The Monkey and Peanut Story

In our industry and business, we hear of many strange stories. Particularly stories from people we know.

One guy, let’s call him Wong, had approached us and asked us if we could re-design his website.

He said he had asked a freelancer to do up his website (which he had gotten for a song) and in the end, he was totally dissatisfied with it. The colours were ugly, the photos didn’t look attractive and the navigation of the website wasn’t clear. And Wong was selling an exclusive and expensive service. Yet, the website was all wrong and surely his prospects would be turned off at the tacky website.

We quoted him our price and he hemmed and hawed. Let’s face it – we’re not the cheapest web design firm around. We produce quality web design work and we think for our clients. We advise them on what they need, from a marketing viewpoint. We don’t just design to our whims and fancies. That’s why our rates are above the market price.

And yet, that’s not a problem for many of our clients. They know what we do and they want that kind of design quality.

After a while, Wong disappeared from our radar. We figured he had resorted to another designer and wished him well. Hopefully he would have learnt his lesson this time (that is, if you’re looking for a web designer, make sure you trust him and know what you want. Otherwise, you’d be banging your head against the wall.)

Sometime last month, we managed to speak to Wong again. He told us the same story – he sourced a freelancer designer to revamp his old, ugly website. This designer didn’t do much revamping as the website still looked unappetising.

Anyway, Wong is still discontented. He says now he has a bigger problem or rather he had a bigger problem until he sacked this second designer. He found out that his designer didn’t design his website for search engine friendliness and his website cannot be found via search! He says now he is back to square one and doesn’t know what to do. He is trying to fix the mistakes on his website now. But he knows he’s limited by his lack of knowledge about websites.

Sighing, he said he is now the webmaster, manager, marketer and more, all rolled into one. If his high-end clients/prospects cannot find his website using Google, Yahoo or MSN, he’s as good as waving in the dark. What’s even more distressing is that his unscrupulous designer ripped him off by re-directing all the Google Adsense ad money into his own account, rather than Wong’s account! (Wong thought he could earn some side money by putting Adsense on his website.) He learnt of this when he was combing through the codes of his website, in his attempt to fix up his website.

Another story we hear all the time is that people who want to start an online business never want to invest in learning or buying the right solutions. In this world, there isn’t any free lunch but try telling that to most people. Yes, nothing is free. If you want to do it yourself, you must spend time reading up or doing something and each one costs one of two things – time or money.

How is it possible that most people agree that offline businesses need capital but when they go online, they expect to launch a business for free?

Here’s another one: I was talking to Siva, an acquaintance who told me that he had had a bad experience with his e-commerce website designer.

“I was planning to sell some products online and told him to setup an e-commerce site for me. He was doing OK but he didn’t know how to connect to a payment gateway,” Siva explained.

“After a while, we shelved the project because there’s no point building an e-commerce website without the payment processing part.”

I gawped. How could an e-commerce website NOT be built for processing payment? That’s the idea of commerce – to enable buying and selling. Of course, Siva should have checked beforehand if this designer could do it or not but most people do not – they completely trust their designer!

Siva’s story is not the first I’ve heard. Another story comes to mind about Weng who got someone ‘cheap cheap’ to do up his e-commerce website. The problem is, his ‘cheap cheap’ designer doesn’t know how to connect to a payment gateway! So Weng is stuck – he has paid money to get his e-commerce site up and it isn’t up yet because the designer has no idea how to do the payment part.

Will he end up like Siva, abandoning the project midway? Who knows?

Again, one more story, this post is beginning to reflect some muhibbah-ness too (there’s Siva, there’s Weng and now there’s Idris). Idris wanted an ecommerce site but was too cheap to get a designer. He thought he could save money and configure the ecommerce site himself.

Firstly, he’s not a designer (he is a manager of a large company). So he told us that he should be launching his e-commerce site soon. That was in 2004. A year later, the site is still not up yet.

Why? Ecommerce configuration is not for the average Ali, Muthu or Chong. It takes time and you need to know what you’re doing. If only configuring an ecommerce site is that easy!

But if you cannot do it, should you despair? Of course not.

Ask those who know, or buy some books to read (ebooks too, as there’s plenty of how-to ebooks around). Or pay someone trustworthy to set it up for you. Not some sleazebag who will run away with your money! Or come back and tell you, “Errrr, I don’t know how to set up the ecommerce part!”

The morale of these stories is: if you pay peanuts, why are you surprised that you are getting monkeys?

Knowing how to design a website does not a web designer make. Designing an e-commerce system is an even tougher order than a plain old website.

Like I said to Siva, explore ALL your options, know what you’re paying for before you commit. Particularly if you intend to do ecommerce online.

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