Step 5. A New Way
Dixon & Adamson:
Now it’s time to show the customer the solution, a point by point view of the specific capabilities they would need to have to benefit from the opportunity to make money, save money & mitigate risk that you are presenting.
However, step 5 is about the solution, not about the supplier. It’s about showing customers how much better their lives would be if they just acted differently. You’re looking for your customer to say something like, ‘you’re right that makes total sense, that’s what we need to do’ or ‘that’s the kind of company I want us to be.’
So far, in this chapter, we have identified several problems. We shall begin by looking at them one by one and add some finer detail before presenting solutions.
1. There seems to be no web framework (at the scale we are working to) that can simply and easily create a complete website created by people with no knowledge of web design or programming.
2. Large custom-built websites often lack ‘Wow & Awe’ and rarely have the design standards of the most cutting-edge WordPress themes.
3. Most CMS components created for staff use are poorly designed and boring and as neuroscientist John Medina confirms: “When the brain deems something uninteresting, it will disengage from it.”
4. Websites created initially for desktop have different navigation and functionality to how it would be best to create a mobile website in the first place.
5. Smaller web developers, who live locally in your place of business, can copy your work and create competing business (as what has happened to us on 3 occasions).
6. Web development companies can look very good on line but perform terribly with CMSs and complex systems.
7. Changing web developers can be challenging, as more often than not, a new company will want to create a new website. In the same way they say in building; “it’s cheaper to build a new house than it is to renovate an old one.’ It’s easier for developers to create a new site than work with another developer’s code.
8. Software created initially for desktops needs a different workflow on mobile or when creating Apps.
9. All-purpose multi discipline software products such as Zoho
The Zoho system provides accounting, a website, a CMS, a CRM & other functions. But other than maybe their accounting, each system is always second best to industry leaders. Their websites are nowhere near the standard of WordPress, they have limited CRM functionality compared to Salesforce, and a CMS and workflow that is uninspired.
For more complex integration, one needs an expert to set it up, which can take months and cost $$$$; and connecting to an existing website requires a skilled PHP programmer to make the API.
10. Software, Websites, and the problem with APIs
Software products like Salesforce CRM and Sage Accounting need to be connected to a website’s database via an API; which requires specialist programming, is complicated, and is the wrong way to run a web-based company.
If your software is primarily there to support your website, then the software should be part of the website. The more APIs one creates for vital data or variables, the harder and more complicated a system becomes.
10 ‘New Way’ Solutions
We shall start with point 10, and work backwards presenting ‘a new way’ for each problem.
Problem 10. Software, Websites, and the problem with APIs
Below, we see an ultra-simplified way that one would connect 4 different systems together using APIs.
1. A CRM such as Salesforce that improves a sales person’s organization and communications such as Email.
2. Financial software such as Sage Accounting, which in this scenario we create as the master accounting tool and so responsible for price. Although any of these systems could be the master system for price, and that’s what makes it complicated. There is often a choice of many systems that could be the master for one variable or another, instead of one central database, one has four (or more given more separate software systems).
3. The website, which in this case we are attributing the initial enquiry data to.
4. Connections to PMSs (property management systems) that provide availability (the dates).
The problem with this picture is that there are many master controllers. If one were to add a new system, say marketing software by Marketo, it would need to fetch data from 4 different sources. And to get the most out of it, all the other systems would need to fetch data from it. The more systems you add, the more different master controllers of different data you have. There is no single place to connect to. Then if you wish to add concierge software such as Gold Key, the same problem again. And each time you add another system, it creates another layer of problems.
In addition, we need to remember we are looking at a very simple view; each system could have 1,000 different functions that all need to be recorded in one database table or another.
Programming in this way is greatly affected by the law of diminishing returns, as the more software and the more functions per software item, the more you add to the complexity and the less efficient it becomes. There is no magic wand, eventually it will become so complex that development will grind to a halt, as programmers spend most of their days trying to remember where this database table or that database table is, and which API is the master for which functions in the first place. Even the most organised of development teams can only get so far with this method of system architecture.
And of course, there is no way to make this work together on mobile at all. Not in a way that is useful. Instead, one would need to swop between the different software apps.
However, in 2015, in the early days of the S-Web framework, this was the way we were going to create the software, connecting over a dozen different pieces of software, seen here in over 5 hours of video:
It’s not that this was a bad solution, it would be an awful lot better than no solution. But it’s light years away from ‘limited only by our imaginations.’
So, what is the solution?
“If your software is primarily to support your website, it needs to be a part of your website, contained within the web framework.”
This solution started to emerge in the Autumn of 2015, as a part of a deal on hiring another senior programmer, I was given an intern programmer for 6 months for free. And I experimented with the intern on integrating software directly into our website, specifically the magnificently complex ‘Magic Menus.’
Unfortunately, in the end, we did not use the system. But that’s not the point, the point is to work with an intern with a degree in computer science but no experiences on developing complex software including the multiple APIs needed. I needed a different way to work. I could not just give a list of functions, as that would create code that only he could fathom.
So, I created a new way of working with programmers that I called ‘CMS Logic,’ which demanded for every variable and database input. We would create a new CMS page, which I could use to adjust every action. But more importantly, it reminded me and the programmer where everything was in the first place; cos, believe me, by the time you have programme hundreds of variables into multiple APIs, it gets hard to remember where everything is, and is much harder for a senior programmer to oversee and add to when necessary.
Over time, ‘CMS Logic’ developed into the S-Web CMS Framework. At first, we improved the basic CMS function of adding a product. Then we thought, let’s do this to the homepage as well, and then we thought to create a CMS for every front-end page for the website; created in a simpler way than any other webpage building CMS we have seen, as instead of webpage elements, we created the CMS as a finished page, and just allowed users to swop text and pictures. Which basically meant that not only could a complete novice at web design create the whole website without assistance, they would do so at least 10 times faster than a trained WordPress or other web designer could.
We shall get back to this later…
Creating the system per ‘CMS Logic’ enabled us to start to add the pieces of software that we wanted from external systems directly into the S-Web Framework, and the original idea of having many different systems linking to our website via APIs turned into creating the functions we need from the software directly into our CMS Framework.
In the graphic below, which instead of the 4 systems seen in the previous example, we see 10 systems. If you compare the graphics, you can clearly see the unrivalled simplicity of all systems fetching from just the one database.
In this scenario, we are highlighting one of the database tables essential to all systems, ‘The Price,’ which is created by either the website CMS Framework or the PMS, and all other systems fetch from a single database, or actually 2. But the point is it’s easy to work out where the price is.
Only by working in this way can one create complex systems in a way that challenges the law of diminishing returns created from accessing vital data from multiple APIs, as one simply goes to the master database.
And remember, what we are seeing above is a very simplified view of just 10 systems and only one variable, ‘The Price.’ To imagine the scale of the entire system, a quote from Anthony Hopkins in Meet Joe Black comes to mind:
“Multiply it by infinity, and take it to the depth of forever, and you will still have barely a glimpse of what I’m talking about.”
One simply can’t begin to do this with a bunch of different system created by different teams, all threaded together by a bunch of APIs.
If one were to be objective however, or play devil’s advocate, one may hear the argument that creating the software from scratch (like Salesforce) needs tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars in R&D funding; and anything less would not be to the same standard. This assumption would be correct if we tried to make a CRM for everyone and every industry.
But as we are going industry by industry, we don’t need to recreate Salesforce. We only need CRM elements that are suitable for running a vacation rentals company. And in fact, because we are only focusing on this as a starting point, we can build a far superior CRM to Salesforce (suited to a specific industry niche) for a fraction of the price; as is explained soon in ‘Our Solution’ and in Chapter 14. S-World TBS™ (Total Business Systems).
Problem 9. All-purpose multi discipline software products such as Zoho
The Zoho system provides accounting, a website, a CMS, a CRM & other functions; but other than maybe their accounting, each system is always second best to industry leaders. Their websites are nowhere near the standard of WordPress. They have limited CRM functionality compared to Salesforce , and a CMS and workflow that is uninspired.
For more complex integration, one needs an expert to set it up, which can take months and cost $$$$; and connecting to existing websites require a skilled PHP programmer to make the API.
Solution: The Solution to the above is exactly the same as the solution to the last two points. One needed to create the software as a part of the web framework, not as separate items. But with added emphasis on each system, individually needing to be either equal to the next best thing or better than it, for the specific industry niche it has been created for.
Problem 8. Software created initially for desktops needs a different workflow on mobile or when creating Apps.
Solution: This one is simple. Don’t start with a design for desktop, start with a design for mobile, then adapt the desktop to the mobile. (This is known as ‘Mobile First’ design.)
Problem 7. Changing web developers can be challenging, more often than not, a new company will want to create a new website.
In the same way they say in building, “it’s cheaper to build a new house than it is to renovate an old one.” It’s easier for developers to create a new site than work with another developer’s code.
Solution: Don’t hire developers or use development companies, be part of a disruptive technology company and pay a reasonable 2.5% royalty for their continued support and development.
Problem 6. Web development companies can look very good online but perform terribly with CMSs and complex systems.
Solution: Make sure you see an example of a CMS or complex system created by a developer before trusting them. With the best will in the world, nowadays, it’s very simple to make a great looking WordPress website. But when it comes to creating custom CMSs and software, it’s a totally different ballgame.
Problem 5. Smaller web developers, who live locally in your place of business, can copy your work and create competing business (as what has happened to us on 3 occasions).
Solution: One can incentivise developers with equity or profit share, or one can outsource development to India, the Philippines, or Eastern Europe to get access to ‘pound for pound’ much better programmers and developers who are much more work focused. Alternatively, just work with a big and respected firm with a portfolio of work that is equal to your ambitions.
Problem 4. Websites created initially for desktop have different navigation and functionality to how it would be best to create a mobile website in the first place.
Solution: Same as point 9, work ‘Mobile First.’ Or create a separate App entirely, and work backwards from the App design to create it on mobile.
Problem 3. Most CMS components created for staff use are poorly designed and boring, and as neuroscientist John Medina confirms: “When the brain deems something uninteresting, it will disengage from it.”
Solution: Demand more from your web or software developers, ask that they treat the back-end systems of your website with the same level of design and functionality as front-end systems. One will be surprised just how far and how much you can do with a CMS if one treats it with the same respect given to the homepage.
Problem 2. Large custom-built websites often lack ‘Wow & Awe’ and rarely have the design standards of the most cutting-edge WordPress themes.
Solution: Again, demand more from web designers and developers. There is nothing that can be created in WordPress that can’t be created and improved upon in a custom web framework. Although it may take a couple of years to get it right.
Alternately, again go with a respected large web development firm who within their online portfolio has a website just like you want, who can show you a working CMS and can reassure you about their ability to create software within the website. But be prepared for a plus $1miiilion starting price for a project anywhere near what we are presenting.
However, by far, the most practical solution and definitely the most economic, is to take all that is ‘wow & awe’ about the most up to date cutting-edge WordPress designs and recraft it into a web framework that one can use again and again; creating each time a website with the looks, or even better looks than WordPress, but within a framework that is custom-built for the task, that can add software straight into the core of the system.
Problem 1. There seems to be no web framework at the scale we are working to that can simply and easily create a complete website, created by people with no knowledge of web design or programming.
Solution: One would need a completely different way of creating websites instead of working like WordPress where one has a theme, which one can customize, adding this widget and that widget to make up a page. And then adding complex plugins such as the Advanced Layer Slider seen here at the top of the page from our WordPress blog: http://blog.villasecrets.com/blog/stefan-antoni-cape-town-villas-in-south-africa.
Instead, one needs to really simplify the process. For a start, the idea of adding various elements, widgets, and plugins to a page has got to be thrown out the window. And in their place instead, just present the user with a page that is already complete, and simply get them to swop the text and pictures.
It’s that simple.
Of course, it not as versatile as WordPress, it does not have thousands of different themes, not yet, but this is part of the simplicity, not 10,000 themes, just a few for now. But, so what if your theme is better than all competitors, is a dream on mobile, and has all the connectivity advantages presented earlier enabling the simple creation of complex and original software?
I’m reminded of a quote from Chris Cox, the Facebook Chief Product Officer:
“We built a product that boiled down and removed all of those features, except for one thing, which was tagging it! So, we organised the photos on the web around people, and it completely changed the experience, “That was (click) just like that!”
It’s the same principle, you don’t need all that. So why make it a part of the framework? For non-designers, one only needs to see complete pages, then add or swop the content, then it’s simple. And not only can it be done by just about anyone, it can be done 10 times faster.
For instance, to create a website not for a vacation rental or estate agency but for a single property; if one already had the text and photos prepared, one could create a complete beautiful 20-page website for a standalone villa in just a handful of hours.
Try asking any WordPress developer how much of a website they could create in just a handful of hours?
And this point comes full circle to our mandate marketing initiative and why few can copy it; as for it to be effective, one has to make every dollar count, and spending $$$$ on this website and paying god knows how much to design coffee table books would just burn up the money. To Win in mandate and prestige marketing, you need to make your bucks count more than double, and this is just one of many advantages of thinking simple, clever, different, and always disruptive.