Return on Investment

Paul Boag

Recently a listener of my podcast wrote to me complaining that a recent screencast I did on the business benefits of web standards, didn’t work under Linux because it used Flash 8. This raised an interesting question. Do I care?

You see my problem is that I am obsessed with return on investment at the moment. It’s my pet subject and I find myself examining everything within this context. If a web design decision cannot demonstrate a business benefit then it probably isn’t worth doing. So, when I received the email mentioning the problem in Linux I couldn’t help wondering whether it was a problem worth fixing.

My logic went something like this:

I used an automated tool called Camtasia to produce the screencast and that generated the flash file for me. Other than the time involved in preparing and recording the screencast very little investment was spent.

The resulting screencast has proved extremely popular hitting the front page of and increasing my own exposure and that of my web design agency. In short it was a useful marketing tool, as well as a good way to promote the benefits of web standards. Win, win.

Because accessibility is important to me and because I wanted the presentation to be available to as many people as possible I produced it in four formats:

  • Flash Video
  • Audio Only
  • PowerPoint
  • PDF

Now admittedly it could do with an HTML version and I am working on that. However, generally speaking I thought I had made the effort.

So when I received the request for a Flash 7 version compatible with Linux, I had to consider if the additional work was justified. Unfortunately I had a problem.

I couldn’t find a quick automated method of producing the screencasts in Flash 7 format. Sure it could be done, but was the additional work justified from a business perspective.

If the presentation was a marketing tool then I had to ask myself whether building a Linux version would expose my presentation to anymore of my target audience. Well, obviously the people that buy my services aren’t other web designers but rather website owners. Do that many website owners really access websites from the Linux platform? My feeling was that the additional work wouldn’t generate sufficient additional leads to make it worth the while.

Of course, I had to consider secondary factors too. Would the absence of a Linux version adversely affect how people perceived my work? Possibly. Would it affect how I was perceived by potential clients? Probably not.

In the end I decided not to rework the screencast to support Flash 7.

You have probably guessed by now that I am exaggerating to make a point. Before we add new functionality to our sites we need to ask ourselves; will it pay for itself?

Obviously, the stuff I produce on this site is more than a marketing tool to me (although it does fulfil that role too). However, the point remains.

So what do you think? Did I make the wrong decision in not supporting Linux users? Does a moral obligation outweigh business considerations?