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21

Nov 2011

Is it worth learning webmaster skills as a business owner?

Posted in Business tactics, Technology | 0 Comments

A lot of online businesses are run by a small team of people – and in some cases, just one person. That’s a lot of responsibility, but with hired help for coding and building the site, creating something that practically runs itself is going to prove to be an advantage in the long run. But sites will break, and not having the right skill-set to fix anything can really let you down in 2011.

“If you’re good at something, never do it for free,” states the Joker, in The Dark Knight. Odd place to source your advice, but I couldn’t agree more. If you’re doing something for free – i.e. fixing someone’s broken HTML – then you better be getting something great in return, or you’re costing yourself time you could be a) sleeping, b) making money, or c) not doing endless amounts of people favours with no rewards. But sadly that also means that those who are computer illiterate and trying to run a site will often run into difficulties – specifically, ones they can’t fix without forking out for a second salary.

Learning basic skills doesn’t take long at all – HTML and CSS are not impervious to the almost beginner – and even learning how to set up and manage a WordPress blog is going to help when it comes to making sure the small business you’re trying to get off the ground doesn’t falter in the early stages. After all, you don’t want to have to run to an IT-knowledgeable friend or relative (or worse, expensive freelancer) when you could be Googling and problem-solving.

The Google aversion is probably the source of 90% of the tech problems I hear. It’s so simple to Google your answer, and people are vocal and knowledgeable enough to have written about it years before you’re wanting questions answered and problems solved. Sometimes I ask questions on Twitter despite knowing I should be Googling, but it’s this knowledge – that the info I need is out there, waiting to be read, that means all is not lost if those I know personally can’t help me out.

Being a self-starter is all about being driven and committed, and making sure you can accomplish what you need to in a self-reliant manner is part of that. Starting a business means saying goodbye to the nine-to-five, and if you think any different then you’re kidding yourself. In the beginning, everything is down to you, from the accounting to getting the office internet connection set up. You don’t turn up for eight hours a day and claim a salary each month.

Sound daunting? It’s not – learning how to craft sites, deal with Paypal and forgo paid themes in favour of your own CSS artistry can actually be an enjoyable and empowering experience. It certainly has been for me – I know that after learning, Googling, asking questions and making mistakes, I can take a great site idea and actually build it into a working prototype. For every person who’ll call you a “noob” or claim you’ve no business, well, running a business, there’s someone who’s willing to walk you through the basics. Don’t get left behind – be one of the people leading the way.

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6

Jun 2011

Why does a next-gen product qualify business-worthy?

Posted in Business tactics, Technology | 0 Comments

Today is the first day of E3, for for those outside the spectrum of games industry knowledge, the Electronic Entertainment Expo. This three-day conference (five, for the press) centres on new games and technology produced by the big three – Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. It also saturates games news sites with lots of smaller (or sometimes equally important) announcements and news bits from individual games or gaming tech developers.

One of the biggest topics will be Microsoft’s Kinect Sensor, something I’ve written about here recently, as their conference starts at 5:30pm today. Also today, BusinessWeek published Lee Yi’s three-item list by which someone could confirm whether or not an app or piece of technology would benefit a business well enough to justify keeping it in play. Given that, outside of the hacking community, Kinect is struggling somewhat, it’s an interesting time to think about these criteria.

The first is thus: Is the app or tool a fad, or does its provider have long-term potential?

This is a major issue for me when considering purchasing new technology, one that was recently relevant to my shopping list as I braved the negativity surrounding Sony’s Playstation Network data security issues and bought a PS3. For items designed by small businesses, it’s especially relevant – there are countless companies producing new apps, and some will end up like Rovio (creators of Angry Birds, and now one of the richest apps-only developers around, as of 2011 at least), while some will fade. However, how can we judge whether it’ll stick around? The second qualifier for a long-lasting product helps with this.

The cost of education and transition.

This is crucial – for example, I’m considering switching from Microsoft Word to Scrivener for the purpose of writing and researching. I am considering this because Scrivener allows me to put my notes, research, images, plans and outlines all into the one program, as a single project file, whereas Word requires me to open multiple document windows and a browser – possibly more programs, if I need them. However, if it takes too long for me to learn Scrivener’s intricacies, I will abandon my attempt because my time is worth money, and I can’t waste too much time trying to shift between programs. It’s pick-up-and-play, or cut-and-run.

The third sign of how your product will perform in the long-term? Current employee behaviour.

Now, for a business, the individuals using the app or technology matter, because if your office is full of people who have a hard time adjusting to new ways of doing their jobs, this could make using a new concept extremely difficult and potentially far more costly than you could justify to investors or shareholders. “The key to productivity is user adoption,” states Yi, “so finding out what your employees like to use or are currently using should be a factor in your strategy.”

I couldn’t agree more. Now here’s the final test, tonight – will people finally see the merits of adopting Kinect, or Scrivener, when simpler alternatives, like conventional controllers or the old favourite, Word, are right there and ready to go? I’ll follow up on the Scrivener experience from a writer’s perspective, but for now I’d love to hear your thoughts. What software packages or bits of tech made your business better, and how worth your time and investment was the transition from the old to the new?

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