little startup. Its easy to imagine how Web2.0 tools can help us share, discover and collaborate in the workplace.

Mountains have been written about how Enterprise 2.0 has opened up the information flows and encouraged people to work better and smarter; to share knowledge. You don’t have to look hard to find some robust case studies too. But… more people agree that Enterprise 2.0 hasn’t yet transformed the workplace because of the culture of command and control. In a traditional business, change is brought about by management and the very same management ends up scared by Enterprise 2.0 worried about losing control. Up until now, Entreprise 2.0 success stories have been brokered by early adopters lower down the ranks in an organisation. These change agents have written their job specs because management have inevitably seen the value that they have created by opening up the control structures of their organisations. Also an ageing piece of collateral but check out the Meet Charlie Case Study

Facebook for the Enterprise

I’m excited by Salesforce.com‘s ambitions to turn their cloud platform into “Facebook for the Enterprise” by creating social network hubs around data points in their organisation. salesforce.com is the first to to this because they are agile by the very definition of being a cloud vendor. Chatter was launched to all salesforce.com‘s existing clients one morning – at a flick of a switch. Of course it’s still up to management whether to turn on the Chatter functionality in their organisation which can also be done at a press of a button – no additional costs or implementation nightmares. The other benefit ist its adoption is championed socially (almost virally).  Any organisation that’s had the foresight to move its data and applications to the cloud won’t have a challenge grasping the enterprise 2.0 “nettle”but the difference with Chatter is that its a social tool integrated in and around their existing data points. Let me explain

Client records and documents become a social networking hun

No longer do you have a social network centred around a vertical practice or a geography but now you have a social network built around a client record. So using a Twitter-like service called “Chatter” everyone in an organisation that has an interest in a particular client can collaborate around that common interest. Who might those people be? Obviously the account manager but also the credit controller who wants to make sure the account manager isn’t selling something new without getting the client to first pay their outstanding bill, the product manager who needs to know if the product isn’t meeting customer expectations; the customer service agent who fielded a call centre call and the programmer who created the product in the first place. Suddenly you can see an organisation able to move away from the left-hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Suddenly, you’re able to cut across the functions of a business to co-ordinate what counts the most – a happy customer and a profitable business.

Equally so you could develop a social network around a document which obviously allows you to collaborate and knowledge share to a greater degree. All the activity on the areas of the business I care about – customers, client contacts, colleagues &  documents – all falls into my enterprise stream. Powerful stuff.

….and email is allowed to slowly die a a very welcome death.

Update Consider reading this article on the Cloud Blog it was posted just before the main event at Dreamforce opens.

by Adrian :: 2.12.10

On social advocacy and colic.

Let’s introduce a bit of a buzz-word that we probably already understand: Social Advocacy. In this post, I’m also aiming to demystify Social Media Marketing.

Social advocacy refers to the power of Word of Mouth (WOM). Many studies are telling us what we already know: we’re far more likely to engage with a product or service that a friend or a friend-of-a-friend recommends. Our family, friends and their friends form part of our social network.

What is social media?

Social media is a set of online tools that help us track & extend our social network and communicate in it.

You’ll want to embrace social media as its a toolset allowing you to amplify the effects of social advocacy.

Let’s help explain this with a little example. Pretend, if you can bear it,  that the internet hasn’t yet been invented.

A Colic Remedy

Imagine, I’m having a drink with a group of friends and we’re talking about all sorts of things. Work, play, kids, politics; how we’re spending and saving our money: We’re being social. I’ve never met Kitty before but she came along as a friend of a colleague. I’m exhausted being a victim to a series of sleepless nights: the little one’s suffering from colic. Kitty and I were chatting about our kids when I let slip an outrageous yawn. In the form of an apology I dragged the dreaded colic into the conversation. Kitty then tells me about this wonderful product called Infacol– administer it before a feed and it works a treat. On the way home, I pick up a bottle of Infacol (not gin) and that night my wife and I enjoyed an uninterrupted nights sleep. Feeling like a new man on the way to work the following morning, I recognise the Infacol brand on the tube advert that had probably been staring at me for the preceding 6 months. That Saturday our NCT group gets together and by the end of our eulogising about Infacol there were another 5 babies and 10 parents getting a great night’s sleep!

So just to recap: Infacol had captured 6 new clients- not on the back of their expensive old fashioned tube advert but on the back of social advocacy. Kitty had somehow been made aware of Infocal but I’m willing to bet it wasn’t a result of traditional advertising either and good old fashioned social advocacy (in the absence of the internet) extrapolated one happy client into 6

Bring back the internet

You can have the internet back now. How many readers of this post are now aware of Infacol? – they may not do anything immediately with this information but it’ll bubble up next time someone, in their social network, has colic issues. Equally so, over time as the Search engines index this site there’s a good chance someone who searches for “Colic Remedy” may just stumble on this little social advocacy case study. (please comment below if you do!)

Social networking tools

I am going to explain why you should consider using tools such as Twitter & Facebook. Remember, a social networking tool helps you communicate with and amplify your reach within that social network.

Had twitter been around in 2005 when our first born was keeping us awake at night I may have tweeted something like

Can’t keep my eyes open, little one kept us awake all night burping. #colicsux

This tweet would have multiple benefits. Firstly, people would understand why I was generally grumpy. The tweet would probably resonate with a few parents in a similar postion and I may get a response :a little bit of sympathy makes me feel better as I no longer feel alone. With a bit of luck, maybe I get some advice out of my Twitter social network. By using twitter I’ve done nothing different from telling Kitty at drinks that I was exhausted. All Twitter has done is its amplified my social network reac and that is powerful stuff! Let’s imagine that a NCT co-ordinator saw my tweet and decided to Retweet it (RT) to all her followers (her social network) – which was made up of 3,500 new parents. I would have been swamped by sympathy tweets and all sorts of advice – perhaps there’s a better solution than Infacol?!

Hopefully you’ll see the benefits of being on Twitter personally but what about your brand or business? I think it makes even more sense for an owner manager to be on Twitter because an entrepreneur’s business is so central to their lives. You need to create awareness of who you are, what you’re interested in and overtime your audience will understand what your business does and if they support you they’re likely to support you and spread the word. Kitty didn’t come to drinks and just talk about Cloud Computing – we started there but,to me, she ended up being the greatest sleep therapist. I’ve recently bought the most beautiful hand-knitted quilt from her (a business she’s just started) and I told all my friends about her fabulous product. I did this on Twitter and on Facebook by writing on the Wall of her business’ Facebook page. A friend of mine “liked” my comment and now all *her friends* (most of whom neither know Kitty nor I) are also aware of what great presents these handmade quilts will make.

Incidentally, Kitty has always been on Twitter in a big way, personally- but she now also has a Twitter account for her business. I don’t follow that account because her quilt tweets are slightly not my thing (although they interest the crafty types) but I enjoy hearing the odd tweet from her personal twitter account about what she’s up to (actually I’m far more interested in how Cloud Computing has revolutionised her business and how she, too, is kept on her toes by her little ones!) I guess the point I’m making here is these tools only work if you don’t depart from the offline social networking model we depended on before the internet. Don’t think you can walk into a room of people and dominate the conversation about how they’re really losing out because they haven’t purchased one of your quilts.

Awareness of your product or service only needs to be sown in a network of a few people for its awareness to grow exponentially. Think of ways to sow it and make sure you use the correct tools to amplify the WOM effect. And now you’re an expert on Social Advocacy, Social Media and Social Media Marketing. Questions?

by Adrian :: 1.12.10

Saved by the Cloud

Before I embarked on the treacherous school run this morning, I received an email from the local village school to tell me that it was closed. Thankfully, to send the email, the school administrator didn’t need to drive on the icy roads to get to her school PC. She relied on the cloud to send the email to the parent distribution list. In this case she logged into the Yahoo mail system from her home pc or mobile device- the originate from the cloud. All she needed was a web browser. Arguably, before the advent of the cloud we wouldn’t have received that email.

In a nutshell then, the cloud enables you to access your data and applications from the end of any internet connection. The application and data sits in the Cloud.

I’m off to a conference in San Francisco tomorrow safe in the knowledge that I can access everything I usually do at the office either on my iPhone, iPad or Mac/PC. In fact, I could even resort to accessing my cloud on someone else’s device if I couldn’t get to mine.

Cloud computing is a great enabler and that’s why entrepreneurs need to take advantage of it.  Firstly, you don’t need to have huge processing power on a PC anymore. Just a reasonable internet connection and a modern internet browser. Secondly, people can work remotely – from home, the office, at a client’s premises or whilst commuting between clients. The barrier to entry for a startup business is significantly lower being able to access all the (often free) power in the cloud. Take Google Apps for example. I’ve planned many posts in the future to help you understand what you can do with the cloud so consider this a teaser.

Cloud computing is also referred to as Software as  a Service or (SAAS) –  no need to get befuddled by what you think are geekish acronyms. You will be using them in common place very soon. And if you cant get used to adopting these words and concepts, remember how you used to smirk when people suggested you Google them!

This is SalesForce’s most popular YouTube video worth watching

If I still haven’t demystified the cloud why not visit Cloud Computing in Plain English which is a very good introduction to the concept by Common Craft – an while you are on the Common Craft site  – have a look at some of the other Plain English productions – they’re great.

by Adrian :: 30.11.10

WordPress: the B-word and the deadly sin of website development

In the old days

I used to run a Digital Agency a few years ago and we built digital solutions for the WPP communications agencies. It was circa 2004 when I relied heavily on my team of developers in Sofia, Bulgaria as I wasn’t (and am still not) a developer or designer. It was at this time that we all became intrigued by the Blog and I remember taking Land Rover to task in a rather empowering chapter of Citizen Journalism. (After Land Rover sorted out their quality problems 4 years later, I decided to take the blog down)

A move from static to dynamic content

The good old blog was a fundamental milestone because, amongst several things,  it taught us about dynamic content: taught us the importance of self-publishing content at a touch of a button. No longer were we dependent on the web developers to refresh static content but we became empowered to create fresh, dynamic content as often as we needed to engage with our audience. The sites attracting the eye balls were those that offered a fresh stream of engaging content.

I have a theory – at least in the UK – I think the word blog has negative connotations? so I’m going to try not use it further in this post. Because I want you to continue reading this. Just bear with me.

You are in need of a website

So you have a business: either established or a startup. Why do you want a website? Naturally you want to engage with your target market. Engagement is about communication. You want to convince them to do business with you. Communication is no longer a one way street: it’s no longer about broadcasting a message, it’s about creating a two-way conversation. You need to be in control of your content – it has to be dynamic otherwise you don’t need a website: just post a PDF brochure online.

Creating content isn’t that onerous

You don’t always have to do all the hard work creating content – in this age of collaboration and information people share information – and there’s a good chance what you’re about to say has already been said by someone else – don’t copy it or rewrite it – rather add value to it by referencing it. You will create far more value for your existing and prospective customers by directing them to the content you think is relevant to them: by all means comment and interpret it but don’t feel pressured to always create your own content. The only etiquette you should always adhere to is link back and accredit the original author. Other writers will do the same for you and this strategy helps build incoming and outgoing links between your website and others and this is an important aspect of getting a better Google Ranking (this science is called SEO – search engine optimisation)

WordPress is a Content Management system for websites

Let’s talk about Wordpress and why its become the most popular platform on which to publish and create a website. I haven’t used the b-word here because its no longer a b-word platform. The good news about WordPress is it is free. It comes in two versions a version which is more designed for the b-word community and another version which you have to host. This is the one I’m going to talk about because it is one of the greatest enablers that the open-source community has given you: the entrepreneur.

The cardinal sin of website development

We recently pitched to a prospective client who already has a most beautiful website – only a year old. It evidently cost her a lot of money but the brand design work impressed me- it was beautiful. All I suggested on the website from was that she needed to keep her content up to date and fresh. She then told me something quite staggering: she had to go back to the agency who wanted to a material budget for the content refresh. When I asked her why she didn’t have a content management system she said she couldn’t afford to have one built and now the agency wanted to charge her thousands of pounds to turn the existing site into a dynamic.

There is no reason in the world why in 2010 you should not be in complete control of your website content.

There is no incremental cost involved in building a dynamic site over a static site. I’ll go further by saying you were ripped off if you purchased a static website in the last 3 years. It is a cardinal sin to build a static website in 2010.

Why am I confident enough to claim the above? Because you or your developer/designer could have built it on WordPress. WordPress may well have been built as a blogging platform  but those origins are incidental- WordPress was built to allow for communication on the web and has incorporated everything to allow you to do this in a dynamic, flexible and efficient way (this includes SEO too) You do not need to be a techie to manage it either.

Get away from misconception that a blog looks like a, well, bloggy- journal. This AoB site runs on WordPress. Have a look at a few other sites that run on WordPress: Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival is another or try the talented guys at Condiment who enjoy pushing WordPress to its limits. And remember I told you I wasn’t a developer or designer – I built my sister’s website on WordPress (admittedly a steepish learning curve).

From the above, hopefully you’ve learnt the following:

  • WordPress is a content management system that allows your website to be a dynamic communication tool that puts you in control
  • It is a cardinal sin to build or own a static website in this day and age.
  • You are being ripped off by anyone agency that charges you for the space that WordPress has now commoditised.

PS: Just so that you understand: AoB doesn’t build websites. We help you spend your money wisely. We’ll help you frame your brief and put you in the direction of the right agency. Equipped with the right team and brief: you’ll get it right first time!  If you haven’t got any money: then we’ll show you how to do it yourself. (future posts, keep your eye’s peeled)