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Q&A: Eric Oliver, CEO, Zero3 Computers, Biloxi

Eric Oliver

On the cutting edge

Web designer tells what it takes in the business

As owner and CEO of Zero3 Computers on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Eric Oliver’s stated mission is to design, build and create computers and web sites that are both appealing and user-friendly.  The 24-year old Oliver recently sat down with the Mississippi Business Journal’s Nash Nunnery to talk about Web design and the evolution of the Internet in business.

Q — In your experience, how important is a creative and informative web site to the success of a business, big or small?

A — This is the age of computer technology with 70 percent of the U.S. population using the Internet for both personal and business purposes, a growth of 132 percent since 2000.  It is no longer just tech-savvy people using the Internet to find local businesses and services. Without a web site, a large percentage of potential clients will never know you exist.

As for the design, when browsing the Internet, many users will skip a web site with poor design no matter how good the product is.  With a well designed web site, you have a sense of security that this is a real business and you are more likely to buy from them.  Web sites create an image for a business.  Just like your office is neat and inviting, your web site should be, too.

Q —  What new technologies have been developed in the last five to 10 years that you consider breakthroughs in web site design?

A —  I think Web 2.0 is the technology that changed the Internet.  Web 2.0 is basically the new Internet.  With the application, you have more user interaction, social networking, more elaborate designs,and technology that let the end user have more control of their web site. With Web 2.0, web standards for HTML and CSS have become a must.  This standardization has made the Internet more usable for everyone.

Q —  If a small business wishes to initiate their own web site, what advice would you offer them in the selection of a web site designer?  Are there certain criteria that they should be aware of when choosing a designer for their particular needs?

A —  I recommend using local designers who would be more familiar with your business.  You can meet them face-to-face and get to know them easier than if they lived in another state. Always ask for a design portfolio to see their previous work.  If they do not have previous work, then it is your call whether to let them try to surprise you or to find another designer.

Make sure they are ready for calls if you need help.  Ask for pricing information regarding these calls.  I personally do not charge for small help, but some may charge an hourly rate to answer your calls. Lastly, check on their progress without being too impatient.  Check in on their work to save them designing time, as well as a headache.  Designers hate when a customer waits until the last minute to make revisions.

Q — How would you characterize web design?  In your opinion, is it more creative or technical?

A — When web site design first started it was all technical, people did not really care about the design….they wanted functionality.  Now it is a mixture of both, and in order to design a great web site, you need to be very creative, yet have the technical knowledge to work the code and databases. I work with both equally.  I feel that web site designers should be creative and technical at the same time to save money and time.  I am a programmer at heart, but with the knowledge I have gained with creative design, it has allowed me to grow as a web site designer and to better accommodate my customers.

Q — Please take our readers through the A-Z process of designing a web site for a small business or firm?

A — I think that the first impression is very important in website design, so I usually setup a formal meeting if they are local.  During this meeting, I tell them what I can do for them, give them web site statistics and show them my portfolio.

After the meeting, I supply them with a mockup of what the site may look like based on their needs.  Some website designers feel this should be done after a contract is signed and a down payment is made, but I disagree.  The mockup helps me clear up any issues their original idea may have had and it provides me with a roadmap when I start the actual work.  I show them that they can trust in my work and my designs. Only after the mockup is approved do I make them sign a contract and collect a down payment.

Now comes the fun part.  I love the beginning of the design process because this is the time when you have many ideas running through your head.  I always create a template page for the home page to use as a guide throughout the design process.  For now, I design everything with static text so I can see a finished website before I begin the database backend. After the initial work is done for the site, I continue with the database backend.  This backend is so they won’t need me after the site is done.  The customer will be able to edit, delete and add new information or images.  After the site is complete, I train the customer on how to use the backend and then collect the second payment.

Q — Aside from the obvious answer of more exposure, what are the benefits for a business of having a presence on the Internet?

A — One benefit of having a web site for your business is the customer support.  Instead of being bombarded with questions over the phone, you can create a FAQ section in your site that allows your customer to easily find the answers to question you always receive.    You can setup chat windows to offer real time support online.  The other benefit would be convenience, especially if you sell a product.  Customers look for the easiest, most cost-efficient way to make purchases.  Buying online will save them gas, time and can expose them to exotic things that they would never see locally.  The world is at their fingertips.  My company’s site, www.zero3computers.com, is a good example.

Q —  How much input do your clients have in the design of their web site?

A —  With my designs, I give the customer my utmost attention when they describe what they want.  I feel the web site is theirs and their idea is what makes it great.  I only step in if I feel that an idea they have will hurt their web site or company in anyway or if they want something that is impossible to give.  I work for them — what they say goes.

Age: 24
Hometown: Biloxi
Degree(s): A.A.S, in computer programming technology
Hobbies/Interests: Computers, travel and food
Favorite Restaurant: Chili’s
Favorite Movie: “The Dark Knight”
Last Book Read: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”
Person who’s most inspired you: My wife, for pushing me to build my business to where it is now and to finish college

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