Microsoft WebsiteSpark to Jump-Start Business for Web Development and Design Shops

REDMOND, Wash., Sept. 24, 2009 — Web designers and developers are typically allowed to focus on creating Web sites and developing applications. But in small firms, the principal designers and developers must frequently wear many hats, which include focusing on day-to-day business operations and maintaining their technology infrastructure.

Now help is on the way in the form of Microsoft WebsiteSpark, a program announced today that will empower Web site design and Web application development firms with 10 or fewer employees. WebsiteSpark provides development tools, production licenses for server products, technical support, business development support, and access to the expertise and services of Microsoft’s community of partners and hosters.

To find out more about the program and its benefits, PressPass spoke with Microsoft’s Mitra Azizirad, general manager of Developer & Platform Evangelism.

PressPass: So what is the Microsoft WebsiteSpark program?

Mitra Azizirad Mitra Azizirad

Azizirad: WebsiteSpark is a program designed to help ignite the success of Web designers and Web developers and help them create innovative Web applications. We are launching this program with a community of more than 75 network partners and hosters around the world.

It is specifically designed for companies with 10 employees or less. And because of our focus on companies of that size, it was most important to provide fast, easy access to our development tools, and to training and support. The program also allows participants to use production licenses of some server products for three years, with no upfront cost.

Another big part of the program revolves around the WebsiteSpark marketplace, launching later this fall, which will provide new business opportunities for those companies participating in the program. It will connect Web developers and designers with the Web hosters who frequently provide the necessary infrastructure, and with a whole community of customers and partners. It’s in the marketplace that Web developers can come together, showcase their services and solutions, and hopefully drive more business.

PressPass: What tools and training does WebsiteSpark offer?

Azizirad: For the development tools they’ll get three licenses of Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition, two licenses of Microsoft Expression Web, and one license of Microsoft Expression Studio. They will also get four processor licenses for production usage to Windows Web Server 2008 or R2 (when available), and four processor licenses for production usage to SQL Server 2008 Web edition.

In addition, businesses that participate will receive a third-party premium Web site control panel.

On top of that we’ll offer professional support and training. This will include two technical phone support incidents per company, access to community support through connections with our community of network and hosting partners, unlimited access to the technical managed newsgroups on MSDN and Channel 9, and unlimited program support for non-technical issues. Hosting partners will also be providing hosting services with a discount to WebsiteSpark members.

And most importantly, a huge goal for us was to remove any of the complexity around licensing. After all, no one wants to go through 100 different steps to download something or 5,000 different interfaces, for example. To that end, participants will go to a dedicated site where they can obtain a nomination from one of our hosting partners — if they haven’t already done so — enroll via the e-mail that contains their nomination, and electronically sign the WebsiteSpark agreements, which requires answering a couple of questions about their profile. With that, the registration is completed and they can download the software. Again, there are no initial costs or obligations, though at the end of three years there is a graduation fee of US$100.

PressPass: Why did Microsoft create WebsiteSpark?

Azizirad: If I’m a Web designer or developer, I don’t want to worry about my infrastructure and my costs, especially in this economic climate. Instead, I want to focus on my existing business and innovation, to make sure I have some new business coming in and then do what I’m there to do, which is to create compelling, well-designed, innovative Web sites and Web-based applications.

That’s what WebsiteSpark is really about — providing this community of startups with the ability to focus on their core set of business functions and develop better Web sites. We think the product, technical support and service offerings that are part of the WebsiteSpark program will help accomplish that by taking all the extraneous things off their plate so they can absolutely focus on what they do best. And it puts everything in one place where they can easily access tools and resources in one fell swoop.

PressPass: How does WebsiteSpark fit in with the other programs?

Azizirad: The legacy of the Spark programs is to look at key communities and address the needs within. With DreamSpark, the focus has been on helping students expand their skills, and there have been more than 2.6 million software downloads from the DreamSpark site since the program’s inception. BizSpark focused on entrepreneurs and startups, of which more than 20,000 have enrolled in the program’s first year. Now with WebsiteSpark we’ve created this triumvirate of programs geared toward providing the support tools and resources small Web development shops need. What sets this program apart from the others, however, is the business development component we will be providing through the WebsiteSpark marketplace.

And to drive traffic to the site we’re organizing more than 30 launch and community events that will be held throughout the year at various sites around the world — starting this week in Amsterdam. Larger subsidiaries will also be holding events that are supported by the local communities of Web hosters, value-added provider associations and PHP organizations.

PressPass: What sort of response are you expecting?

Azizirad: A couple of Web agencies in France have already seen what WebsiteSpark will offer. One agency, Phoceis, is excited because of the value that platforms and tools such as Silverlight and SketchFlow will offer to them and to their clients. And a Paris-based graphic design agency, i-Breed, has told us that WebsiteSpark will provide everything they need to create innovative, end-to-end solutions for their customers at a low cost.

Responses like this get back to my earlier point about removing the complexity. If we’re really drumming up this kind of enthusiasm for people to try it, then we want to make sure it’s very easy for them to access. With that in mind, we want people to feel as if there’s no excuse for not trying WebsiteSpark.

PressPass: Where can people go for more information?

Azizirad: They should visit http://www.microsoft.com/web/websitespark to learn more about the program and how to get started.