Microsoft tried to do too many things, too soon with Windows 8. Its desktop "tiles" resembled those used on a tablet or phone, but they confused people. Tablets were trendy, but crossovers were like genetically modified cats (the horror!); nobody knew quite what to do with them.
After being swatted on the nose often enough over Windows 8, Microsoft introduced Windows 10 this year. It's the first true hybrid version of an operating system that shares the best features of a computer, a tablet, a smart phone, and an XBox One. Think of it as the Labradoodle of the tech world: loyal, friendly, easy to bond with, but without the endless shedding and whatever it is that makes people sneeze.
Have you ever had one of those weeks when there's so much to do that you have cereal for dinner... every night? If you're an entrepreneur, of course you have! And part of the reason for that is because you take pride in your work, have a good work ethic, and want to ensure your customers are happy with the results.
Around our office, we have a lot of late nights. Lucky for me, I never have to resort to cereal for my own dinner, but the take-out food and caffeinated beverages consumed by some people in my office are always an indication that we're on a deadline, or we're trying to re-work a design that someone wants to tweak.
Let me share with you a few things that make my ears perk up during a design meeting:
"Everyone" as a Target Audience. People have different needs, different tastes, and different goals. Not everyone, for example, likes dogs (go figure!), so if you are a small business owner whose website needs to target dog lovers, "Everyone" is not your audience.
Knowing who your audience IS, however, will help us craft a design and a message that will appeal to those people who are seeking your services and will eventually become your customers.
Websites Evolve Simply having a website is not all there is to it. As your business develops, so should your website. Inventory and service offerings change, prices need to be updated, and your photos and text need to keep up with the current market to help your business stay competitive.
Think of your website like your car. Your 1980 conversion van might still run, but it likely doesn't convey the message – or image – of who you and your business are today. Same goes for your website: the site created for your business in 1999 might still be active, but it needs to adapt so it is compatible with current technology – like smart phones and tablets.
Be An Original I can't tell you how many people see a design and say, "I want to look just like that!" Well, that belongs to someone else's business, so outright copying would 1) be tacky and 2) not deliver YOUR message to YOUR specific audience.
During a design meeting, my people ask you questions about how you chose your business, how long you've been in business, what your top-selling products or services are, and what kind of customer feedback you receive. We also want to know who (specifically) your target audience is (see above), so we can make your website reflect YOU and YOUR BUSINESS.
Let Us Help You We've worked in this industry a long time, so we know how to make our customers happy. We look forward to a night of take-out food and a double espresso on your behalf!
As someone with hypersensitive hearing, it's easy for me to hear beyond the words of a conversation, which means that if someone is really happy – or really frustrated – I know about it pretty quickly.
Sometimes people sound frustrated when they bring their new laptops or tablets to a meeting, and they've forgotten a cord, can't find a file, or find out their new device isn't compatible with their existing software. Business people like it when their applications work, when they can see the screen, and when they don't have to plug it into the wall to make sure it runs during an entire meeting.
A lot of those frustrated people have a Chromebook. At first, they're all excited about it; "after all," they say, "I heard that guy on the radio say it's one of the best."
Well, if you ask me, they shouldn't buy a device based on a generic recommendation from a popular consumer advisor. Does that guy realize most people are looking at how technology can improve their bottom line over the long term, not just with up-front costs? Did they call that guy and ask what the best recommendation was for their specific business?
If they had asked us what we recommend to fulfill their needs now and in the future, that laptop might well be Microsoft Surface Pro 3.
My ears perk up when I hear about all the benefits of this laptop-tablet hybrid, partly because the people who use the Surface Pro 3 are so excited about all its benefits.
First, it has great battery life. If you don't always remember to bring your cords to a meeting, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 has a battery that lasts up to seven hours!
It's powerful and boasts great file capacity, too, with up to 512GB storage and 8GB RAM. And it works well with all of the commonly used Microsoft business applications.
Like most great breeds, it's also pleasing to the eye, with exceptional screen resolution.
And while I'm a purebred myself, there's something to be said for hybrids: the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 combines the best features of a laptop and a tablet into one amazing piece of equipment.
It may not take the place as "man's best friend," but it sure comes close!
If there's one thing I've learned through my years of being the ears of Technical Resource Solutions, it's that there's cheap and then there's value – and cheap can end up costing more in the long run.
Last month, we talked about resisting the DIY route for your website. This month, we'll talk about the difference between a trained, experienced professional and someone who knows "just enough to be dangerous."
The very first business website went live in August of 1991, and the ONE BILLIONTH website came into existence in September of last year. In order to stand out among those kinds of numbers, your website has to be amazing. And it's unlikely that you're going to get an amazing, functional, and secure site from someone who creates websites "on the side."
Your niece in college might be able to create a decent-looking website, but will she understand what will help your site stand apart from others in your industry? Will she be able to update the site during exam week? And if the site crashes while she's in class, how much of a priority will it be for her to drop what she's doing and get things back up to speed so you don't lose business?
Maybe you have a friend who dabbles in web design and offers to create a site that will "save you money." Have you considered what that up-front savings might cost you in the long run? Can your friend guarantee a site that is mobile-friendly? How savvy is your friend at creating a site that is hack-resistant? Can he add a shopping cart with the most up-to-date security features to keep your customers' information safe from online thieves?
When comparing up-front costs to build a site, take an extra moment to look into the future and think about what it might cost you – in credibility, time, and lost customers – if your "cheap" website doesn't live up to your needs and expectations.
A cheap website is like a pair of shoes from the discount store: you'll settle for them in a pinch, but wouldn't recommend them for the long haul. A website is a good value when it presents a professional image, meets or exceeds performance expectations, offers security to you and your customers, and can grow with your business over time.
Plus, hiring a professional can help you avoid that awkward silence with your niece at the next family reunion!
A lot of people come into our office, and I sit and listen intently at every meeting while they talk about the things they want in a website, and the things they don't; the things they like about other people's websites – and the things they absolutely don't like.
Where I have the advantage, you see, is that dogs have an uncanny sense for people's emotions. If someone feels confident, I can tell. And when they are unsure about something, well, I know that, too. And a lot of people are really unsure about what they want in a website!
Sure, folks can put together a passable site using a template they get online for just a little bit of money – or even for free. But most people wouldn't want to set up shop in an office or storefront they built themselves with a hammer and nails, because it wouldn't be secure or up to building codes – and it certainly wouldn't give them the professional image they want for their business.
So why do they think they can do that with their website?
More and more these days, people check out businesses on their computers, tablets, or smart phones before they ever decide to make a purchase. Websites that look polished, that are easy to navigate, and that make it easy for customers to find what they need are the ones that set the standard for a healthy client relationship.
And if they plan to buy something online, customers want to know that they are making their purchase from a business whose site is secure – especially since there have been so many stories about hackers and cyber-theft.
The thing is, sometimes people come into our office and listen to what Technical Resource Solutions can do for their business – and they leave thinking they can create a site for themselves, then they contact us when they realize it's much harder than they thought, when the site they constructed malfunctions, or when it doesn't project the professional image they want for their business.
Trust me when I tell you that it's easier to do things right the first time than it is to try and make up for mistakes down the road.
It's a real treat to have a website that looks good, functions well, and helps you grow your business.