Do you realize that similar to any other business a CPA is in business too. I have to make decisions about vendors just like any other business. What I learn from my business experiences is one way I gain information to share with my clients. Purchasing a web site is an area where I have learned some important things to share with you.
What a user sees, hears, or buys (including shopping) at a given web site is the user experience. For example, the user goes to the website, looks through the inventory or searches it, drop the items they want in the shopping cart, and then check out using a credit card. What it takes to create that experience is usually multiple services or products.
There are two major categories of services and products related to having a web site on the internet. A web hosting service is a service that allows individuals and organizations to make their own website accessible via the Internet. Web Site development is the process of building the site that will be hosted. Within these two major categories there are many products that have different pricing and cost. For example, band width is a product and cost associated with hosting. A shopping cart is product and cost associated with Web site Development. There are many other possible products and potential cost and it is important that one gains a very thorough understanding of the potential cost associated with the products needed to produce the experience one desires for potential users of the site.
Some of the services that can be segregated services or products are:
Hosting- Bandwidth, Storage Space
Website Development – Shopping cart, inventory management, credit card processing, content management, email management.
Fees for these services can vary widely from vendor to vendor and the offers that one might receive simply can’t be taken at face value. For example, I recently received an offer for a web site for $44.95 per month. My first reaction was this is a good deal. After doing a little research on the offer all it was was a template with financial calculators built in and some daily feeds included with the ability to link in social sites such as Facebook, and Twitter. There was not option to sell anything. There was no communication tool to allow me to write articles for my clients like this one. There was no hosting included (it was available as an extra charge), there was no newsletters, there was no way to get my site online for $44.95. I could build a page for $44.95 and have some dynamic information that was written by others. That was the basic offer. An offer from a competitor was $70 but it included all of these things and much more. Things that would help me market my business and included search engine optimization (SEO) services for clients in my industry. For what was being offered the $70 was a much better deal. It is like the old joke about the car sales pitch where they priced the car without the doors and tires. You have a car but you can’t go anywhere in it.
When buying web services it is important that one understands what the offer is. My understanding on this just scratches the surface because their are so many variables for every customer. For example if one has inventory to put on a site and wants the ability to sell inventory with little vendor interaction with the customer then one would need a database with enough storage to store the inventory, a shopping cart ( to allow check out), and order management (for fulfillment processing) at a minimum.
To sum it all up, when buying a web site with the intent of establishing a web presence one has to know what they need before they can assess who has the best offer. I would much rather do business with the person that discloses the cost for the products that will meet my needs in total than one who seduces me into the deal without letting me know that I am buying a car without doors and tires.