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horse and shopping cart

Putting The Cart Before The Horse

It's called a horse and cart for a reason - the horse gets put on the front of a cart and pulls the cart along. So, in the context of developing a website, where would you expect a shopping cart to be put?

Completely Cart About Face

There is a natural order to most things in life and developing a website is no exception. This week we discussed, with a prospect, the possibility of developing a website that could promote and take bookings for a villa in Spain. This, in itself, wasn't that uncommon yet nor was one of the stated requirements.

Online Availability And Online Booking

We hear this a lot. There is a belief and a certainty from many prospects that their website should not only market and promote the business but should also convert visits into very real business. The website for the villa was no exception as "it needs to have an availability and booking calendar online" so that the villa owner didn't have to get involved with the sale; the hope and the belief was that the website would do everything for them.

Sales Process Automation

A website can, indeed, convert visitors into buyers and manage the entire sales process without any human involvement; however, making this happen calls for a great deal of effort because the website owner is then required to think of everything the Customer could possibly want during that sales process. In other words, to have a website "do everything for me" takes a great deal of effort up-front - unfortunately, this notion of less work tends to attract those who don't want to have to put the initial work in. Inevitably, it's not long before the follow-on statement appears:

I don't want to spend a lot of time and effort on the website initially but, if it takes off then I'm willing to invest in the website. Nothing makes a web developer bring a meeting to a swift conclusion more quickly than a phrase like this.

In such a scenario, what the prospect is really telling the web designer is that they neither have little confidence in their own property nor the Web. The Web has proven itself as a genuinely unmatched medium for letting marketers find and then exploit their niche to the widest possible marketplace. This lack of confidence manifests itself in the perception and the desire to harvest all the goodies the Web has to offer built upon an unwillingness to put in the effort up-front.

The Horse Goes At The Front, The Cart Goes At The Back

Buying a cart and expecting it to go someplace or do something worthwhile without first having invested in the means (i.e. the horse) to take it someplace is, to put it frankly, simply backwards.

So many prospects appear to assume that the most important thing for their website to do is to have a shopping cart or booking system on it that'll automatically convert visits into sales or bookings with minimal effort. The prospect that thinks like this is likely to be labouring under the assumption that simply because they've put their cash register or till online that sales will automatically happen.

You may have the fanciest checkout on your website but if you have nobody in the shop it's a total waste of time and effort. Before the cart comes the horse; you need to get people into the shop first before you can sell them something. Making the smallest-possible investment up-front with the stated intention that further investment will be made if sales happen is totally back-to-front thinking.

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Sub@omic is an independent web consultancy developing cognitive designer websites, based in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, UK