Monday, September 7th, 2009

Q: How Much Does a Website Cost?
A: How Much Does a House Cost?

Actually, the answer for both of these is, ‘it depends.’ It’s a pertinent and perfectly acceptable question but not one we can ever answer easily. You think we’re copping out, we’re not. Let’s say we told you we could build it for x amount. Great. You don’t have any images? Right, so that’ll be a little bit more. You wanted to be able to update your front page? Okay, that’ll be more. You never mentioned you wanted a form for newsletter sign-ups and data capture. We can do it, but suddenly, that amount we mentioned looks bigger and now you think we’re being a bit sneaky.

So how about we rethink the question: what is your website for?

Is it a shop window? A place to herald your existence to the market at large? Somewhere for people to verify your existence and integrity? In which case, the odds are that you’re looking at a simple static site; a website with fixed content which can only be updated by your web guys (that’ll be us then). There are super-cheap solutions for static sites. There are even free options, but if you’re hoping to look a little less identikit and more astute and professional, then you should think about bespoke web design (that’ll be us then. How convenient!). By bespoke web design, we mean looking at aesthetics designed to reflect your brand, navigation to best suit your customers and functionality that has been given thorough consideration. We start from scratch with you. We don’t do bish-bash-bosh (though there are lots of people who do).

We’ve found that our clients are becoming more savvy with this interweb guff, and are increasingly learning that content is king. They want to add to and update pages themselves. It may be some or all pages, but what we’re talking about here is a Content Management System, which is bandied around more commonly as a CMS. You manage the content. We make it look pretty. There are existing off-the-shelf solutions (free or chargeable) – Joomla anyone? For the technophobic amongst us, these can be quite intimidating – all those buttons, options, things to break – which is why sometimes, a bespoke CMS could be for you. They are likely to cost you more but if they’re built to your exact needs and requirements, you could save a lot of time, which you could otherwise spend selling or doing what you do for your business. For example (gratuitous up-sell of ourselves coming right up), we built an eCommerce site for a client. Somewhere to add items, take payment, get emails for newsletters, somewhere to show off the kind words customers had to say and somewhere change the written parts of the site. Our Turbo Lemon CMS was used to fulfil these exact requirements. When our client came back to us explaining the woes of managing stock levels on a spreadsheet, we developed an integrated stock and customer account management system as part of her site. We saw the pain, we fixed the pain.

I want a really good site that costs very little

So we’ll ask again, what is your website for?

Once you’ve established what you want it to do, odds are you might get excited by the myriad of other things you could do with your site. And all these other interesting little nuggets are likely increase the price tag of your website. A forum, an RSS feed, a Twitter feed, audio, video, file downloads, photo gallery/slideshows, a guest book, press releases, commenting/feedback, specialised calculators, contact forms, polls/surveys, site search, chat, user accounts, multi-lingual support, links – it all adds up.

These are all the things we get our clients to think about. We don’t just build their site, we help to plan it so it’s everything it ought to be.

What about my web name thingy?

Your URL. That’s going to cost you and will depend on how many variations you buy (.com, .co.uk etc) and where you buy them from. Some companies will buy and manage them for you, and in most cases you can go somewhere like 123reg.co.uk and buy your own from as little as £2.99.

So I’ve planned my site. I know what it’s for now and I know what it’s going to be called. What next?

Well, it’s worth asking your web guys/gals what level of SEO they’ll integrate at the point of building your site. SEO helps you to be seen by more people. More people means more contact means more sales. We can help identify the right keywords for your site, optimise your site and get your site seen. Bingo. You’ll need to keep on top of if your SEO is effective, which is why we include analytical tools to allow you to track visitors, page popularity and to see where your visitors are coming in from. Once you understand this, you can meld your site to better suit their needs.

At the very least, you should be asking if and where your site is going to be submitted to once it’s live. Be ready to market your site yourself, or, be ready to pay somebody to market for you. Yes, more potential costs.

The cost that usually surprises people is hosting, which in essence is rent for the space your where your website will live. ‘Why should I pay for hosting?’ is a question I’ve heard from a few irritated faces. Well, probably for the same reason you pay for your phone line. Are you expecting billions of people to visit? Maybe then you should set a few more pennies aside to allow for the sheer volume of traffic. Talk to your web guys about your options. If you’re a local business, touting for local people, then you could assume that you don’t need the all singing, all dancing cloud computing, versatile solution. See what’s out there. For example, our hosting starts at £125 per year (including an e-mail inbox, accessible via web-mail, POP or IMAP, ad-hoc basic support by e-mail and phone, configuration of domain name (DNS), co-located file and database backups). That was another plug, but it gives you an idea that you should be looking at what’s included in your costs. Don’t be scared to ask questions.

It costs how much??

We know your mate or your cousin’s mate’s Dad’s workmate can build it for a seeming fraction of what we might propose. We know that you could get a template and try do it yourself. What sets us apart is the level of service, expertise, skill and experience. From small sites to larger complex projects, we have the know-how. There is no doubt that your site is going to take longer to build than what you had hoped (we don’t do bish-bash-bosh, remember?) People often underestimate (and often perilously so) this crucial element of the design process. As much as you might hate to hear it, yours won’t be the only project the team is committing themselves to while it’s being built. That doesn’t mean it will receive any less attention than it deserves – what it means is that we won’t be delivering your site in the 3 weeks from now date you first had in mind.

We have overheads to pay too. Okay, so that isn’t the most mind-boggling revelation but people do overlook this. When we can, we want to meet you face to face and understand you and your business. We prepare for those meetings, we meet at those meetings and then we learn from those meeting – that’s a few hours right there to factor in.

can you just ass this in as well for me?

So when you’ve built it you’ll add bits to it for me, right?

Of course we will, as per our Service Level Agreement (SLA). In short, this is a document we develop which outlines a mutual agreement regarding subsequent update costs, services, priorities, responsibilities, guarantees and warranties. Our SLA’s are tailored to our client’s needs and requirements to ensure everyone’s happy. For example, we might factor in x amount of updates to be included in the initial build cost, or we might offer a fixed amount of updates at a reduced rate. This is definitely an area to bear in mind if you’ve found yourself an űber-cheap designer to knock your page up.

How much does a website cost then?

If you want a site that is designed, coded and implemented by qualified experts, that takes into account usability, functionality and accessibility, which complies with current regulations and applies current techniques, then you’ll be looking at very similar costs to ours! If we seem reluctant to give a price, it’s because we are. If you’re still wondering, get in touch with us and we can have a chat about what you want, what you need and indeed, what it might cost.

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Don your sparkly hats – its Turbo Lemon’s birthday!  And for a one year old, we’re not doing too bad: not only are we walking, talking and fully toilet trained, we’re winning and being nominated for awards, we’re working with brilliant people and we’ve moved house – twice!

 That’s not to say it’s been an easy start.  Any SME has a slog to get through and avoid being part of the 50% that fail in the first year.  It’s certainly been an eventful first year.  Along with the smiles, successes and Turbo Lemon Goodness have been the stresses, the difficulties and the I-can’t-remember-what-my-house-looks-like-because-I’ve-been-in-the-studio-too-long moments.  It’s our birthday and we’ll cry if we want to.  But we’re not going to, because we have some rather good brilliant news.

Turbo Lemon Media has been named as one of the Top 100 businesses in the 2009 Barclays Trading Places Awards   (let’s hope there weren’t only 101 applicants!).  And what is this Trading Places Awards I’ve never heard of, my cynical ear hears you ask?  Well, Barclays Marketing Director for Local Business, John Davis, explains:  “Trading Places is a celebration of businesses that have struggled through adversity, which is even more relevant today in our turbulent economic times and have turned their lives around for them and their families.”

 

We're in the Top 100, honest!

Were in the Top 100, honest!

Other Turbo Lemon Goodness comes in the news that we have moved ( slightly).  We’re still housed in £15m Media Factory in Preston, Lancashire, but now we have our very own dedicated design studio.  A really hub of inspiration where we get can stuck knee-deep in our web and graphic design; a place for the reams of magazines and stacks of books; somewhere we can have music playing and somewhere that is conducive to attain the creativity we crave. Writing, thinking, designing, coding, making, breaking its an excellent place to be.

 An eventful year indeed then – so eventful, we’ve not yet been able to share the Sri Lankan Apprentice (Ideators) experience or told you about our ever-growing social conscience, working with local schools, colleges and universities.  We’ve not even celebrated our ventures into innovative research and development!

Now we’re older, we’ll be better at blogging. Promise.

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Many people have many opinions on what open source is and what its uses are. Here at Turbo Lemon Media, we dont just love the idea of open source, we make good use of it every day. As an SME, it also allows us to offer the most cost-effective, yet comprehensive service possible to our clients.

Take for example our server hosting, which is based on the Linux distribution Ubuntu: the very popular operating system which is very well supported by a global community. Our web services are also made up of cleverly integrated open source solutions, including the e-mail, web server and connectivity software.

Our day-to-day routine is a trail of open source too; development is primarily checked against Mozilla Firefox and patched for other less supportive web browsers. Our PHP coders work from Eclipse Ganymede, which is a fully-featured, Java based development environment and in fact, Zend Studio for Eclipse is a commercial variant of the same software, with some useful tweaks and official support. Im even writing this in Open Office.

Open/Closed

The choice for open source isnt driven solely by financial purposes; as forward thinking developers, we like the idea that using an open-source solution offers full freedom to improve the software, unlike commercial alternatives. If you have a light bulb moment and think of a feature that the software doesnt provide, you can download the code and be proactive about it.

Companies that make open-source viable for business do so through providing support for their particular platform. Warranty is big tipping point for big businesses; given that open source software is released without any form of warranty, a lot of businesses are apprehensive. Not us; we embrace the challenge and have the in-house technical knowledge to provide support in what we offer.

The Good, the Bad and the GNU GPL

Were aware that the main limitations of open source are the various licenses that software can be released under. One of the most common is the GNU GPL which aims to keep software free. What this means to us as a business is that we cant make a commercial version of the original software and keep our modified code private. An alternative, the GNU LGPL, allows us to use code as a library within our commercial application, but any modifications to the original code must also be made available to the public according to the license. Then there are the funny ones, like the license used for the MySQL database. It is provided under a bespoke open-source license, but under certain circumstances it is necessary for companies to purchase licenses.

Open source helped us to lower the barrier for entry into web development. It allows us to concentrate on much more important things like working on the web. We know that its not the answer to everything, but it is the answer to a lot – it may even be alive and kicking in your living room right now.

For each piece of costly commercial software there are usually several open alternatives. Dont let us tell you how good it is; download it, install it for free, and make your own decision. (more)

Copyright 2009 Turbo Lemon Media Ltd. 4th Floor, Media Factory, UCLan, Preston, Lancashire, PR1 2HE. UK Company No: 6649279.

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