Huge Website Frustrations - Please Give Me Advice!

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Comments

  • lmckaylmckay subscriber Posts: 1
    Kate
    you can throw a site up at BuyItSellIt.com for free with the shopping cart setup and ready to work with paypal and google checkout. It will take you a couple hours to load up and customize.
     
    That will give you a working site to send your buyers to until you get this hammered out with your web designer.
     
    BTW... I couldn`t even get into your demo site. It locked up my computer.
  • dougmcisaacdougmcisaac subscriber Posts: 0
    Kate,
    There have been plenty of response to your web designer issue so I wanted to throw in some link-building/traffic generation tips.
    1. Add your pictures to photo sharing sites like Flickr
    2. Add you videos to the various video sharing sites. Besides the obvious sites  GoFish.com and 5min.com would be great for your videos.
    Doug
  • VideographyVideography subscriber Posts: 401 Silver Level Member
    Kate,
    ... i.e. you are the administrative contact with non-domain-specific e-mail.  In other words make sure the Administrative Contact shows you as the owner (your name and address) and the e-mail address there is NOT part of your domain (if your domain is kate.com, do NOT list [email protected] as the e-mail).

    I already verified that Kate owns her website, registered at GoDaddy and listing her as the Admin and all other contacts.  What I don`t understand is why you do not recommend using an email address on the same site?  I`ve never had an issue with GoDaddy that couldn`t be solved over the phone.
  • trolttrolt subscriber Posts: 0
    I`m in agreement $1600 is REALLY cheap for a web site. In the end, you get what you pay for....
  • JulioFJulioF subscriber Posts: 0
    - Huge alignment problems when viewed w/ Explorer 6.0
    Yes indeed! Looks OK in Firefox, but not in Explorer.
    Since they have not indicated that they are finished, I would assume they know about this. Not worthy of major stress, other than you`d like to have everything "perfect" by now. They are allowing you to see the progress, prior to the finished product. They want your feedback. I`m sure you`ve provided feedback.
    -
    Loading time is long (and ridiculous for video page; I`ve suggested a
    redesign of the page where there`s an index initially and then only one
    video per page)
    Loading time seems reasonable to me. Video page loading seems OK - about 7-8 seconds. The videos do not load until clicked. Perhaps they have addressed this since you posted here?
    - Photo gallery looks bad.  They intend
    to make the spacing between pictures regular, but I still think it
    looks very amateurish the way it`s just two columns.  Obviously, it`s
    just what I did in my site.
    Again, "They intend...".  Their work has not been completed.
    - I don`t like the products
    page.  The pictures illustrating the use of the product are lost.  For
    the strip and clay products, the process pictures need to be in a
    line.  For the decorating clay product, there`s no picture of what can
    be done w/ the product (e.g., a finished cake) at all.
    All valid comments. And you`ve communicated this to them. Development is an iterative process. Nothing surprising here.
    - And there`s been no search engine optimization whatsoever, which they said they would do.
    Again, they are not finished. I`d be concerned if they had sent you a link and said all is completed, but they have not. There was no commitment regarding completion date. If you needed a near-term one, I`m sure they could have provided one - for an added fee.
    So, you have your original, self-made site out there. It looks pretty good to me!
    Yes, there is no doubt they were working from a template. Why is this a problem? Does it bother you that your car looks an awful lot like all the other cars on the road? Four wheels, black tires, two or four doors. If you want something truly original, expect to pay quite a bit for it. And no, $1600 is not quite a bit.
    That being said, we would have built you a nice site, with a due date commitment, SEO, shopping cart, videos, and more, for less than $1600. And with free hosting.
    But that`s neither here nor there, because two weeks ago I made the decision to close the virtual doors to my company. My wife also owns a small business, and directing my web and business expertise to her company has resulted in her business taking off in a huge way. SEO, online advertising, and online communication has replaced her Yellow Pages ads. With 90% of her new business coming from the web, it would be foolish to spend 50% of the marketing budget on Yellow Pages ads! So, now I have decided to spend my time on growing her company, which appears at the very top of the search result listings for relevant searches on Google in central Texas. Why, even Google found us by using Google! "Nuf said!
    I think you understand that PC`s have been in thousands of homes for decades now. Teenagers can learn a little HTML, a dash of C Sharp, and go into business quite inexpensively. This is why my focus had always been on working in the world of mainframes and mini-computer systems, until I retired from the senior management ranks of Dell in 2001.
    Most of what small business owners need from a website has already been programmed. Modifying photos, creating graphics, and spacing-out content on a web page is not programming. It`s visual design and graphics work.
    Programming results in data being captured, manipulated, and stored. And most of this has already been created, and can be implemented on most websites with minor changes (and little expense). Unless, of course, you WANT to hire a programmer/analyst to build something from the ground up. As for me, I`d prefer to keep those funds in my pocket, to be able to pay for my next tank of gas.
    JulioF4/29/2008 3:21 PM
  • nickilee78nickilee78 subscriber Posts: 0
    Kate,
    I am a representative of a small dev company in Indiana. I hope that my responses provide help for you!
    Re: IE 6- Are you using IE 6? If so, try upgrading to IE 7. 6 is an old version. As with anything with computers, regular updates are necessary to keep up with all the changes that are being made on the web.
    Re: Video load time-I checked them out, and I don`t experience much longer of a load time than I do with other videos, in fact if at all, it`s just a few seconds.
    Re: Photo Gallery looking amateur-There are several open source photo galleries available.. For instance, Google`s Picasa is a very easy one to manipulate and add to your site. I would just ask if they can install a gallery rather than pasting each image individually on the page. I agree, it looks tacky and amateur.
    Re: The Products Page-Another option may be to have them list each individual product separately and have images of what each can do... From what it looks like on your Products page, you only have 3 products-this is a bit misleading. Check your contract and see if you can have more than 3 items listed.
    Re: SEO- When we do a site, we only do light SEO. For example; Submitting the site to major search engines, creating a list of about 20 keywords, and making sure that we have text on the home page that allows the site to be found easily by Google bots... Send them a list of the keywords that you want in the site, and it is just a copy and paste function that needs to be performed.
    Re: Slow loading in general... You may check with your hosting/server company. You may not have the proper server requirements/space for eCommerce.
    Let me know if I can be of further assistance as we are constantly researching and developing cool new things daily! I can surely offer you upgrades to what you currently have!
    Nicki Laycoax
    [email protected]
    www.squishdesigns.com
    www.nickilaycoaxofsquishdesigns.blogspot.com
  • KateGKateG subscriber Posts: 12
    Wow.  I never expected to get so many replies!  Forgive me for not responding to each point.
     
    First - I should clarify that the site that is up now as my "original" site is in fact not my original site.  As I somewhat mentioned in a previous post, after my frustration on Friday, my husband suggested that I redesign my site and put paypal on the site so that it was functional.  So it has changed quite a bit from what it initially started at. 
     
    There`s been a lot of posts about paypal versus credit card integration.  I wish that I would have started a post on this topic before starting the redesign.  Currently, I have set up an account with authorize.net, which will be what`s used to get the credit card processing on my site.  Regarding Stephen`s post - do I need to worry about keeping the shopping cart updated to all of the changes that he mentioned, or will authorize.net handle it?
     
    playmulligan - you add oil and water to the strip mix and microwave it until it turns to a dough-like consistency.  Then you roll it out into strips and use as shown in the video to form "walls" of a cake pan in whatever shape you want.  I like the tastes of the strips and was always snacking on them.  You can certainly eat the clay, though it`s quite sweet, so I don`t think you`d want to eat huge amounts of it.  And the decorating clay is designed to be eaten.
     

     
    mwhite1249 - did you link the page that I created this weekend (www.shapeacakeclay.com) or the demo?  Hopefully it was the one that I created.  Thanks.  It will be fun to see if I get any orders.
     
    Which brings me to my next question.  So I have this intermediate site set up, but I still have the designers who are supposed to be doing something.  Based on all of the comments here, I actually feel pretty good about the site that I have up.  Initially, my major annoyance was the paypal usage, but apparently that doesn`t bother most people.  So I feel less dependent on the website people.  I`m leaning towards an idea similar to Takeoutonline`s, where I have a heart-to-heart with the design team and see whether they can complete the design in a reasonable time period.  My question is:
    - In the meantime, should I start trying to advertise my site and get traffic going?  The site`s only been setup to accept orders since late Sunday night, and I didn`t get any orders in the first 24 hours.  However, there`s a list of friends/family/people who found my initial site who have requested that I tell them when the site is up.  Should I tell them that it`s up now or wait for the final site?
     
    Again - thanks for all of your help.  I read everyone`s post, and they were very helpful.
     
    Kate
  • SimplyDoneSimplyDone subscriber Posts: 0
    Hi KateG.
    Wow.  I`m right there with you on this one . . .
    I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly with TakeoutOnline.  Either this company can handle your redesign or they can`t.  Either way it`s time for you to decide, and back out now before investing any more time or money.  Because right now, they are costing you money and customers because you can`t make sales.
    I also have to agree with leebsanders.  I like your site much better than the new one.  I think it looks much more polished.
    Being in the middle of a redesign of my own site and struggling with the decision to hand it over to someone else or keep doing it myself, I really appreciate your position.  And, I think all this input has helped me to decide that for now I`m going to keep managing my own site.  I started with CuteSite Builder (a millennium ago it seems).  I love this program.  Plug and Play front end, but if you wanted to get into the back end to modify stuff you could.  I`ve used it for so long that I can do just about anything and I still don`t know a programming language or HTML.  Unfortunately, the product was discontinued 2-3 years ago now.  I don`t need ecommerce.  My website is just a portal to the vendor sites I work with and they handle all the ecommerce stuff (the ones that have that option).  So, the small updates that I have been doing work.  The site does need an overhaul though.  It hasn`t been done since my daughter got sick.  Sometimes there`s just too much for one person to do . . .
    In any case, I sympathize and wish you the best while making these tough decisions. 
    And, if you need a place to print those labels you like, or any of your other business stationery, look me up  www.SimplyDone.biz
  • FatCookieFatCookie subscriber Posts: 2
    Hi Kate!
    I wanted to congratulate you first for thinking outside the box with your product, and then for taking it to the next level and creating a business!  It is a TON of work and I totally understand the wearing of a thousand hats - sleep?, what sleep!I just wanted to throw in some encouragement since you have received a ton of emails from the forum offering so much advice.  I posted on here back in December when I was thinking of shutting down my business because of the overload of work.  I ended up asking for help from friends and family, made it through the holidays, and have had an upturn in business all of 2008.  I definitely work hard to make it happen and I know you must also, but  the SuN community has been one of my most cherished resources.  My hat is off to you for keeping everything going forward in the midst of your latest hurdle.We recently decided to upgrade our website as well.  I have a very unique e-commerce need and I had luckily coasted through 2007 with a friend of mine who took on our -commerce website chaos.  We started getting bigger and my poor friend was dragging so we decided to seek out a professional.  At first, we were getting quotes as high as $12,000 and even then, the heart of the storefront wouldn`t be completely developed.  We ended up finding a company called Brandlabs that took our project on.  They hooked us up with the design aspect of the website and we were able to utilize Volusion to support our storefront needs.   We paid $3,200 for all of their work.  (I could not have afforded that whatsoever last year at this same time, but as we grow, we are upgrading in all areas).At this point in our business, we decided design was the high priority.   As we grow even more, my next website upgrade will be a total overhaul with code written just for me and my needs.  Of course, it`s going to cost us our firstborn, but it`s on the goal list so we can have something to work towards.Anyway, I am off on a tangent here, but looking at both your sites, I think they were both fine.  I can see the step-up difference of the second one from the first, but it was nothing more then a little more organized (meaning you could probably take on the website yourself as you seem to have a knack for it).  My site needed the same organized flow.  Once the new company came in and hooked us up to the standard storefront, it made the site so much easier to navigate because people knew the basic premise of where to go while they were shopping.  (Of course, my new site is not up yet because we have had to sell our house since the business has pushed us out of our current one - so we`re in the middle of a move and I`ll be uploading the new site once we`re set-up in the new bakery).I`d love to hear how everything works out - I found the folks here at SuN to be invaluable.  I was in such a wreck of a day when I wrote in last December and having some truly interested folks respond back with actual real-world advice (versus just self-promoting) made such a difference in me succeeding.Best of luck to you Kate and to your family!Warmly,When-Dee
  • KateGKateG subscriber Posts: 12
    Malcolm
    - yes, please link to the shapeacakeclay.com site.  It`s the only one accepting orders at this time.
     
    Thanks.
    Kate
  • SimplyDoneSimplyDone subscriber Posts: 0
    KateG,
    If ultimately the new site will use the same domain name, I would start promoting it.  There isn`t much to loose by doing so.  There may be inconvenient interruptions of accessibility when the new site goes live, but hopefully that will happen at a non-demand time like 2am on a Monday.
    By starting or formulating your ad campaign now, you will be that much ahead when the new site is ready.  Only do this if the domain name is the same, otherwise you could get the plan together, but you`d have to wait until it`s "live" or has a "construction page" available for potential customers to view.  You don`t want to frustrate potential customers before they have a chance to view or purchase your product. 
    Hope that helps!
    BTW; I will be forwarding your website and product to my sister-in-law.  She`s the decorative baker in the family.  With 9 kids between the 3 of us, ranging from 17 to >1, she`s busy at least once a month with birthday cakes.  The kids have always been able to ask her for whatever theme they want and she always comes up with something unique and creative (and tasty).  But, sometimes there have been "building projects" involved; like constructing a 3-D train cake for my nephew when he was younger.  I`m sure your product will be of great interest to her.
    Thanks!
    P.S.  JulioF ~ Just wanted to say Thank You for supporting your wife`s business!  Some of us aren`t so fortunate.
  • ryanwithanrryanwithanr subscriber Posts: 1
    Kate:
    All the info you`ve received thus far is excellent. I would hope there was some contractual agreement. I mean if you`re paying for anything that is going to represent your company, you should have some sort of contractual agreement between you and your contractor.
    I would have to say I`m not very impressed with the work you`ve had done so far. The code is littered with errors. The images are not of the best quality. And as others have stated, this site is not optimized for web performance.
    I don`t even want to know what you paid. I looked at the site of the designers you used. I would be concerned about their abilities. Everyone designs different and has different competencies, but I can tell the difference between sites that are templates and the sites they made from scratch.
    This is why everyone should do heavy research into their design teams. Too many people are so focused on price. Anyone can put a website together these days. It`s so important to interview companies to make sure they are on the same page as you. If you and your design team don`t share the same vision, you`ll spend way more trying to fix your problems than you ever would had you  picked the right team.
    Now off my soap box. Did you prepay for the site in whole? If not, I would seriously looking into having someone else finish the job. Because it`s a PayPal shopping cart system, I think you`re on the right track, you CAN piece one of those together yourself. Then I would consider finding another company to finish the work.
    Warranty? What are they going to warranty? A true sales gimic. When you`re project is complete there should be nothing to warranty. The code, security, etc. should be done right. In my honest opinion, a design team should be obligated to fix any flaws in their work at any time.
    Lastly, this goes for anyone: your website is your #1 marketing tool. I would venture to say that 90% or better, of the U.S. population does all their product research online. I would bet that websites, done right, are the most effective marketing tool around. It`s the face of your company on the internet. That is why it`s so important to have a design team that can see YOUR vision and put it to work. It`s fine if you want their creative expertise, but it`s important that your company`s brand and image resonates through your site. If it doesn`t, I think you completly miss your mark and fail your compnay, your products, and your customers miserably.
    That`s all I`ve got. Thanks for letting me vent. I could barely read through your first post without feeling the overwhelming urge to post as fast and as furiously as I could. It just bugs me that any Joe on the street can put a site together with a program and charges off-the-wall prices and then can`t follow through.
    Would you continue to pay the bug man after he`s missed a month or two? Tells you you`re his priority next week? If you wait for the termites to come, you`ve waited too long. My point being that web design is a service. Just like any other. The longer you let businesses like this jack you around the more money and potential sales you lose. And if your site is sub par, the less repeat customers you`ll get.
    I hope you get what you`re looking for! If the end result sucks, find someone to fix it. Sorry to ramble, this topic really bugs me!
    Ryan
  • KateGKateG subscriber Posts: 12
    Thanks.  Ultimately the site is going to be www.shapeacake.com, but I own both domains, and I want it to be such that if someone goes to one it`s the same as the other.  (I`m thinking possibly an automatic redirect, as someone posted earlier that search engines don`t like duplciate sites.)  But thanks for the thought.
     
    Thanks for the referral! 
     
    Kate
  • FatCookieFatCookie subscriber Posts: 2
    Ryan, 
     You made me laugh with your  "overwhelming urge to post as fast and as furiously as I could".  I was the same way when I read Kate`s initial post.  There are so many smart and creative people on these forums.  The knowledge is just amazing.Hope everyone is having a great night!Cheers to success!When-Dee
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