how do you know if your business is ready for the Web?
Take our quick self-test below:
1) Am I willing to invest the time and money needed?
If you think you can just put up a site, submit to the search engines and the money will start rolling in, think again. You need to examine what your needs are, and how you will attract new customers. Find out how others have done it, seek advice, and learn from the mistakes others have made. Building and maintaining a web site is not just a one-shot deal. You have to keep updating the site and refreshing the content regularly.
2) Am I organized?
Do you have the time to run your site or do you need help? Who will take the orders and update it? And, are you equipped to handle large-volume sales? Advice: Make sure your company's site is organized to handle your capacity and that it's streamlined.
3) Do I have compelling and relevant content?
Even if you are able to attract potential customers to your site initially, how do you get them to come back? One way to do it is to keep your site fresh and offer a little more perspective on your product or a related topic than your competitors.
4) Do I have a means of distribution and customer service?
How are you going to get your products to the potential national or international customer quickly? With e-commerce, you will get inquiries and make sales all over the United States. So, it is best if your business sells a product that can be easily shipped. And, don't forget about customer service, it is as important or more important to have strong customer service support on the Web customer issues.
5) Getting your own virtual URL
Be sure you get your own identity. It is much easier for customers to remember yourcompany.com versus hosting yourcompany/directory/anyname.com. And, you'll have more control over your site.
6) Are you able to offer payment options?
One of "selling points" for the Internet is immediacy. People want to be able to order and get your product quickly. That means you may want to think about a secure way of accepting credit cards, or perhaps offering a toll-free telephone number.
How to select a web designer:
If you are contemplating a new site or think your current site needs improvement, look for a developer with an appreciation for information design. Their passion for making information user-friendly should be at least as powerful as their wish to create something visually breathtaking.
A prominent member of your web development team should be what's called an "information engineer." The role of that person is to fully understand your business and all the information you want your customers to have access to, as well as what you want your customers to be able to do on your site.
An information engineer should be able to help you define your information requirements and tell you exactly how they fit into an overall concept for your site.
What is the concept?
By concept, I do not mean "look and feel," which unfortunately is what many web developers focus on. To put look and feel first is to put the cart before the horse, and before you know it, you're getting the shockwave treatment. You'll end up with a site that doesn't do what you want for your customers -- communicate clearly and be easy to use.
For example: An online shopping site built consistently around a solid concept is staples.com. Here, the developers created an online experience that is as much as possible like shopping in a Staples store -- but a whole lot faster and easier.
The site acknowledges that people shop in at least three ways: looking around, browsing with some idea of what they want, and hunting for something specific. The site is organized so that you can freely shift from one shopping mode to another, while filling your shopping cart, which is exactly what Staples wants you to do. The look and feel are almost an after thought.
The selection phase
Look for the following from your web design firm:
- Their proposal must show an adequate understanding of your business objectives and marketing strategy;
- The team members working on your site must exhibit the brain power and attention span to grasp all of the information that needs to go on your site;
- Their team should include an information engineer with the ability to organize your site's content logically so that it's all easy to find;
- Someone on their team should have the writing skills to transfer your copy to the Web plainly, simply, concisely, and clearly, so that it's easy to understand;
- Finally, someone needs to know about usability, who can test your site through the stages of development to be sure it's easy to use.
With all of this in place, and a competent designer, look
and feel will pretty much take care of themselves.
To help you to understand the BUSINESS of doing BUSINESS on the WEB - we have compiled a series of links to help!
4/1999 Getting listed on Search Engines
12/1998 Criteria used in Next Generation Search Engines
11/1998 E-Commerce / Difficulty with shopping online
10/1998 The Worst Mistake Your Website can Make
9/1998 Free PC Tech Support on the Web
4/1998 7 Deadly Web Site Sins - and how to avoid them
3/1998 How users READ on the Web Online
3/1998 Current issues in Web Usability
3/1998 Predictions for the Web in 1998
3/1998 Top 10 mistakes in Web Design
2/1998 Links to other
current Web Issues