Making Websites Business Ready


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How to make websites make more business sense.

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Making Websites Business Ready

  1. 1. Making Websites Business Ready What ails Indian businesses websites? Clearly, a majority of websites of Indian companies are not ready for attracting business - national or international. Business Ready websites do not necessarily mean E-Commerce websites; if you are able to generate enquiries from your website defines the success of your website as well. Consider the following: • does your website have enough and regularly updated information about your business and your products & services? • is the website pleasantly designed with a clear and intuitive navigation? • do you have customer interaction features such as e-Newsletters, or in case of more complex business requirements – Customer Relationshsip Management (CRM) tools integrated? • Is it well promoted in search engines Typically, all these basic requirements are missing, in most Indian websites. Most websites have not been updated in months, if not years; and if they are, often, lack a Content Strategy in their website, which ideally must be central to the whole exercise. Well address both these issues in this article. Requirements of Typical websites Consider a business website, of typically any business - IT, Tourism, Manufacturing, Exports, Trading, or Services. All these businesses need to do all or some of the following: • announce new products/highlight old ones • talk about latest News and Events • list all services offered - which may change, as your business grows and evolves • post Job openings • highlight recent Articles or Case StudiesCopyright © Srijan Technologies Pvt Ltd Page 1 of 8Published under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License Date: 31 January 2006
  2. 2. • maintain your contact information (changing phone nos., etc.) • have a SiteMap (possibly a Google compliant sitemap), which gets updated easily • promote this website in Google (website should be Google friendly) • have human readable URLs which can be individually marketed (unlike complex URLs that appear in most database driven websites) • have an Enquiry form or a Feedback form • send out E-Newsletters (HTML formatted with Images or Plain text - maybe offer that choice to the customer) • Allow people to subscribe through the website; and unsubscribe when they receive an e-newsletter • Manage job postings frequently, with online applications reaching different departments within your organisation Also, features such as Newsletters, would need to be database-driven, and writing custom software (which unfortunately is a trend with most small Web Agencies, inspite of several open source options available) for the same is a risky proposition – you never know whether the company is going to be around in the next 6 months or no. Maintenance Costs The important thing to consider while going for a website is how will you maintain it in the long term? The options you have are: • have an in-house Web Master • outsource the maintenance to the Web Agency who designed your website Outsourcing to a professional web agency maybe a good choice. However, the turn-around time and the efficiency (also the longevity, in some cases) of most small web agencies is questionable. Having an in-house Web Master is also not a good idea, as there is normally huge dependence on such roles within most traditional companies. Also, the direct costs maybe an issue, apart from the tendency of IT personnel to jump jobs too often, is a major concern.Copyright © Srijan Technologies Pvt Ltd Page 2 of 8Published under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License Date: 31 January 2006
  3. 3. User-Centered Design At this stage, I must briefly introduce the concept of User-Centered design. Who are your target audience? Which sections of the website are they likely to visit? What is the information they would be looking for from these sections of the website. These are very important questions to ask, before designing a website. Why is this approach important? Well, the primary reason is about the User- Experience you want your customer to have on your website. Your website is after all, your face on the Web. You treat a potential customer at your office well, but do you extend the same experience on your website? If not, you need to start thinking about it; as this online office, works 24x7x365 and potentially invites people from world over, which your physical office can never ever achieve. A very good article on Information Architecture and User-Centered design is available at: tml). As part of the User Centered design, while working on the Bharti TeleVentures website, we figured that the most important News Highlights would need to appear on the Home page, Investor Relations landing page, the About Us page, and ofcourse, in the Media Centre. In such a scenario, where the same New Highlights have to be repeated across several pages, making manual entries in a static HTML driven website, can be an error-prone activity, leading to broken links, typos, etc. Making updates of same text in four different places, is a very tedious exercise anyway. Open Source Content Management Systems This is where Open Source Content Management Systems come in. The Bharti Tele-Ventures website reviewed above, is implemented using the Typo3 open source Content Management System. Once we update a News item, it gets reflected in all the various sections, where the placeholder for Recent Highlights is defined.Copyright © Srijan Technologies Pvt Ltd Page 3 of 8Published under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License Date: 31 January 2006
  4. 4. Screenshot of the Investor Relations landing page of website A similar example occurs in Srijans own website, where there are several pages, with highlights of the Recent Projects. Managing this section is, with Typo3 CMS, now as easy as entering some text in a Word Processor, formatting it and saving it, and it gets reflected in all the pages on-the-fly.Copyright © Srijan Technologies Pvt Ltd Page 4 of 8Published under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License Date: 31 January 2006
  5. 5. Screenshot of the Projects page in Screenshot of the CMS Solutions page in www.srijan.inCopyright © Srijan Technologies Pvt Ltd Page 5 of 8Published under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License Date: 31 January 2006
  6. 6. Ofcourse, open source CMSs are recommended for reasons you may already be familiar with – zero license fee, large development community, freedom to modify source code and add custom software, and a range of benefits that open source software brings on the table. In the case of Bharti Tele-Ventures website we have just made 4-5 templates for the various sections of the website and defined placeholders for the Recent Highlights to appear. Once we make an addition of a News item, through the BackEnd administrative section of this website and “mark” it as a “Highlight”, the same, appears across all the different pages automatically, on-the-fly. The best part about CMSs is that they make you – the end user – independent of sometimes high-nosed, often inefficient and non-customer-oriented, and comparatively, expensive, web agencies. Administering and updating your website, using backend interfaces of CMSs, including Typo3, becomes fairly simple after a few hours of training. Here is a “scary looking” and rather “intimidating” screenshot of the Typo3 backend interface. Believe me, it only “looks” intimidating but is quite easy to administer, after a brief training. Sample screenshot of the Typo3 CMS backendCopyright © Srijan Technologies Pvt Ltd Page 6 of 8Published under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License Date: 31 January 2006
  7. 7. There are several open source CMSs available out there: • Typo3 • Drupal • Plone/Zope • eZPublish • Midgard • OpenCMS Typo3 Open Source CMS Having worked with Typo3 and implemented websites, intranets and written custom applications (known as Extensions), our experience has been fantastic. It has over 3000 ready-to-download extensions available in its Extension Repository, which fulfill most requirements of business websites. It offers scalability in terms that in case, youd like to setup a Digital Repository – such as a Document or Image repository; or that youd like to setup an online selling environment, you need to go in for another totally different software – Typo3 offers core extensions such as Digital Assets Management (DAM) and E- Commerce Shop, which allow you to scale up, without changing your platform. A well designed architecture also, ensures that you can basically, write any custom application using the Typo3 framework. A huge installation base worldwide with nearly 122,000 estimated installations made by a large development community of over 20,000 professionals worldwide, and a fast growing community in India, a steady development roadmap upto 2007 led by the Typo3 Association, ensure that your investment in this open source software is safe.Copyright © Srijan Technologies Pvt Ltd Page 7 of 8Published under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License Date: 31 January 2006
  8. 8. Who is using Typo3? Social Organisations, Education and Research Organisations, Businesses (Small-Medium to Large corporations) across industry verticals – tourism, online retail selling, print and online media houses, manufacturing, large brand chains, are all using Typo3 across the world to get competitive business advantage for their business. Some names that may ring a bell with you are listed below: • Dassault Systems • Stanford • DHL • Bharti Tele-Ventures Ltd • Volkswagen • 3M • GE • T-Mobile • UNICEF, Germany • Council for Indian Schools Certificate Examinations Global Indian Businesses So, have a fresh look at your website, see what is missing, what features you would like to see in it, and most importantly, how can you enrich your customers experience on your website? Hire a web agency which not only brings on board good visual design skills, but also helps you build a website which communicates effectively to your customers, thus generating online enquiries for business. Reach out! The world awaits Indian businesses. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The author, Rahul Dewan, is the Managing Director of Srijan Technologies Pvt Ltd, India, a Web Consulting company working on Open Source Content Management SystemsCopyright © Srijan Technologies Pvt Ltd Page 8 of 8Published under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License Date: 31 January 2006