Business, butternut squash and water cooler economics

Business has parallels with many things. Good analogies are a story easily told. So I’m going to tell you how web design, butternut squash and water coolers all have something in common…

As I walked into the office, a Steve was in mid discussion with Claire about the cost of the bottled water she buys and brings into the office. While the water seemed cheap enough, Steve was busy working away on some numbers on a piece of paper. He had other ideas.

Claire wasn’t sure of the idea of renting a water cooler, citing the monthly costs as the principle reason. Steve was sat there, running the numbers. In the end, the apparent cost of the water cooler worked out much cheaper over twelve months than buying bottled water.

So now you’re wondering how a water cooler connects with business, apart from the cost savings. Well, it’s all a question of economics — what appears expensive in the short-term, can often have long-term cost benefits.

As an example, you might want to be able to edit the web pages on your website, but to do that, it’s more than likely that you’d need what’s called a Content Management System to do that.

Now, there’s two ways of managing your website:

  1. I edit the web pages as and when you request changes, or;
  2. You edit those web pages yourself, via a CMS, in your own time.

The first option appears to be the simplest option, but when you consider the cost of me making those edits, and that those edits might not happen straight away, due to work schedules, the costs can rise.

The second option can seem very expensive, because I’m tasked with developing a CMS for you, which might cost many hundreds of pounds. But you’re in complete control of your website, and over time, you’ll save money and be able to make edits at a time of your own choosing.

So the convenience of having your own serviced water cooler is to a CMS what me editing your website is to bottled water, bought from the supermarket.

While at the supermarket buying lunch, I looked to my side and saw a box full of butternut squash. I’m sure I’d seen them before, but I had no idea what to do with them. Do I cut them up like a melon? Do I mash them like potatoes?

So I asked the assistant, serving me with my lunch. She instantly referred to a colleague of hers. They didn’t know either.

This to me is a missed opportunity; butternut squash could be heaven for all I know! If only I knew what to do with it. So I suggested that recipes ought to be put next to the butternut squash, so people had some idea of what to do with them, and what else to eat them with — maybe something else in the store. The two women instantly agreed that would be a great idea.

So now you’re wondering how butternut squash connects with business. Well, I could ramble on about buzzwords, like PHP, MySQL, XML, HTML, ActionScript, JavaScript .. and on, and on. The problem is, buzzwords are no better than butternut squash, if you don’t know what they are, or what to do with them.

So I don’t sell buzzwords, I talk about the things those buzzwords can be made into, such as a web application for managing company assets, for bookkeeping, tracking stock inventory or for selling products via the web.

As you can see, business is very much like life. And what we learn from our everyday lives is often easily transferrable into our business lives, too…

Just what is a standard website anyway?

“So how do you charge for a standard website?” is a very common question, one which has no simple answer. Why? Because I’ve never developed two websites that are the same.

There’s no doubting the similarity of some, in terms of the number of web pages, or the type of pages, but because my involvement in any given project can vary, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to what I do.

Sometimes, I’m required to provide the design and artwork, whereas other times, that part of the project might have been done by another design agency.

Sometimes the copy (text) and the photography is supplied, whereas other times I’m required to assist in the copywriting and sourcing the photography.

There are parallels with the print world; no two brochures are the same. How many pages? What stock of paper? How many colours? Any special colours? Is the copy supplied? Is the photography supplied? How many prints do you want? The list goes on.

There are those that offer a one-size-fits-all approach. I don’t. Every company is different and thusly, their needs are different. The upshot is that I’m more expensive than some of my rivals. But it also means my clients get a better quality service, specific to their needs, not my own, or for the benefit of my own convenience.

Once we move away from corporate websites and into more specialized services, like websites that the client can manage themselves, such as a Content Management System (often referred to a CMS), or a web application, then things become even more specific.

But what does this mean for you and your business? Simple! Everything is taken into consideration and together we build a strategy that’s exactly the right fit for your business.