The Internet. The World Wide Web. It's hot. It's
easy. It's fast. It's the best, cheapest way to promote your
Have you heard this before? Are you afraid it's
all hype? Are you a marketer, a business person -- and
not a computer guru? There is a lot of talk these days about
the World Wide Web (the graphical portion of the Internet)
-- about its possibilities, and its shortcomings. You
hear about hot sites - and not being able to make money off
It's not hype to state that having an Internet
presence in today's competitive marketplace is important. The
question isn't whether you'll have a web site, but what is
the best way, for you, to build an effective one?
As with other, more traditional media, you need to
plan your site in the context of your other business/
marketing/ advertising/ public relations efforts. While the
Web can be thought of as simply another medium, another
opportunity, to deliver your corporate message -- most
importantly, you need to recognize the Web is an interactive,
dynamic medium. The best sites take advantage of this.
Remember, the Web is still being built. It is not
perfect. There is no "tried and true" here yet,
there are no definitive books on how to do it right (by the
time books are in print, they are often out-of-date). When
the Web works well, it is fabulous, but often it isn't as
fast or reliable as the hype might lead you to believe. Think
of it as a frontier -- there are no paved roads and no
traffic laws. There are no experts, only guides, and we all
will be learning together as we go. Everyday, there are new
ways to use the Web, new technologies, better and faster
software, new ideas.
To avoid major pitfalls, find someone you trust to
help you tame the Web -- someone who can walk with you in
the worlds of business, design, and technology. Someone who
can help you apply standard marketing techniques to your web
PURPOSE and GOALS:
Why do you want a web site? What is your purpose?
What role, or roles,
will your site play in your company's business plan? Are you:
- Going to have a storefront?
- Sell products?
- Handle customer service?>
- Keep an up-to-date catalogue?
- Interact with employees, customers,
- Use your site for good will, to interact with
If you're going to be selling products or
services, do you want to handle financial transactions over
the Net? Do you want to limit access to your company's own
computer network? Positive answers to these questions will
lead you toward technological solutions for increased
Do you know who your target audience is? It may be
more than one, if you have several purposes for your web
site. You might have employees as one target, and primary
customers as another. Do you know much about them? About them
demographically? The more you know about them, the more
directed your message can be and the more you can design your
site to communicate with them effectively.
On the Web, consumers have the opportunity to
interact with your site and not just be passive receivers of
your message. They have computers and are literate enough to
use them. They have different capabilities regarding
technology and setting their computer's configurations. They
can turn the graphics off, or not even have a sound card.
Most people still have 14.4 modems (and many have less
powerful ones). Advanced technologies, beta software,
scripting languages, and new programs can sometimes crash
computers and scare potential customers away. These
"glitches" will no doubt be worked out -- but
if the Net retains its dynamic quality, these non-perfect
advances may always be with us. Know who your market is and
play to them.
What is the personality of your business, product,
service? Do you convey in more traditional media that you are
professional, conservative, dependable, valuable? Or are you
high tech, adventurous, leading edge, cool? Be consistent in
your message across media to enforce your message and to make
your dollars work harder.
None of this is meant to scare you away. There is
room to learn and grow and find out what works best for you.
The most important part of your web site is the
content. And it grows directly out of your goals and purpose.
What, exactly, do you want to accomplish with this web site.
If you want an online catalogue, that will lead content. If
you want a hot, cool, site to build name recognition, that
will lead content. This is not a linear process, even though
this article lays it out that way.
Content of the site will balance with the
environment of the whole World Wide Web, and with design. The
underpinnings are the goals and objectives. The Web, compared
to traditional media is a place for information. The history
of the Net is one of information (text only on the old
Internet) exchange. There is a vast amount of information out
there, available to all. However, if you don't provide good
information, or good entertainment, or some other perceived
value, your visitor may very likely not read your whole
message or will go somewhere else. And unlike TV or print,
they actively choose whether or not to come back.
In traditional media, you pay for design once and
it's done. But design is an ongoing issue for web sites
-- and it's inextricably linked to content and
technology. Design here has many more practical facets than
it does in TV or print. Good design in a web site will allow
pages to load fast, provide easy navigation through the site,
and handle technological, interactive, processes in a
functional, appealing way.
Okay, what do I mean by that? Back to purpose and
goals. What is the purpose of the web site? If it is to
maintain an up-to-date catalogue for use by employees and
distributors ... then hot flashy design elements are probably
not needed ... but, easily used, easily updated, and easily
navigated databases are. Sometimes, straight text pages are
the best solution. Sometimes, large images or audio clips are
the right answer. Sometimes using search engines and other
forms of database management are needed.
What is a fast loading page and why should I care?
Every time visitors comes to your site all the files from
that page are downloaded into their computers. If you have
big files (large graphics, image maps, long pages with many
images), it's going to take some time to load. If that person
has a standard 14.4 modem, it will take longer than if they
have a faster one. Since many visitors pay for their internet
connection by the hour (either out of their pocket or by
using time on the corporate computer), they will not often
hang around for slow-loading pages.
Design is still a tricky issue for web sites
-- visitors see your pages through a browser, and not all
browsers interpret the HTML coding the same way. It is only
recently for example that the AOL browser recognized
background texture and tables. This meant that if a designer
built a nice looking page for Netscape, the people seeing it
on AOL saw something completely different. I believe over the
next year or two, common platform browsers will become more
standard and this design issue will fade away. But at the
moment, even the best designed web sites are not seen by
everyone in the way they were originally designed.
Text only (grew out of Arpanet, government scientific research system, started around 1980)
World Wide Web (WWW or the
Web): Graphical portion of
Internet (new within last few years)
Software that allows individuals to see WWW pages on their own computers
Hyper text markup language - coding used to develop and design pages, to be interpreted by browsers
THE ENVIRONMENT OF THE WEB:
The history of the Internet and the Web is one of
information dissemination. It has not been one of selling. There is resistance to the
commercialization of the Web, and many smart businesses are
providing more than just a dynamic ad. People use the Web to
gather information. If you can provide greater depth of
information, it might be to your advantage.
An example is Goodyear's web site. Yes, they have
a catalogue of their tires and yes they have a listing of
dealers near you, but they also have an extensive amount of
general information about tires. About traction and tread and
all kinds of things you might want to know about before you
buy your next set of tires. They have interviews with Formula
One drivers, and information about their company, including
their annual report, and stuff about the blimp. They also
have ways for consumers to contact them and a form designed
to help them learn about visitors to their site. Their site
is not flashy -- there's no audio, no video, no animated
logo. But my guess is they are building a good reputation as
a site to visit to get good solid information. And the next
time someone wants to buy tires, they might very well be more
inclined to remember Goodyear.
Okay, so now you have clear goals for your web
site, and you have your site designed to deliver the right
content and take advantage of web technology and environment.
That's all you have to do, right? Load it up and let it run.
Well, you can. Many do. But the Web is growing by leaps and
bounds every day. You need to consider several other things
before you leap. You need to consider promotion of your web
site, maintenance, and where your site will be hosted.
Because the Web is dynamic and always changing and
is dependent upon technology, your site must be hosted at a
server that can handle the technology and the level of
customer service you need. Your site needs to be maintained
to ensure delivery of dependable interactivity and to update
the pages as needed. And because visitors must choose to come
to your site, you need to entice them there.
Promoting your web site effectively will take time
and/or money. Time to list in directories, indexes, search
engines, and to pursue guerrilla marketing tactics. Search
engines and directories are very important because that's how
most visitors are going to find you. As each engine/
directory searches or indexes your site differently, your
pages need to be listed with them and incorporate coding
"tricks" such as meta tags to help categorize your
pages the way you want. Some of the newer directories charge
for listings, also. And many sites charge for banners or
sponsorships. These issues, however, deserve an article of
their own and are only mentioned here so you can think about
them and budget for them.
Understanding what your goals and needs are will
help you choose between simple pages and the use of high
bandwidth technology that can deliver full audio, video, and
telephony. Plan your web site. Allocate appropriate resources
to do your site right. Hire people you trust to work with
you. Be willing to roll with the inevitable glitches inherent
in anything new. Decide what you want to do, stick with your
decisions, and enjoy the opportunity to participate in a
medium that could change the way you do business.
All of the resources listed here are available
through the Internet. No traditional print sources are
included because one of the best ways to learn how to do
business well on the Internet is to use the Internet. This is
by no means a complete list. Surf the Net, find your own
favorite, helpful sites.
Web Design Resources:
Web Marketing Resources:
- Top 10 Ways to Tell if You Have a Sucky Home Page
A humorous but enlightening description of the
bad in web sites. Two related pages expand on the
concept: Top 10 ways to improve your home page
and Top 10 ways to improve your Netscape browsing
- What Makes a Great Web site?
Easily understandable, concise article about the
characteristics of a good web site.
- Designing Accessible Web Sites
Resources on how to design pages to increase
their accessibility to users with disabilities.
Information on web design guidelines, model web
sites, and more.
- Sun on the Net: Guide to Web Style.
Excellent guide to writing good web pages by a
company consistently rated highly for thier web
- Employee Computer Training Center
Resources for Designing your own Web Pages.
Site has links to Web development resources,
design considerations, guides for HTML authors,
templates, color, graphics, forms, browser
comparisons, and more.
- Electronic Marketing and Commerce
Related Resources, by ENVision in the April 1996
issue of the Inet Marketing Report.
Annotated lists of Internet advertising and
marketing, electronic commerce, and online credit
card and payment resources.
- The Internet Advertising Resources
Resources -- Internet Advertising Primer
(covering publications, acceptable practices, Web
measurement, select storefronts, research and
teaching, associations, educational programs,
search engines, and design guides).
Web Sites by Women for Women:
- SBA's Office of Women's Business
Information and resources that women need to
start and grow their own businesses as well as
participate in SBA and other government programs.
- The ElectraPages, The Woman's
Organization & Business Locator
Service lists more than 7,000 women-owned
businesses and organizations from the database of
the Woman's Information Exchange.
- Engender Magazine.
Online publication for women in small business
has features, letters, events, calendars, and
resources. Recent article on how women are making
money on the Internet.
- Minority and Women Business
Includes an employment center (database and links
to other jobs databases), corporate directory
with companies actively seeking MWBEs to provide
goods or services, publications, doing business,
event calendar, and more.
- The Cybergrrl Webstation/ Webgrrls
Loose association of women working in new media.
Operates e-mail list for women in business.
On-line resources for women, technology,
business, women-owned businesses.
- Women's Wire
Includes chat lines, profiles of business women.
top companies to work for, health information,
investment and financial information. and more.
- National Association of Female
Their site includes membership information, the
Seven Principles of Workplace Equity, Cafe NAFE
(a place to chat), a sample of Female Executive
- Biz Women
Internet mailing lists, Entrepreneur's Corner,
Business news, and more.
article co-authored by Paula Hendricks
and Terry Brainerd Chadwick