Question :
I am planning to launch an education services business in the new year. The business plan is fairly well advanced and I am happy with the progress made so far. My question is regarding the website that I am having built. A friend is doing it for “mates rates” and it looks pretty good but I am now thinking that I want to get some comparisons in terms of quality control and pricing. I know how to find a builder or painter but how do I find a website developer? Also, the current website design has all the standard features – home page, faqs, contact etc. However, it was suggested to me that it should also have a facility for customers to pay via the website. This will be an added expense but would it be advisable to get this added before going live? ie. would it be good value for money? It is worth noting that my original plan was more of a “side-hustle” with minimal financial outlay required. I am now of the opinion that it is worth thinking a bit bigger and that getting a more complex website will add value even though the upfront cost would be bigger. Finally, what about an app for phones that connect to the website. That was also suggested. Do you think that is something that could wait until the business is showing signs of success (to minimise my initial financial outlay).

Question submitted 24/09/20 @ 11:00pm
Industry: Digital and Technology
  • Up

    Others will jump on the aspects around the web, and how you do this.

    I am a big believer in being iterative, and building on a hypothesis that is grounded in assumption combined with feedback – so I try to avoid to much assumption before I have feedback from my market. I like to ‘come up with the idea’ validate a bit, and then go into testing it, understanding whether my hunch has any resonance, because all I am looking to do is find out where to start on my vision and path – where there is pain and/or an opportunity – and then from there I start to build the relationship, build the engagement, and think about what other features they want, need. I try to avoid being too complex from day one.

    A couple of good articles to read for you that have helped me and others

    Think about this – you are ‘powered by our vision’ or ‘dream’ of what you want to do – but then you need to flip into the present, the now and what your market wants, needs right now – and you build to that. Eat the Elephant one small mouthful at a time. Keep lean, keep hungry, don’t spend much until you actually know ‘you have something’ then go like the clappers and spend the money if you are confident you know what the market wants, don’t just add stuff because people think it would be a good idea.

    Hope that helps.


    Hi there,

    Some options for you to chat to:


    Matthew Miller

    Home page



    Good luck


    Hi there,

    I’m aligned with Andy’s commentary. I’d add that keeping things simple will be your friend in the early days. Building the website and e-commerce options should be simple, super cheap and fast to execute on. There’s a girth of off the shelf tools that can get you up and running in no time. We use Squarespace a lot for both our own website and some of the simpler client website needs. It’s easy to use, update and add content to as a non web expert. These are the types of platforms I’d recommend.

    But first up is understanding your potential customers needs and wants. What pain points exist today that aren’t being serviced by your competition. What’s the gap. If you haven’t done so already create a short topic guide, questionnaire or survey (surveymonkey is a good platform) and speak to potential customers. You’ll start to see emerging themes and key challenges they face in the space you’re looking to fill with your business idea. You can also broach the subject of e-commerce and the app route (I’d hold off on that initially tbh) and any other burning questions you have about your route to market.

    These insights will provide you with initial views to help you prioritize the features you offer and how you prop up the first iteration of your product/service.

    Finally, I’d suggest you take an mvp (minimum viable product) mindset. Start small: launch, learn, iterate, test, iterate etc. Consider launching the product with a small cohort of customers to get initial feedback and to iron out the bumps in your initial product/service offering.

    Good luck with it all,


    Hi Mark

    You’re getting some great advice here.

    In time you’ll find that getting the tech right for your solution will possibly be easier than growing your business (identifying target customers, understanding why they might buy, communicating with them, retaining them etc).

    With the iterative approach explained above you can get the real hard work (understanding customers and building a potential customer base) underway early. Some well respected proponents of MVP methodologies will even suggest getting a website up as a simple landing page with a sign up form as a way to gauge interest before anything else is built or you have a service ready to sell.

    It’s worth considering the platform that is being used for the site and seeing how expandable it is for future potential such as selling subscriptions, private content areas, customer accounts. However, with the many tools available with out of the box solutions it’s not the end of the world to switch platforms as often the slowest part of the process is getting the content together. It only becomes more of an issue if you have created something very bespoke for a niche application that requires custom development.

    The mates rates path is a well worn one we’ve seen for websites and typically one party loses interest quickly unless there is some ongoing benefit for both parties (contra value, $$$$ or true love!). Often we see the mate doing the web work loses interest in the ongoing refinement while the founder is still fully motivated to go hard. I’m mentoring someone at the moment who did a contra for a website set up in exchange for trade services but the website requirement is ongoing while the trade requirement has ended for the web developer and the pace of website developments completed has slowed to a point of true frustration.

    Regarding the app, this is an area where I’d leave until later unless it was absolutely essential. e.g. I can use Trademe via the website fine and there’s a few conveniences of using the app on my phone but its not essential. I used to lead an app programme in a former career and you need a crack team to do good apps and some good cash to keep them running well due to the rate of change of mobile devices.

    My brother wrote this article last week which is very relevant fro your question on finding a developer: https://www.rocketspark.com/blog/post/260/how-to-choose-a-web-designer-for-your-business/. The 3rd paragraph about the designer disappearing very much relates the the mates rates!

    This is also a simple guide with 5 simple points on what to look for in an effective home page which might help you assess the situation: https://www.rocketspark.com/roadmap/

    All the best for your launch!

    Kind regards



    Thank you to everyone for the prompt and detailed responses. I will now spend some time considering the points you raise. It highlights an issue that I have been thinking about – it’s not the absence of expertise on offer, but the absence of sufficient hours in the day.
    Thanks again 🙂

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