ONLINE BUSINESS ASIA

RESOURCES TO PLAN, START, AND GROW YOUR BUSINESS

4 Big Pitfalls for Digital Startups

OBA Guest blogger Anthony Lance, founder of Phatrice.com, shares their company’s experiences regarding the 4 big pitfalls for digital startups:

1. Probably the biggest temptation for online based startups is to put too much emphasis on the digital experience right at the beginning.

We dropped most of our initial funding into building a snazzy site, but when the company that we had commissioned to do the job failed, we were left with very little money, and very limited resources. We ended up starting with a Magento based template site, and then hired a freelance web designer overseas, to customize it to have some of the basic features we were looking for. In the end we spent about US$4,000 to build the first stage of the site, and to be perfectly honest, it was great! Start with something cheap and easy like Shopify to test the model first. I’m amazed at the flexibility and ease of use from some of the new template-style site developers. If you go with Magento or WordPress, I recommend getting a template and then hiring a freelance coder through oDesk. We have had great success with this.

2. Stubbornness can be a real killer for startups.

When we started off our goal was to have a snazzy retail business and focus on exciting marketing activities that would drive consumers to our site, but only weeks into our launch we received interest from a large bank wanting to buy 1000 bottles of one product, but required customization to have their logo printed on it. We were completely unprepared for this kind of business so we lost the order and it took us almost 4 months of initial retail sales to sell the same amount of product through our retail sales. As much as we wanted to grow our retail business, our advisors started telling us that the money was with these large corporates looking for large orders. It was a tough decision only a few months into the startup to tell the team to spend two months focusing entirely on developing a B2B site and working out B2B partnerships with all of our product partners. Our retail sales suffered, but after a few B2B orders started coming in we realized that not only was this a good sales revenue for us, but it was in fact helping to do marketing for our retail site as well. Selling bulk orders to corporates and event planners is not nearly as sexy, but as a startup you have to be ready to make directional changes when needed. Be very tenacious, but don’t be stubborn.

3. Perfection is the enemy of the great.

At one point I came down pretty hard on the person we had doing our EDMs as I was disappointed at the level of attention to detail. In hind sight I realized that I spent more energy trying to build the person’s confidence back up than what could have possibly been lost by having one bad link in an email. There is no replacement for having a leader who pays attention to details and holds the team to a high standard, but especially for a startup you will be working with people who are likely underpaid, less experienced and learning things for the first time. A leader needs to have a lot of patience and grace for the team, because expecting perfection will likely only lead to upset team members and actually end up killing the creativity of the people in the team. Some of the best ideas we have had for marketing have come from casual conversations around the lunch table, so developing a safe work place where mistakes and imperfection are okay is important to not only the morale of the team, but also to the overall success of the team.

4. Having full time employees does not mean being more productive.

We initially tried hiring a couple of full time employees, but of course we could not afford a full salary, so the caliber of people that we attracted were not exactly incredible. I did a talk at a local university and managed to attract a couple of students who signed on to be interns. They were bright, switched on, and learned very quickly, so even though we only have them for a dozen or so hours in a week, they actually began to make significant contributions to our team. Currently over half of the people on our team are now working part time because we have adopted the philosophy that we would rather have a little bit of an excellent person’s time, than having a lot of a weak employee’s time. The other thing to consider is that most outstanding people have more than one thing going on, so you are unlikely to attract their full attention, which is okay as long as you have enough interest and commitment for the things you need them to do. This makes managing the team a bit more of a challenge, but having a team full of outstanding people is so encouraging that it makes me exciting to come in to the office every day. Weak people not only under-perform, they drag the entire team down with them. Find outstanding people, and find some way, any way, to get them involved. Make them a part time employee, give them a work-for-equity offer, make them an advisor, whatever it takes!

4 Key Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

Thinking of starting your own business? Here are 4 Key Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs:

1. Drive

5% inspiration, 95% perspiration? There may be something to that saying, as it is certainly in the execution that businesses turn from being a good idea into a successful and proven entity. You’ll need the drive and determination to see projects through, and to finish what you start even when it gets tough.

2. Decisiveness

Running a business is all about making decisions and dealing with the consequences. You must be able to gather the necessary information, review the options and make quick decisions, otherwise nothing in the business will get done. As the business owner the buck stops with you.

3. Teach-ability

Great entrepreneurs don’t know everything; they’re constantly learning, adjusting, and surrounding themselves with people who know more than they do. Why? Because becoming arrogant will make you lazy, you may miss important threats/opportunities, and ultimately the business will suffer.

4. Detail-Driven

Online commerce is all about data. It’s now possible to know our customers and their habits in granular detail, and this can be the make-or-break of an online business. The ability to filter and analyse the business’s key information will help the business owner to know what’s working and what isn’t, and will drive strategies that will both avoid pitfalls and capitalize on opportunities along the way.

Business Idea: Setting Up a Shopify Store

Software as a Service (SaaS) for ecommerce has become a big hit over the past few years; you pay a monthly subscription fee for access to an all-in-one solution for your ecommerce store. With these solutions there is no need to build your own site, sign hosting and payment processing agreements, or do any of the manual work to get started; simply sign up to a monthly plan, configure the site in the way you want and start taking orders. You might choose to use Shopify, Wix, BigCommerce, Big Cartel or another SaaS ecommerce provider; we suggest Shopify because of the large user base, blog and forum support, but take a look around and choose one you’re comfortable with. Setting up a Shopify store might be the solution you are looking for:

Choosing WordPress or Shopify?
Why should you use a SaaS solution over WordPress? In short it is a tradeoff between functionality and simplicity. Shopify is incredibly easy and simple to set up and get started with, but you might find a lack of functionality eventually hinders the growth of your business. On the other hand WordPress will take longer and cost more to set up, but will generally be able to scale with you as your business needs grow.

If you are planning on setting up a pure ecommerce business with very little complicated functionality, a Shopify site might be for you. It will be easy and cheap to get started, and you can test out your business without spending a lot of time and money developing a site. You can always migrate the business in future to a more robust platform if necessary.

If your website requires some proprietary coding or a specific piece of software, or you’re running a technology site, you may have to go with a WordPress or Magento CMS and a custom-built plugin for that function. Depending on the complexity, you may even need a custom built site for more involved functionality. It’s worth doing your research to see if there are any plugins (WordPress) or apps (Shopify) that have already been built to achieve your purpose, before going out and commissioning development on a big project.

Getting Set Up On Shopify
Ok, so you have decided that your business should get started with SaaS and Shopify is the platform you have chosen. Follow the below steps:

  1. Head to www.Shopify.com and click on Get Started, entering in your details and store name (you can change the name later if needed).
  2. Choose “Online Store”, unless you have a physical shop and are looking for a POS system with Shopify
  3. Enter your details and complete the quick questionnaire, and click Enter My Store
  4. Congratulations! You now have a basic store ready to customise. Your store won’t be live yet, and that’s a good thing as you have to set it up still. You will have 14 days as a trial, and when you are ready to go live you have to select a plan which will involve a monthly fee (From US$14-179 per month) and a percentage fee of each transaction (0.5%-2% depending on the plan).
  5. Time to start making it your own! Start by clicking on Home ->Select a Theme, and browsing the list of free themes. More free options are available in the Theme Store, as well as a number of premium themes for sale between US$140-180. Find the one you like and click Get Theme to install it on your Shopify store.
  6. Set up your domain. You’ll want your shop to look professional, and that means having your own domain name (not the standard www.mystore.shopify.com). Click Home -> Add a Domain. If you already own a domain you can add it here, or you can follow the steps to have Shopify help you find and buy a domain for your store. Note, it may be cheaper to go out and register your domain separately through a 3rd party domain registry company.
  7. Start adding your content. Although Shopify is quite user-friendly, you may want to enlist the help of a friend with an eye for design to help you plan out your look and feel of the site. This will help you make good decisions about fonts, colour schemes and layout of the site, and will ultimately tell your customers a lot about how professional your company is.
  8. Link to your social media accounts. New customers will almost certainly view your About Us page, and your social media channels. Make sure these are accessible so that customers feel comfortable with your business from the beginning.
  9. Your store will be password protected from public view until you sign up to a monthly plan. Choose the lowest cost plan to begin with, and when you’re ready to start selling pay your money and go public! Remember: you need to have stock available to ship immediately if necessary, so make sure you have product available when you go live.

You’ve Set Up Your Shopify Store, Now What?
You’ve built your Shopify site and are ready to sell; what’s next? Here are a few ideas.

  • Set up Google Analytics. In your Admin panel, go to Settings -> Online Store -> Google Analytics. Follow the prompts to include your GA code on each of your Shopify web pages. See the previous link for more detail on Using Google Analytics.
  • Install helpful apps. “Plug in SEO”, “Mailchimp for Shopify”, “Persistent Shopping Cart”; these are just a few of the apps that will help you optimise your store.
  • Start promoting on social media. Visitors won’t just accidentally stumble across your new store; you need to start building a following and driving traffic. The best way to do this? Build a following on social media, and encourage them to visit your site. Read more in Section 4 about growing and marketing your new business.
  • Get connected to the Shopify Blog. New ideas and apps are being created daily, so stay ahead of the curve by keeping in touch with the large community of bloggers, forum-posters, and ecommerce entrepreneurs out there. You’ll find valuable tips and additions to your site if you stay in touch and listen to what’s working for others.

Selling with Online Marketplaces

The online marketplace is not a new phenomenon; eBay and Amazon both made the business model famous in North America in 1994-1995, enabling thousands of micro-entrepreneurs to get online and sell to other customers over the internet. Since then, Asian marketplace websites such as Taobao (Mainland China), Rakuten (Japan), Lazada (South-East Asia) and many others have grown quickly, bringing buyers and sellers together in a simple to use Customer to Customer (C2C) marketplace format. Today we talk how to get started selling with online marketplaces.

Four Benefits of Selling with Online Marketplaces:

1. Fast Set Up
Want to get started selling your product this afternoon? Open a seller account on one of the above marketplaces and you could be shipping out your first orders within the day.

2. Cheap to Start
Don’t want lots of upfront overheads? Running a ‘shop-in-shop’ within a marketplace means all of the infrastructure is already in place; no need to spend thousands building your own site.

3. Sell to Their Traffic
Let them take care of the marketing; it’s the marketplace’s job to attract large volumes of quality traffic that will buy your products. It’s your job to source interesting, competitively priced items and take care of the logistics. By removing the marketing time and costs, you can focus on crafting the best offers, resulting in happy customers and a simplified business model.

4. Diversify your points of sale
Already selling on your own site, but want to expand? Why not try listing your product on a few marketplace sites and developing those sales channels? You’ll reach new, different customers, and can encourage them to visit your main site in future for broader offerings, loyalty discounts, and to keep in touch with your site’s online community.

Which Marketplace to Choose?
You may be overwhelmed with the number of options out there, and be wondering which marketplace you should get started on. Assuming you have your product already sourced, it’s time to do your research; start by searching each of the platforms for your product and see what the competition is like. Are there many similar products to yours listed? Can you beat the prices already offered by your competition? Is there a way to differentiate yourself versus the other sellers, say for example; super-fast shipping, or a unique offering? If you can’t compete, keep searching; perhaps you need to try a different platform, or find new products that you can win with.

Once you get familiar and setup on one marketplace, you’ll probably want to diversify your sales channels by listing your products on other C2C platforms. This will help you to reach different audiences in multiple countries, and maximise your chances of selling large volumes of product. Over time, you’ll begin to learn what works on each platform (promotions/free shipping/incentives etc), and your business will be more diversified across multiple channels.

Finally, be wary of competing purely on price as this can be a losing proposition in the long run. If your item is a commodity and freely available, there will generally always be someone willing to cut prices lower than you, resulting in nobody making money in the long term. Try to find a unique selling proposition that allows you to defend your margins and keep your business strong.

Building a Low-Cost Business App

In addition to having a mobile-responsive site, you may also want to build a dedicated app for your business. Thankfully you don’t have to spend thousands having an agency build this for you; there are ways of doing it yourself even if you don’t know how to code. Building a low-cost business app may be your solution, but first let’s discuss a few things:

Does Your Business Need an App Yet?
Firstly you should be thinking if your business needs an app, or will it be better to focus on a mobile responsive site initially? Most new ecommerce businesses may do better to use their resources on making their mobile responsive site the best it can be, as the time and costs involved in building and managing a mobile app across several platforms may outweigh the benefits in the early days.

First, Develop Your Mobile Strategy
The rise of the mobile customer has been fast, especially in emerging markets where access to cheaper smartphones and mobile internet has brought many new customers online. As such it is very important to address this market and develop a mobile strategy for your business.

As an example, you may choose to develop a mobile responsive site initially, which will function adequately and process orders for your mobile users for the first 6-12 months. After your sales volumes reach a certain threshold, you may then choose to invest the time and money into developing a mobile app for your repeat customers and those you can attract via the Apple and Android app stores. You can run apps alongside your mobile responsive site in the future, giving your customers more options when it comes to browsing and purchasing from your site.

Use ShoutEm To Build Your App for Shopify or WooCommerce
There are a number of Software as a Service (SaaS) DIY app building companies available and www.shoutem.com seems to have a great following among Shopify and WooCommerce ecommerce users. Plugins can be installed for each of these platforms allowing your app and ecommerce store to talk to each other, and making it possible for you to build your own app via a drag-and-drop process on the ShoutEm website. You’ll pay around US$49 per month for the service with a minimum 1 year commitment, or US$58 month to month, so smaller businesses might want to build their sales up first to justify this extra expense.

How does it work? If you are using Shopify or WooCommerce, install the ShoutEm app (called a plugin in WordPress) and open the interface. You can start with a trial version first and see how it fits your business before spending any money. The user interface is simple to use and you can pull together the look and feel of your app within an hour or so, integrating your existing Shopify or WooCommerce products into the app.

When you are happy with the app layout and functionality, click on Publish at the top right of the screen, which will prompt you to choose a payment plan (or choose a free trial), and then proceed to submitting your app to the Android and Apple app stores. Note that Google is generally a lot more lenient than Apple in approving apps for their app stores, so you may find you have to wait longer and make several adjustments to your app before having it live on the Apple app store.

Then, How Will You Market Your App?
As with the internet in general, the Apple and Android app stores are busy, competitive places with many different apps vying for your customers’ attention. How will you get your prospective customers to download and use your app? Will your app mainly be for existing repeat customers to use, and in that case how many of those customers to you have at present? These questions will help you validate the viability of building and hosting your app using ShoutEm or a similar service.

Adding Images and Graphics to Your Website

Your site’s images and graphics say a lot about who you are as a company and what your customers might expect from you. Getting your branding and key images right is therefore essential to building trust and getting customers to do what you want them to do; stay and make purchases!

Getting Your Branding Right
Spending solid time thinking about your branding is very important; don’t cut corners here. The way your logo looks, your choice of colour schemes, and use of images on your pages all represent your company to the customer. Are you relevant to your target audience? Do you come across as professional and trustworthy? These visual aspects of your site will be read and ‘understood’ by your customers much more quickly than any professionally written copy, resulting in either the customer staying to learn more, or quickly moving on to another site.

There are a number of sites online that that can pair you with a designer to help you create a professional logo. Be aware that while the outsourcing this task can be cheaper than going with a design agency, you do often get what you pay for; a logo designed for US$10 may well look like it cost you US$10. You may want to go for a mid-priced alternative like www.99designs.hk where you hold a ‘design contest’ by placing your job scope on the site, and allowing thousands of design freelancers to submit designs in order to win your contest and collect the fee you have promised to pay. Going with a reasonable spend should get you between 30-60 different designs, from which you can suggest improvements and changes, and settle on the final one you like the most. Remember: it helps to give the designers some direction to avoid going completely off target, so when writing your brief, think about the style, feel, font ideas, and colour schemes you would like. Before posting the design contest, have a friend read over your brief to make sure it’s easily understandable to someone who hasn’t seen it before.

Campaign Photographs
Once you have developed your logo, you will probably want to add relevant photographs to your site’s pages. Your home page may have a slider (several large landscape images sliding across the top of the screen), and other meaningful images to your customers. You can either choose to take these photos yourself (if you have the skills), find them from a free stock photo site like Unsplash, or buy them from a professional stock photo site like www.shutterstock.com, where you either pay for a monthly subscription or US$49 for five images at a time. Having quality relevant images is essential to building trust with your new customers, so again it’s important not to skimp on costs here. When downloading your images, try to get the largest size available as you never know where you’ll need to use it next, and you can always lower the size and quality using Photoshop Elements or a similar editing program later on.

Product Photography
If you are selling a physical product, having great photography is a must. Even if you don’t own a DSLR camera, you can still take good quality shots with a small point-and-shoot camera or even an iPhone. What is key here is the lighting and putting together a decent setup. If you are shooting small items, a light tent is a great idea as it helps you control the amount of light on and around your product; you can make one with some white cardboard and a white sheet, or purchase one online at Amazon.

Either way, you want to present your products in focus on a plain white background from a couple of different angles. This will give the customer a professional view of the item and inspire confidence to make the purchase.

Things Not To Add
You may recall a few years back when it was common to add animated images and graphics to web pages. Today these are generally considered dated and distracting and will not help you in your mission to attract and convert paying customers, so leave them out!

7 Steps to Great Website Copywriting

You may not realise it, but an average website has a surprising amount of copy (written words) presented throughout each of the pages. Every page needs to be written in a concise, clear, and appropriate tone to your target audience, and this takes some time. It is also not something that can be easily outsourced (like design elements for example), as you are the one who knows your business best, and it should be your job to get the copy and messaging right! Below we talk through the 7 steps to great website copywriting:

1. It’s Up To You!
What you write on each page will have the influence to either attract or repel your visitors, therefore having a direct impact on your website’s success. This is why it is key that you are intimately involved in the copywriting of your site, as specific words and phrases will either give confidence to your customers, or place questions in their minds. Yes, you should have a friend or two proof-read your copy before publishing it, but the initial task of writing and directing the copy and key messages should be one you tackle yourself.

2. Who are Your Customers?
Knowing who you are selling to will dramatically alter how you present your copy and what style of ‘voice’ you will give it. For example, a young fashion website targeting 17-25 year old women will have a vastly different style of writing, use of vocabulary, and overall different feel, than a corporate firm targeting senior legal professionals. Knowing who your customers are, and how they expect to read your copy, will help you get your words more on target.

You may start out thinking your target market will be a certain group of people, and then find that you actually get more traction with a different demographic. One way to test the key headings and copy of your landing pages is by split-testing them and sending traffic to 2 or more versions of your landing pages, and seeing which page gets the best results.

3. Sell The Benefits, Not The Product
Customers want to know what’s in it for them, so tell them! Instead of listing off all of the features and specs of the product or service, it is often better to focus on the benefits – what does this particular product or service really give them? For example, you’re not just selling children’s toys, you’re selling peace and quiet for a few hours a day to the mum who needs it. Emphasise the benefits over the technical specs (include these but with less emphasis), and you’ll find the reason ‘why’ people are buying. This is truly powerful information.

4. Make it Simple and Succinct
Attention spans have shrunk around 50% in the past decade, and only 4% of pageviews last longer than 10 minutes. Like this paragraph – keep it succinct and to the point!

5. Linear Progression & Obvious Steps
Have you ever been to a website, tried to purchase, and then gotten lost on the way to the checkout page? Unfortunately it happens all too often. Designing a clear and overly obvious path to checkout is key to converting the greatest possible percentage of visitors into paying customers. I highlight overly obvious here – if your mother or grandmother couldn’t navigate your site and make a purchase, it may be too complicated. Make your buy buttons large, calls to action clear and obvious, and show the customer the steps (and which step they are currently on) to completing their order.

6. Be Keyword Relevant
Search engines will send their spiders to ‘crawl’ your site’s pages and look for relevant keywords to determine what each page is really about. Keep this in mind when writing your copy; you should have primary keyword targets for each page, and these keywords should feature in your copy, page titles, headings, names of images, and within the first and last paragraphs of each page. This will help with both your organic SEO rankings, as well as your Quality Score when advertising on Google AdWords. Make sure you’re not just writing for search engines though – real people have to read these pages and get value from them too!

7. Develop Compelling Headlines and Page Structures
A headline or key heading will either grab attention and spur further reading, or turn off the customer and result in them clicking elsewhere. Try to write compelling headlines that entice the customer to read more, without sounding too salesy or spammy.

Having a good page structure will also encourage further reading. Ever wondered why list-style blog posts are so popular (e.g. this page!)? It’s because the information is easy to digest, readers know what to expect, and each of the points has a main heading that can be read and understood without having to read the whole paragraph. It’s about simplicity and convenience through formatting your information into easy to digest bites.

Great website copywriting doesn’t have to be a chore – have fun with it, be creative and let your website’s personality shine through! Your customers will thank you for it by paying you more frequently!

What Will Your Business Cost?

What will your business cost to setup and run? After putting together your business plan, you should have a good idea of the expenses you expect to have when running this business and therefore the amount of capital required. Broadly, these will fall into the following four categories:

1. Cost of development
This will vary greatly depending on your chosen business and product/service. Are you designing and manufacturing a physical product, or reselling an existing product, or selling a service which requires very little development? Building your site and getting all of the pieces put together so that you are ready to sell should be included in this number.

2. Cost of marketing
Once your product/service offer is ready, you will need to acquire customers. Most online businesses use Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or Social Media Marketing (SMM) on a Cost Per Click (CPC) basis to drive targeted traffic to their site. As a basic example, if you want to have sales revenue of $100,000, when your average product sells for $50, and your estimated CPC is $0.20, you will need to attract 2,000 paying customers. If your conversion rate is 2% of web traffic, your marketing budget will be $20,000. Scaling these numbers up or down will determine the amount of revenue your business will expect to achieve, and how much marketing budget will be required.

3. Operational costs
What will your day-to-day expenses be? These operational costs will hopefully be covered by the revenue of the business in future, but in the first 6-12 months you should budget the cash for these, including: rent, staff, office equipment, web hosting, software, accounting expenses, and insurance.

4. Your salary
Will you pay yourself a salary in the beginning? Most business owners will choose to put as much money back into the business as possible in the first year or two. If you can afford to not pay yourself, or pay yourself only a small amount, it will help the overall health and growth of the business. If you do need to live off a salary from this business, you will need to factor this into your numbers.

What will your business cost to setup and run? By now you should have a clearer picture of each of the 4 main costs above; take the time to budget out each of these before starting your business, and you’ll be better poised to see business success!

Funding a New Business

Where to find the money in funding a new business?

You (hopefully) have a good idea of how much it will cost to get set up and running in your business model. Should you fund it yourself or raise investment capital? Let’s discuss the options for funding your business.

1. Self-Funded
If you can afford it, it is almost always the best idea to fund the business out of your own savings at the beginning. In doing this, you will retain control of the business, be in charge of your own destiny, and be the rightful owner of any profits (or losses) that may come. Giving away equity in the early stages can become expensive, as your business is not worth much at the beginning and you will likely have to give away a large percentage in return for investment capital. Try to retain as much of the business for yourself for as long as you can.

2. Get a loan
If you don’t have enough capital, you might ask your family for a loan (which you’ll promise to pay back over a set time with interest). This way you keep 100% of the company, and get the access to the cash you need. Bank loans or lines of credit might be hard to find at early stage (before you have proven anything yet), but are also a reasonable option. Try to loan as little as possible, or stage the loan amounts, as you may not need to use all of the capital at once and end up holding excess cash (for which you are paying interest on) unnecessarily.

3. Find a business partner
The next best option may be to find a business partner with capital, this person ideally also possessing complementary skills that will benefit your business. Be aware that having a business partner is a lot like a marriage; it’s a long term commitment and it pays to agree on your direction and goals before going forward. Discussions should be held on each person’s role in the business, expectations, timeframe of the business, and exit plan; these will determine whether you both share the same expectations, and whether or not it is viable to go ahead together. You will want to note these agreed objectives down, as these will form the basis of your Shareholder Agreement which should be drafted by a lawyer and signed before you go into business.

4. An angel investor or seed fund
If you are not able to fund the business with your own capital or a loan, and a business partner is not available, you may wish to seek external funding through an angel investor or an incubator/seed fund. As with finding a business partner, you will need to spend time discussing expectations of the business and clearly defining these in a Shareholder Agreement. Keep in mind, early stage finance is risky and investors are right to ask for a large percentage of the company in return for their capital investment. Giving away any percentage of your business will mean reporting to this party regularly, and will diminish your ownership of the company and the direction you wish to take it. Proceed with caution and ask yourself why you are going into business, and whether you wish to have a long term commitment with your investor.

Time to remind yourself why you are going into business
For most people, the freedom and flexibility of being their own boss and running their own business for him/herself is the reason to start a company. If this is your goal, then you should hold onto the equity of your company yourself for as long as possible; gathering a bunch of investors and capital might sound exciting, but if you end up working for those parties as a minority shareholder your business might start to resemble more of an employment situation rather than an entrepreneurial venture.

  • Getting on the same page: A list of helpful questions for investors and business partners
  • What is your timeframe for this investment?
  • How do you see your exit?
  • Do you expect a dividend or repayment? At what stage/s?
  • How will the investment be structured? As equity or debt, or a combination?
  • What do each party bring to the table besides money?
  • What will each party’s job roles be within the company?
  • If the company requires more capital in future, how will this be provided?
  • Will the investor/partner become a director of the company?

Getting to Know HTML

New online technology seems to be developed almost daily, however the basic standards and principles of HTML have been relatively unchanged over the past decade. Should you possess the determination (and a free text editor) you could still create your own website from scratch by following the basic principles of HTML and referencing a dictionary of the tags and rules to use. Thankfully you won’t need to go to this extreme, however it is still good to have a basic understanding of HTML and how your site is structured and built. Here’s what you need in getting to know HTML:

What is HTML?
HTML is short for “Hypertext Markup Language” and in current programming standards it is used to deliver the content of a web page. In earlier web development, HTML was also used to dictate how each page would look from a style and presentation point of view, however this is now the job of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), bringing more flexibility to the way websites are built and altered in future. Both HTML and CSS are text files of code and are stored on your web server; when a page is opened using a web browser (like Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox etc), that browser reads the text files and displays the page on screen according to the commands given in these files.

View the source code of any web page and you will see the HTML code used to build the page and structure the content shown. This code consists of many tag pairs that are used to “mark up” your content, and are always lowercase, with angle brackets, and are followed by a “closing tag”. For example:

<h1>This is a main heading</h1>

<h1>is the “heading 1” tag and tells your browser that the text in between these tag pairs is an important heading on that page (more important than a <h2> or <h3> heading etc). Underneath a heading tag, you may have a paragraph tag which indicates a paragraph of text as follows:

<p>This is an example paragraph.</p>

The point of these tags is to organise your page content “semantically”, giving meaning to all of that information within headings, paragraphs, subheadings, and a hierarchy that both helps users navigate your content, and search engines display it according to relevance. For example, a keyword within a <h1> heading should indicate that this page and topic has much more relevance to that particular keyword that a keyword mentioned briefly within a paragraph further down the page. Search engines can use this information to rank pages and content for relevance.

CSS can then be used to work together with this content and present it in a more visually appealing format, dictating different fonts, bolds, italics, and colours specified within the CSS code to be applied to the content within the HTML code.

Take a Look Behind the Page
Go to any web page and select “View Source” in your web browser, and you will see the source code used to build that page. At first glance this might seem overly complicated, however once you know what you are looking at, you will see a structure and format that is quite simple and elegantly presented.

The first couple of lines on a page give the web browser information about the page’s format, and then underneath this you will find the entire code of the page within thetag pair. This tag pair contains two main sections; theandtag pairs. The head contains thetags, which is the name of each page displayed in your browser tab, and thetags, which are used as a description of the web page. Within the body tags you’ll find all of the content of the web page, including the <h1>heading and paragraph tags we discussed above.

CSS for Presentation
As we discussed above, the CSS is used to instruct the browser how to render each HTML tag, and thus controls the look and feel of the site. CSS files are usually kept in a separate text file and linked to you HTML file with a line of code such as:

In the above, you would replace “mywebsite.css” with the actual name of your CSS file saved on your server, and this file will contain a series of rules that are used to apply that style to each particular part of your HTML page.

Learning how to write a CSS file is beyond the scope of this brief introduction, but it does not have to be overly complicated; it is simply a way of dictating which style rules (chosen by you) apply to each particular part of your HTML on your web pages. Should you wish you get more hands-on with HTML and CSS there are plenty of free and paid instructional guides and videos available online, and http://www.codecademy.com/ may be a good starting point.

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