Thursday, May 21, 2009

Venda On The Isle of Man - A Rant

I was going to sign up and post this over at Manx Forums but I figure what the hell, why waste good content on a website I don't own? (It's the little details that make the difference between a successful website and one with no traffic ;))

It seems that sarcasm is well above some people and that this little post was taken literally. I thought the give away would have been the suggestion that a bunch of Manx retailers group together to take on Amazon. Nobody see the sarcasm in that? I guess not because my little rantings and ravings have somehow been taken very seriously and been presented in a way to defend the whole Venda situation.

So just to clear things up for those that are not technically minded here's some straight forward opinion about the whole Venda on the Isle of Man situation.

What is Venda? It's a hosted service that lets you easily build shopping websites. Each website is hosted by Venda and for this you pay them money. Simple as that.

Is Venda unique? Absolutely not. There are literally hundreds of competitors for what Venda offers. Some hosted, some you can install on your own server. Some cost money but many are free. AS FAR AS I'M CONCERNED VENDA HAVE NO USP.

Could local IT suppliers offer what Venda offers? There is no need for them to. Web applications are easy peasy to program, any developer worth his salt could knock out a shopping based CMS but why bother? Why re-invent the wheel when there are so many free or cheap (globally recognised and top of their game) systems out there that can easily be altered to suit any retailers requirements. Plug this into a rich content website and you stand a chance. Every Manx web company can or should be able to easily do this.

Will Venda make Manx retailers more money? I doubt it. Having a website that creates a profit requires so much much than just chucking a shopping site on the web. The retailers will need the support of experts in the field of internet marketing to stand any chance online. In that regard Venda is simply an added expense with no ROI. Hosting doesn't cost £50 a month.

Was I impressed with what I saw in the backend of Venda? Not really. The only bit I liked was the template wizard, but they are 10 a penny these days anyway. The most alarming side was the complete lack of integration in the stock management side. Retailers will sign up on the promise of the all-in-one hands off Venda solution and end up spending hours dicking around with spreadsheets. The presentation I witnessed made a strong point of emphasising the SEO benefits of Venda and yet when I searched for the clients website they were using as an example using some popular target phrases they were nowhere to be found. Submitting a sitemap doesn't cut it I'm afraid.

Could this be done better? Absolutely. I have no invested interest in this at all. I'd certainly not be bidding on the work, screw that. But there is a chance here to create an optimised, working community of websites for small retailers on the Isle of Man. It could be done with a fraction of the money the DTI are about to give Venda. Use the money and give it to local IT companies so that the retailers can have their websites not only setup but also marketed and managed for them. Any IT companies not up to the task or any retailers whose products aren't a success online get pulled. Not all websites are profitable - fact. Use the resources of the Isle of Man, use various web developers, various hosting companies (with different IP's, not all stuck under Venda) and knit it altogether in an online community that leverages the links and traffic in the best possible way. This is how networks of related websites naturally grow on the web and this is what is needed to ensure traffic for the retailer’s shops.

So does that clear things up? I see Venda as nothing but a huge waste of money brought on by a clever sales pitch and the usual government consultants throwing opinions around on things that they don't have the first bloody clue about. Also see the need to upgrade to Vista and the cutting edge accounting system sold on the basis that "it works like Excel" as further examples. The end.

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