SEO when to start working on it?

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It is very important to figure out what is the right time to get started on the “SEO” for the website. It is never too early to start. Before even going into the “Design Phase” it is best to think about “SEO” as well. Of course you can always add keywords and description meta tags. But google also wants to see how many of your key words actually shows up on your page content and how many times – that is the basis of the content keyword for Google. So if you want your web page to show up on certain type of search results you need to keep that in mind while you are designing the webpage layouts and figuring out the web page contents.

The rate at which google will crawl your page also depends on how many websites are linked to your site. If you are going to be launching a new website it is going to take some time before there are links to your website on the internet. In that situation – you should keep in mind that google does not cache your pre-beta version – as it will take time before google decides to crawl your page again and caches the actual live version.

If you want your website to show up under some key word search results – it is important to incorporate the key words in the tagline, on the page content, on the page title and so on. This is extremely important for the google’s content keyword relevance. It is a good idea even to use the Rich Snippet – that way you will have control on what is shown as snippet when google returns the search results.

In the next post we will go over how to work with Rich Snippet!

PS: I know this is a deviation from the outsourcing topic, but I think it is best to cover both in parallel. We made a mistake of not worrying about “SEO” during our design and development phase – and I did not want people to repeat the same so I am going to cover SEO and Development Phase in parallel.

Setting up Helidigizen

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While we were going through the design and development phases for Toysshare.com – we realized that working with an outsourcing company had to be handled a lot differently then working with an in house development team. As we moved through the Toysshare.com we got fairly aware of things that you need to keep in mind while you are working with an outsourcing company – and it eventually became a usual practice for us.

At that point we decided we should form a consultation firm “Helidigizen” – that can help people go through the outsourcing process.  Essentially helping companies get their idea executed to a final product but guiding them through all the steps from defining SOW, getting in touch with right outsourcing company,  and helping them out with the communication and execution during all the following steps,

  1. Design Phase
  2. Development Phase
  3. Testing Phase
  4. Deployment Phase or Beta Launch

We take care of choosing the right outsourcing model, choosing the right company and all the midnight communication needed through the proper execution of the project for them. And since we have gone through the process our selves multiple times it comes naturally to us on how to get the best results from the outsourcing company for the money.

It makes complete sense to get the project executed through us for all as we work with the outsourcing company on a long term basis, we have a trust relationship already built with them. As a result we have a much easier communication channel with them. For the outsourcing company too as they are dealing with the same people frequently it just becomes much more simpler. We already have some standard procedures setup and they don’t have to keep on revising them for each of our clients. This way we can achieve the results much faster which translates into increased efficiency!!

Getting started on a Web App with an outsourcing company

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How do you get started once you have narrowed down the company and given them SOW – what is the next step?

Well we had an advantage that we were able to meet the project manager from the outsourcing company while we were there. That gave us a chance to discuss the SOW and clear out any doubts. Once things were put into perspective with timeline and milestones the real work started. I can see the project life cycle over 4 phases:

  1. Design Phase
  2. Development Phase
  3. Testing Phase
  4. Deployment Phase or Beta Launch

Please keep in mind that for the timeline and milestone to be met your input is very crucial in each phase. Especially the design phase as it is the base on how soon you can get to the next phase and keep on moving forward.

During the design phase they tried to design the logo, the color scheme for the website and a few important pages. We had defined our SOW in the terms of pages as well which made it a bit simpler for them to come up with the design for each page. They were able to provide us with a few options on logo/ color scheme and home page psd. Once we approved those the other few page designs were done. The best way to get the communication right at this point is to use the visuals. We created very basic wireframes most of them had drawn on the paper and give them reference to some websites that we liked the designs of. That made it very clear for them to understand what exactly were we looking for.

For each design that they submitted we were able to identify the elements that we liked and the elements that we thought should be changed. And we defined the changes with some visual reference making it easier for them to understand what we are looking for. One note here – it would be a good idea to identify all the message and confirmation text and put it into words for them – as the languages over different countries differs a lot and this way you have covered it at very first step.

It is very important to make sure that both the teams are on the same page in terms of design at this stage as – once everything is approved you go into development phase with the correct design in mind. Which will make development phase a breeze.

We will talk about what to keep in mind during the development phase in the next post.

Exploring multiple outsourcing options

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While we were deciding what is the best outsourcing option for us we went through meetings with different companies. From what I have observed during that process we can categorize the outsourcing options in below different categories

  1. Small Scale
  2. Medium Scale
  3. Large Scale
  4. Individual Free Lancer

Our elimination process worked in the following way -> Because we needed a fast turn around time we had to eliminate a couple of small scale companies as they could not start on the project right away. Some of the individual free lancer were available to start right away and were reasonable too – but the issue came down to they not being able to support our need for a design team. And once they would take up another project we were worried about the support we would get from them even after the project was over.

Now we were left with 2 options – Large Scale and Medium Scale companies. For a large scale company we were a small client and I was not sure if they would move around resources if they get some request from some of their regular big clients. And the last thing I wanted during the execution was change of the person in the middle of project.

Once we had narrowed down our search to Medium scale companies we met with a few of them and chose the one who had mostly work with US client and knew how quality mattered. Also influencing our decision was the communication and trust we got built up while meeting. They were ready to sign the NDA and they were able to provide the timeline and broken down hour structure for the project. And I am very happy to say they really were able to stuck to the timeline and deliver milestones along the way! They were also able to support us even after beta launch which was one of the most important thing for us.

Of course  during the project we did come across quite a few things that you would need to keep in mind while working with an outsourcing company – and we will be covering those within the next few posts.

 

Finding the right outsourcing company

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When you are trying to base the beginning of your completely new project on outsourcing – it becomes very important to choose the right outsourcing company.  You have to take few things into consideration,

1. Which model are you looking for:

Usually there are 3 different models that outsourcing companies follow:

  • Fixed Price
  • Per Hour rate
  • Per Month rate for individual developer

You can also get in touch with a freelancer to get your work done but I think you have to be extra careful in choosing the right candidate.

2. Do you have a scope of work defined and with what accuracy level

3. Do you have a basic design defined or you would need help on that as well

Going over the above questions in our case, we wanted to know in advance how much money we will be spending – so we were looking for a fixed price model.  And because we needed some help with designing as well – we eliminated the individual freelancers. At this point we were looking for a company who can execute our extremely well defined SOW into a reality. Just as a side note the SOW or scope of work is the most important thing in deciding what model you want to go for. If you don’t have a well defined model or if you are still working on it as your project is getting execute I think per hour rate or per month rate for individual developer is a good idea.

The third criteria in choosing the right outsourcing company for us was a break down on timeline and pricing. We had quite few people coming up with a price for the project but no defined timeline, or milestone and pricing and we did not want that – we wanted someone who can give us exact timeline with milestone and payment plans defined. So now at this point our 4 criteria were:

  1. Fixed Price Model
  2. A company with an internal design team
  3. A company who can give us well defined timeline pricing model and dates for milestone
  4. NDA – it is always in your interest to get the NDA when you are working with an outsourcing company

Because we have connections back in India – we started to look for the company from here in the city that we have lived most our life. We got in touch with the few of those as well. And as we were going through and getting familiar to the process I formed the idea of “HeliDigiZen” – a consulting company who would get you in touch with the right outsourcing company for your needs. But more on that in the next post.

Coming back to the issue in hand – we were having hard time figuring out a few facts and choosing the company so we decided to actually go down to India and meet with few of them to pick the right company for us. And I think that paid off big time. I think meeting the companies in person gave us a much better idea about their employees, their setup, their professionalism and helped us build the trust and communication channels the way we wanted! And that boosted the idea of “HeliDigiZen” further – as I though many of the companies would want to have someone in US to get in touch with so that they can trust an outsourcing partner better and don’t need to deal with timezone differences.

We will go over our experience in meeting with different companies in the next post. But for this one we did go with the company which met all three of our criteria. It was difficult and we did not close the deal until the last day we had to leave but we were able to find the right company!

Registering as an S corp

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After opening a bank account and getting everything setup with the company, we decided that we needed to register as an S corp – Small Business Corporation.

Here is how we did it, we filed the IRS form 2553 and mailed it to:

Department of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service Center Ogden, UT 84201

We did a certified mail and kept a copy so we can verify that the form was mailed in accordance with timing restriction.

Here is the reference website,

http://www.irs.gov/uac/Form-2553,-Election-by-a-Small-Business-Corporation

First steps towards toysshare

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We had formed the idea of toysshare around 3 years ago, never got a chance to pursue it. But when we decided that I was going to quit my job I thought let me pursue the “toysshare” idea further now that I might have time! Well I was not too accurate on time but that story some other time,  we did decide to go along with toysshare.

The first thing we did was to ofcourse come up with the domain and register the domain name – I already had a blog earlier on godaddy.com so I went ahead and registered the domain name toysshare.com – unfortunately toyshare.com was not available.  But we went with the simplest one – you might want to try and come up with a creative one, we did try that but we couldn’t agree on any other name!

We did not own a company at that point and we reside in California, so we went ahead and registered a company in CA.  Here is a link on what you need to do if you want to register a company in CA:

http://www.sos.ca.gov/business/be/

We went with a different name for the company, we had another domain already registered and hosted on godaddy so we went with helidigizen as a company name. At this point helidigizen was the company which is going to launch the portal toysshare.com.

Both of us being in the technical field we thought we would be able to buy some off the shelf software and modify it to fit our needs. But we did not end up liking any of the off the shelf software as we wanted to have the option of “Swap” which was not supported in most of them and a lot of those software did not come with the code that you can modify.  As a second step we thought we can try to do it ourselves and we did start working on it and had a few different prototypes done, but that is when I realized, with 2 little kids I won’t be able to put as much time as I thought earlier for this project. And that is when it hit us that we might have to outsource the development even though we both might be able to do stuff on our own, we did not have enough time to get that done on our own!!

So moral of the story in this first part was : Even if you think you can do it – you might still have to end up outsourcing some things as you might not have enough time to do it.

Finding the right outsourcing company and having the right resources to provide them was a whole another story, and I will cover it in my next post

PS: Later we found out that we might have saved some money if we would have registered a company in some other state where the annual tax might have been waved! You should probably do that research if you are interested in saving the tax money.