Have you ever wondered why so many people are going online when a scant 7 years ago, many of us thought the World Wide Web (WWW) was something spun by a really big spider?
We could come up with statistics supporting any number of reasons, but one of the main reasons is, “Everyone else is, so why not me?”.
If you are a businessperson, you should consider, among other things, what you want your role to be in this new “eConomy”. Should you have a Website or not? What should you be trying to accomplish with your Website – do you want to drive sales, bring people into your location or just disseminate information? What should it look like? How much information and other content should go on the Website? There are these plus a host of other questions.
Here’s our take on becoming a fly caught by the Web – if the spider hasn’t already caught you.
A Little Terminology
There is a common misconception that the W
eb (WWW) and the Internet are the same thing. This is not true. The original Internet was designed as a text-based information-sharing system to be used only by the government and by academia. Common folk like you and I had no access. Even if we had had access, we would have had to have learned a complicated set of rules and commands to get to the information we wanted. The Internet today still includes all of the original Cyberland inhabitants, but now you and I can access it also - and easily.
The WWW is only part of the Internet. Most of it, the part you and I are most familiar with, consists of Web pages and Web sites we can get to by using a Web browser (like Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator). However, there a several other ways to get information from the Internet, but they are more technical, complicated and not designed for the general public to use. That is a topic for another time.
Simply put, our take on this whole WWW thing is you should be on the Web. If for no other reason, many of your competitors are already on the Web, but a good Website can provide you with a number of other advantages..
First, you gain visibility. More and more people are going to the Internet when they have a product or service to sell or are looking for a product or service to purchase. If your business is on the Web and properly registered, you stand a greater chance of being found. You may ask, what about the Yellow Pages? The Yellow Pages are - yes - on the Web as well (http://www.therealyellowpages.com)
, but most people will start their search on the Web, especially if they are out of town.
On the downside, you also have to advertise your site using more conventional means. Business cards, newspaper adds, stationary and anything else that goes out with your name, or any commercials you produce, should also have your Website and eMail addresses on it. It’s sort of a chicken or the egg dilemma, except you can scramble this egg worse than the chicken ever thought possible. Since most of the conventional advertising you do now will continue even after your Website is up and running, adding your Web information will not significantly affect your advertising costs.
Second, you gain the perception that you are a progressive, reputable company. This isn’t to say that companies that are not on the Web have bad reputations. However, the perception these days is if you are on the Web, you are a legitimate business and perception is everything when trying to get people in your door.
Third, you enhance communications. It isn’t necessary to have a Web page in order to have eMail, but it doesn’t hurt. If you have a Website with an established address, the customer or vendor will generally know to send any eMail to you at your domain name. Further, if you have a large number of clients or customers you want to keep updated on special services or sales, you can put the information on your Web page or eMail them. Putting copy into a Web page or eMail is much less expensive than print or media advertising and you get the information to them more quickly. By virtue of the Web being accessible all day, every day, your customers, or potential customers, will have greater access to you, which can easily translate into greater sales from that customer. Since the Web gives customers 24/7 access to your site, you can also add eCommerce to your site and be open for business 24 hours a day. Watch out, though, eCommerce is not always as easy to implement nor as inexpensive as one might suppose.
If you give your personnel access to the Web, you can provide them with a vast array of tools to improve their productivity and efficiency. Purchasing the right computer, office supplies or other products can be performed over the Web, without losing productive time while driving to the respective stores. Comparison shopping is made easier because many stores you or your employees might want to purchase items from is likely on the Web. Again, this reduces costly down time. However, you must be careful not to allow your employees access to the Web to your detriment and there are programs to help you monitor Internet usage.
I’m Convinced. What now?
First, decide who will host your Website. This will determine where your Website files will actually reside. Often your Internet service provider (ISP) will be the likely choice to host your site, but not always.
For building your Website, you have two options: build the site yourself, or hire someone to do it for you. A typical entry level Website can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, if you get the job done professionally. Unless you have plenty of free time on your hands, and are adept at layout design and concepts and have a really high level of patience, we recommend you get someone else to build your Website. If you do hire a professional to build your Website, your money will be well spent given what a design professional can bring to the table. After all, this is your company’s very real home on a brand new planet.
You will, of course want to negotiate pricing and terms (always do fixed fee) before you let the designer have at it. Your designer will probably ask you to provide copy for your site, a basic idea, in writing , of what you want your Website to say. Some designers can help you with this part, and some will recommend a professional copywriter (make sure to pick a copywriter who has experience with writing copy for Websites).
Regardless of which way you go, you are ultimately responsible for, and in control of, the look and feel of your Website. You will need to decide if you want to be just an informational site. This can work in some instances, but information-only sites can get stale and you will need to update the information rather frequently. People will not come back to a site to read the same thing over and over again. There are services out there providing content to help you keep fresh information on your site.
Perhaps you want to make information available on your site, but you also want to find some way to make it interactive. There are, for example, services that provide financial calculators or a “guest book for your visitors to sign, etc. You can program you own interactive data gathering page that will give you information about site visitors or you may wish to put your inventory online to allow the buyer to see what is in stock, even if you don’t take the orders over the internet. You may wish to have a complete eCommerce site where customers can order and pay for stock online.
Whatever you choose to do ultimately, we suggest you look at the long-term and what you want to do with the site over a period of years. Perhaps you aren’t ready for eCommerce today, but you think you might be in a year or so. Make sure the design you do today will flow nicely with any future additions. Wouldn’t you hate to build a Website, pay $1,500 for the design and then find out a complete redesign will be required to make the site look good when it was time to integrate eCommerce? This capacity for a Website to “grow” in functionality is called “scalable” since you can scale up to meet future, expanded needs.
The World Wide Web is the communication wave of the future. You want to build a business that will last long into the future. Doesn’t it make sense to get on board now while you still have the opportunity or get the jump on the competition? The sooner your name is on someone’s favorites list, the less chance your competition has of getting there. So, be an explorer and stake your claim in the brave new world of Cyberspace. Give us a call and we’ll be glad to help you clarify your needs and get you started on your new adventure.