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Twitter celebrates 558th birthday of the Gutenberg Bible

Making IT Big

When it comes to specifying a website a phrase we consistently hear prospects utter is "I don't want a lot" yet, frequently, their expectation is that this little website of theirs will dominate the Web. What "I don't want a lot" actually translates into "I don't want to spend a lot", this blog post pokes a stick into the soft underbelly of return on investment and ponders the issue of making IT big.

Making IT Big

Last month a notable quantity of retweets appeared in my Twitter timeline which let me know that it was the anniversary of the printing of The Gutenberg Bible, thought to be the first printed and published book. The book stands as a mighty metaphor for what it takes to make it big. Because in order to print the book in the first place, Johannes Gutenberg had to design then build his printing press and develop moveable type (arguably the catalyst for what became known as The Gutenberg Revolution). The book itself is not only recognised for being the first but amongst the the best ever books, praised for both design layout and binding craftsmanship, the book has an iconic status and the editions which survive are considered to rank amongst the most valuable books in the world.

The Gutenberg Bible, of which an estimated 180 copies were printed, is thought to have taken over 3 years to print and bind. Were it not for the development of moveable type books would continue to have been written by monks and scribes and individual copies would have taken years to create. For me, The Gutenberg Bible represents the start of the industrial revolution and kick-started the process of mass manufacture.

Challenging convention

Printing, specifically the advent of movable type, rapidly propelled a knowledge transfer which brought about a very real change in the way we lived our lives, making knowledge more easily accessible to anyone that could read and acquire knowledge in book-form. Reading books imparted knowledge and, therefore, power to individuals. Centuries-old class divisions began to break down as individuals from all walks of life shared thoughts, acted upon them and challenged convention.

The second revolution

Since the evolution of print there has been just one other revolution that can compare to it: the creation of the worldwide web. Shortly after reading those tweets about the anniversary of the Gutenberg Bible I was doing some research for a conference presentation to owners of print businesses, I wanted to compare and contrast print with the Web. What struck me was just how similar was the effort required of Tim Berners-Lee in building the Web to that which Johannes Gutenberg needed to show how the production of books may be scaled.

Inventing the Web

The creation and adoption of the Web is as significant to the knowledge and development of humanity as was the introduction of printing. A clue to the scale of TBL's vision is in the name: the worldwide web. Many will know TBL as the inventor of HTML but what most people won't appreciate is that in order to create his vision he had to do so much more: he had to develop the first web browser as well as the first web server, he wrote the specifications of URIs and HTTP as well as inventing HTML.

Return on investment

Gutenberg & Berners-Lee thought big and made impacts that lasted and will last well-beyond their lifetimes. I fully appreciate that building a website doesn't compare to the enormity of building the Web from scratch yet it appears to me that so many prospective website owners out there harbour and nurture a notion that if they launch a website they can be as big as Google (because Google's just a website, right?)

When writing about return on investment for a website, the kind of investment I'm focused upon is the investment of time and resource required to make a hit website and not the kind of investment that's required to settle one of my invoices.

To make IT big, think big

I write here about sales 'prospects' and not Customers being the types of people who routinely tell me I don't want a lot because people who don't want (to spend) a lot simply aren't thinking big enough in order to be able to realise a website that's as big and powerful as their dreams. People who aren't able to think big don't end up being Customers of ours.

I know Steve and I have spoken on this subject many times. In synopsis: why do so many people expect big budget results from small budget spend? It never fails to amaze me that people have no idea of what they want to achieve with their website, simply seeing it as something that you "have to have" rather than as a tool to achieve an aim. Being simplistic, I simply see a website as a tool; it is a hammer that you hit a nail with. So for example, if you want a website to sell your products as well as person would, expect to spend at least the order of magnitude of money as a person would cost. Or in other words, you won't generate many sales from a £250 website! Expect to spend a bit more than this. This is one of my definitions of insanity now: spending next to nothing but expecting big returns. It just won't happen.
Steve is just oh so right, most people in my experience simply want a website because "well, you've got to have a website don't you?". My answer is "no actually you don't. You need one if you have a job for it to perform, so what is that?".
guy avatarguy30th November 1999Whether you're looking for print and copy; worldwide parcel delivery, courier or postal services; mailbox rental or a virtual office package, you can trust the experts at Mail Boxes Etc.
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