- Finding a UK ecommerce website design company
- 2010-02-22: Finding a UK ecommerce website design company
Time-was ecommerce websites had to be designed from scratch or you bought a commercial ecommerce package like Actinic (I never have), but there's a revolution going on.
- Originally, when companies like IBM sold 'big iron' mainframe computers they basically gave away the software required to run it. After all, they wouldn't sell anything if all it did was make your electricity meter whizz faster.
- Apparently, and I'm a little fuzzy on this, when IBM created their PC and didn't really know what it was or what to do with it, and spotty herbert Bill Gates wandered along with a cut down UNIX as an operating system to run on it and they signed the agreement that made Gates one of the richest people on the planet, it was at that point that the idea of selling an operating system for money went mainstream. And from that came the idea of buying extra applications for your computer.
- But, you know, computing is a child of the swinging sixties, the decade of love and freedom. And there's this idea that a computer program is just a way of doing something. It's just a method. And just like "how to catch fish in the local lake" is something you'd pass to your friends and family and through the generations, you might want to pass on software too, it's just a big campfire song or scary story that trains the kids not to go into the woods alone.
- The difference between software (knowledge), and a tin of baked beans is that once you've eaten the beans it's all over. There was only one tin of beans and you've eaten it. With knowledge, with software, you can tell someone else what you know, or give them the software you've written, and not only do you still have the software or knowledge to use and give to someone else if you see fit, you've created a bond between you and the person you gave your software to. By giving away your knowledge, you've improved society.
- I love the story about whalesong (if you've been reading my blog for a while you'll know I've mentioned this before). A researcher recently discovered that whalesong evolves. This season's song might have an extra blip in it that wasn't there last year. The implication is that 'fashion' is a way of checking who is well connected, who is in the loop. The whale that fails to connect with their fellows, fails to spot the new song .. well, there's something wrong. It's another way of testing whether someone is all there, fully functioning, a good mate.
- Giving away software and knowledge increases social cohesion because you have to have friends and connections, you have to have credit in your social favours bank, in order to receive favours from others. If you're out of the loop, you're going to get left behind.
- By contrast, paying for software breaks down society by increasing competition. If I want the best software I have to earn it, and that means I have to be better than you in order to get the job. In that scenario I don't want you to succeed, I want you to fail and me and my family to succeed.
- I'm not saying there aren't plus sides to competition in increasing our focus and determination in the face of others who do want power over us. I guess there's a time and place for everything.
- You know how the Internet is lovely and democratic and mostly free? Well the Internet itself was a military research project. But the people developing software for it, they came from the software is free, big iron culture. Every email you send. Every domain name you find. Almost every web page that's served. All that and more has been given to you by this culture of free software.
- The Internet allowed those who believed in free software to collaborate globally and build software together. It's huge, and it's not done yet.
- Ecommerce isn't the only place people have been collaborating to build software. Almost everywhere you turn now there are open source equivalents to commercial software. Can't afford Photoshop? Use The Gimp, it's free. And if you fancy starting a bed and breakfast there's free online room booking software you can just plug in and use.
So how does this apply to ecommerce web design?
- Nowadays, there are lots of free options if you want to build an ecommerce business. I just got someone set up with capabilities that would have required maybe £20k of software development just a few years ago, for, well, less than £400. Website design prices have come down and the only question is: how far do you want to go from the out-of-the-box setup.
- Does that make building a profitable ecommerce business easier? Of course not. £20k used to be a barrier to entry. Now you've got competition from anyone and everyone who gets pocket money.
- It means, if you want a successful online ecommerce business, you'd better be good. Because if you're good your customers will tell their friends and they'll link to you because (oh yes) by passing on great information they build kudos with their friends and nowadays with Facebook et al that happens so quickly and on a much larger scale than it ever did.
- And 'good' isn't absolute. It's relative. You'd better be better than your competitors. And they want to be better than you. So you have to work smarter and harder to win people's business.
- So free software seems like free money. It isn't. It means you've saved a cost, but so has everyone else.
- So how do you succeed in ecommerce? Well that might be the subject of another blog or two but let me say two things: 1) social media, and 2) attention is the new oil. Oh, and it might help if you had someone like me around to help out. Following my advice, an ecommerce business has doubled its turnover in just four months. Maybe you'll let me do that for you someday :-)
By John Allsopp
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