Every once in a while, a store is fortunate enough to have one person who can fulfill all the roles of a Web site coordinator, with technical knowledge and communications skills bundled in a single “Web guy.” This tends to be the approach most music retailers have to managing their Web sites. Sadly, this circumstance tends to put you in a vulnerable position. One day, this person is going to move on, potentially leaving you in a world of hurt.
So, in keeping with the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” I suggest you take steps now to avoid saying, “Help! My Web guy just quit!” after the fact.

It’s OK To Grieve A Little
It’s human nature to reel from the shock of someone’s departure, especially when that one person held the keys to your online castle. You’ll probably say things like, “Maybe we’ll figure this out without him,” or “I wish I spent more time with him learning about the control panel,” and don’t forget “Maybe we don’t need a Web site after all.” While you work through the grieving stage of the unexpected departure, please remember that all these thoughts are incredibly damaging to your business.

What To Do Right Now
Regardless of whether you still have access to your former Web guy, you need to locate, collect and save these important pieces of information:
• Where your domain is registered
• What the password is for accessing the account
• When the domain is up for renewal
• Where the Web site is hosted
• What the password is for accessing the control panel
• What tools are needed to update the content on, or to access orders through, the Web site
• Any documentation or training materials that are available
If you’re not able to collect this information, you’ll face some serious problems, including not being able to access orders, update timely information or provide great customer service; you could even lose your domain by not renewing it on time.
Once you’ve collected and saved the information, it’s time to start looking for your next Web guy. Your store was used to running the Web site with just one person. Whether you plan to continue with this structure or implement a new strategy, you will still ultimately need one person to drive the bus and oversee the transition. A serious pitfall to avoid is the mindset of wanting to decentralize your Web site management. There are certain dangers with allowing each department to have free rein over portions of the Web site:
• Lack of consistent writing styles
• Lack of unified design
• Renegade departments with their own agenda
• Large gaps in quality of content
• Potential to confuse your customers

What Are Your Options?
There are two distinct paths to consider when it comes to starting a new Web site. The first option is to build it yourself. Although this might seem appealing, especially with the mindset of believing that you’ll have total control, it’s important to weigh the costs, labor and resources required to build a Web site from scratch and ensure that it will have all the desired features and functionality. Additionally, the ramp-up time tends to run very long with this path and it might be riddled with unforeseen obstacles.
The second option is to purchase a turnkey solution. There are businesses inside the music products industry focused on providing retailers with feature-rich solutions that eliminate the heavy lifting involved with building a Web site. Some of these companies provide product feeds from industry-leading vendors, and many will drop-ship on your behalf. Although you’ll be paying a company a monthly fee, it’s easy to do the math and compare that to the costs that would be incurred paying for time spent by your employees building a site.
With either path, a highly underused resource must be addressed. You should immediately contact your local colleges and vocational and design schools to offer internships at your store. Many of these schools offer quarterly open houses where you can meet the students, see their work and discuss your needs. Incorporating interns will help you to realize lower costs. Plus, they are exposed to the latest in Web design, graphic arts and technology trends that will be integrated in the work they do for you. It doesn’t matter if you build your own Web site or sign up with a turnkey provider; both paths would benefit from your working with interns.

Qualities To Look For In Your New Web Guy
• Design Skills. Some people might come to you with experience in print or desktop publishing. This might be OK; however, it’s better if they actually have Web design experience. Although anyone who works with graphics might use Photoshop, it’s important to ask for examples of their work.
• HTML. It’s like learning a foreign language: the more you learn, the more fluent you will become. Although it’s not necessary for a person to be an expert in HTML to run a Web site effectively, it certainly helps provide extra tools to fix unusual problems that arise along the way.
• CSS Files. CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is a style sheet language used for describing the look and formatting of a document written in a markup language such as HTML. In essence, it’s where you manage and alter the look and feel of your Web site. Although it’s not necessary to know how to modify the CSS—especially with today’s content management environments—it certainly doesn’t hurt to find someone with this skill set.
• Social Media Experience. Do they use Facebook, Twitter and any others? Do they have ideas about how your store can do a better job using these tools to reach more people?
• Bonus Skills. Video creation and editing, mobile Web site editing and database management.
The most important thing is to find someone who can be counted on to teach you and your staff. To avoid falling into the same hole you did when your previous Web guy quit, can the new person be counted on to help teach what is required to effectively run the Web site in case of his (or her) departure? Great Web guys look for opportunities to empower others, inspiring them to do more on their own. This builds the team and puts you in a stronger position to handle more efficiently and effectively any changes that come your way.


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