this is actually a valid question and a question that is not always adequately answered.

ignore the face-palming reactions, (usually from those on the millennial side of the age spectrum). this is a valid concern. websites cost money. what is the benefit?

the first myth to banish is the idea that a fancy website with expensive seo and google adwords is going to generate a ton of leads. this may have been true in 1980s and even 1990s, but not now so much. the internet has matured a lot since then. hardly anybody phones in and offers to give you business based on your website pizzazz anymore.

websites that do generate business and income are often a product in themselves, such as online retail. even these do not sell themselves. they have to be marketed as a destination.

so why should bob the builder, fred the plumber or beans-r-us accounting practice go to all the expenses and bother of getting a website?

one word: credibility!

before people and potential new clients take the perceived risk of contacting you, the very first thing they always do is check out your - you guessed it - website!

your public website is your shop front, your window display, your in-store layout, your signage, your office decor, your business's face to the world. it defines what your business is about. it tells your audience how to find you. the look-and-feel of your main website implies the character and personality of your business. your website defines what sort of reception your new clients can expect when they do make the choice of contacting you.

use the website to display your products (if you have any) or tell the stories of what the business has achieved so far (if you have a service business). always include pricing. this is essential. most people would rather go elsewhere than ask what something costs. people need to know what they are 'in for' before they take the ego-risk of contacting you.

for a really powerful website presence, devise a website that actually does something and gives away some value for free. either regular information give-aways or some functional experience, such as on-line quotes and estimators. a lot of people may well use these give-aways without contacting you right away. however, with every visit your brand becomes more and more imprinted as they use your service and people talk to each other, giving you free advertising.

key consideration to getting a website is not just the build and launch, but the ongoing support after it has been launched. this is an aspect often forgotten and overlooked by website service providers.

many a business finds themselves stranded after the original developer disappears, joins another company, or generally loses interest and becomes uncooperative. websites, as with all software, need changes, updates and maintenance. make sure the original developer is committed to supporting your business for the long haul. if they will not, then find a new company.

anyone who has done it knows selling courier is a complex business.

volumetrics, rate tables, route tables, international documentation, local considerations, cross-border vs. international, dangerous goods,...(who would have thought lip balm could bring down an airplane?), prohibited goods, documents vs. non-documents, regional vs main centres .... and a lot more besides.

as a seller of retail courier, (i was a postnet franchise holder at the time), we regularly lost 30% of our courier profit to mistakes, misquotes, incorrect charging and misunderstandings. trying to accurately correlate 4 different files of printed material while looking after 3 customers at once was too much.

i solved this issue by implementing a simple but effective online courier rate calculator that did just that - presenting accurately calculated options for sending any item anywhere. a courier sale went from a long, cumbersome and error-prone process to a quick, easy and accurate one. the staff loved it. stress levels plummeted, real (courier) income soared.

it was not long before the franchise head-office noticed it. with a little rework it is now deployed country wide across some 370+ branches delivering the same benefits across the network. that was 9 years ago. since then it has been reworked numerous times, but is still - essentially - the same solution.

i am no longer a postnet sa franchisee, as i now do this full-time. while still supporting my 'first born', the courier rate calculator i have implemented numerous similar systems. a mail box rental manager, a single sign-on solution, an internal company notice and discussion boards, an online training system, a franchisee management system, digital catalogues and delivery systems, user management, and a lot more besides. and that is just for postnet sa.

i have also had the privilege of implementing the entire back-end to the startup, cars one 100, a promising phone app that will be worth watching out for. as an online solution i have also developed and support the equally promising amathuba offering that redeems flash vouchers for data packages.

all these implementations are simple, profitable online solutions that are truly easy to use, (they are all web pages, after all!), that derive measurable benefit and are uncomplicated. because they are online, they can used anywhere, on any device that supports an internet connection.

just because they are online, however, does not mean they have to be on the world wide web. most of these systems are strictly 'internal use only', sitting behind a secure login portal. inaccessible to the general populace, invisible to search engines.

Freedom from Spreadsheet Hell

The ubiquitous spreadsheet certainly has it’s advocates, especially in the financial industry, all for very good reason. The power, ease-of-use and versatility of Excel, Google Docs and other such tools are beyond question. In many, if not most, situations a laptop and spreadsheet is all you need.

Realistically, however, any reasonable person would recognise that spreadsheets have their limitations. Spreadsheets are built for versatility and ease-of-use and are not optimised for data flow and storage. To build, as some assert, a robust and dynamic website or web-app using a spreadsheet as a major component is simply not feasible. Even if one were to get it to work, it would work very, very badly.

HughesTech online systems and functional websites, however, are really good at working with spreadsheets. They often read from some external data source automatically creating fully formatted and complete .XLSX workbook. Formulae, graphs, colour and layout all catered for. Complete workbooks are used directly as input as well, without the need for CSV exporting and importing.

Workbook to database, database to workbook, workbook to workbook (with reformatting and processing), many workbooks to a single workbook, a single workbook to many different workbooks, with automatic distribution to many destination email addresses. All quite doable, along with many other options.

Another, quite common situation is where a spreadsheet simply outgrows itself. The pure size of the workbook and data rows it contains begin to render it increasingly unusable. The most sensible option in this situation would be to convert the spreadsheet system to a HughesTech functional website.

The fact that the system or process was and is currently a spreadsheet, however, is a significant advantage. The process itself has already been designed and developed using the spreadsheet, making the development of the custom system a conversion exercise rather than a complete, brand new, development. All the current data, is naturally already in the spreadsheet. One would simply upload it to the online system server extract process which would be uploaded and automatically load the new online system database.