…when done for the wrong reasons. There was an editorial piece posted on Inc. yesterday entitled, “Your Homemade Website Isn’t Cutting It Anymore” on the topic of small businesses and their approach to building websites, particularly, e-commerce enabled sites.
Under the pretense that he has small business interests in mind, the author, Jon Gelberg, proceeds to expound upon his notion that if small businesses wish to get on the web and conduct e-commerce, they need to stop building their own websites. Later, in the middle of the advertorial, he reveals a disappointingly irreconcilable conflict of interest—that he’s actually a shill, a representative of a custom website development firm that offers services to large, multinational corporations.
The key points he uses to support his marketing pitch are that i) building an e-commerce site 10 years ago was an expensive proposition and that you had to hire an outside firm to do so; ii) today, businesses have open-source (i.e. free) alternatives to build complex e-commerce sites; and iii) despite these free options, business should stop trying to build their own on the cheap and, instead, pay an outside firm like his to build a fully custom site for their small business. Huh? In other words, nothing’s changed in the last 10 years from their perspective and, as a business owner, you should simply ignore modern alternatives.
The piece is disingenuous on its face and attempts to frame the author’s position as objective and in the best interests of small businesses when, in fact, he’s peddling his firm’s services. Their custom development model works fine with their core market segment (large multinationals who already have brand recognition), but is ill-suited to dealing with a completely fragmented market of small businesses, which, when taken individually, lack meaningful marketing clout and consumer recognition to drive traffic once their custom site’s been created.
In order to hammer home baseless fears into business owners so that his own firm’s costs and services seem reasonable in comparison, he proceeds to make overstated claims about what small businesses require in order to implement their own e-commerce sites:
- a team of at least 6 people:
- information architect
- front-end coder
- back-end developer
- quality assurance expert
- a project manager
- but, he says, you need the “right design team” (and given what he subsequently describes, he means you need to find a team that provides services like his firm)
- then, the design process starts with a planning phase
- followed by a design stage
- then, front and back-end coding begins
- oh, and then, by the way, you need to drive traffic to your isolated island of a website with “sound marketing strategies” which he conveniently fails to explain, likely because that’s the biggest, and unsolvable, problem with their bespoke approach
Few, if any, small business would (or should) ever undertake the unnecessarily pedantic efforts he suggests are required, but that’s exactly the point—they’re not; it’s an alarmist and unrealistic scenario created to engender fear and drive unsuspecting, un-tech-savvy small business owners to firms like his. The article, ultimately, is nothing more than a less-than-subtle advertisement that uses unsubstantiated FUD as the hook.
Large web development firms whose primary focus is large corporations don’t typically understand small businesses or their specific challenges vis-a-vis e-commerce; and just because such firm has a list of recognized corporate clients doesn’t mean they know how to help small businesses implement effective e-commerce sites.
What works for large, established corporations doesn’t necessarily work for small businesses and the solutions for one are not fungible with the other. It’s like fitting a square peg in a round hole.