The question of the month has been “Should I have a web site and how do I go about it?”. As with printed matter, before you get going you need to think about what you are marketing to whom and what response you want. In addition you (or someone you pay) will need to keep your site up-to-date, register with search engines and continuously look for related sites with which to trade links.
For example, the Seattle Textile Computer User’s Group wanted to share information with a larger group than could make it to the meetings. The desired response was more information. We keep the design simple since many textile folks have older slower computers. Graphics, for the most part, are not worth the greater download time and space. The page gets updated whenever someone sends in information.
Setting up your own page is as easy and as difficult as doing your own ads. There are many people who enjoy the challenge and money savings of putting together their own advertising pieces. Then there are those who would rather spend the money than the time and find that good design is worth paying for. If you are one of the latter, you should pick a Web site designer carefully. Look at what you get for the money spent: how many pages, how many graphics and how fancy, what about updates? A simple page with a picture of your product shouldn’t cost much if you write the copy. A page with movies, sound etc. may cost as much as a TV spot. $2,000 is not reasonable for a simple page but can be a bargain for a complex one. A simple page can be put together in an hour or two if you know what you want, and should be priced accordingly. Information taking, Internet money and links in a “mall” may cost extra.
1. Check out the competition. Go to www.altavitsa.digital.com (or yahoo.com, excite.com, etc.) and do a search as if looking for your product. Keep track of the addresses — if they aren’t direct competitors you many want to exchange mutual links so that someone finding one site can jump to the other. You may even get them to tell you if their page is successful. This is measured in two ways: 1) “hits”, the number of people looking at the site and perhaps how long. 2) the actual revenue generated. One is not necessarily an indicator of the other.
2. Pick an ISP (Internet Service Provider). Most ISPs charge about $20/month for Internet access and include hosting your private web page in that. If you are what is called low volume commercial, pricing ranges widely so shop carefully. Some have a charge if you go over a certain volume of download (keep your graphics small if so) or for each hit (this can be very expensive). Some don’t charge extra unless you mention prices or if you try to take orders on-line.
You may want your own domain name yourcompany .com rather than yourISP/ yourcompany.com. This costs $100 for the first two years and $50/year thereafter — go to internic.net. Some ISPs charge more if you have your own domain name but your own name allows you to change ISPs without changing stationary.
Some page features like form filling, clickable maps etc. may require your ISP to have supporting software. Ask what they support.
3. Design your site. Make a map of what you want on each page and what you click to jump to which page. Your pages will attract ongoing attention if you have changing information or fun for the viewer rather than just an ad. But if you make it too interesting and your site has a per MB download or per hit charge, you’ll have to pay for people looking at your page rather than your product. Many people surf the Internet with the graphics turned off. Be sure to set text to tell them what’s what. Have a way to return to the main page at the bottom of each page so people don’t get lost or frustrated. Use meta key words and descriptions so your site listing will look better in searches.
How will you deal with international orders? The Internet reaches the entire world as easily as locally. Put pertinent information on your page: Not available outside the US, $15 shipping overseas, US funds only, international enquiries must provide an e-mail address and so on.
4. Upload your page to your ISP using FTP (File Transfer Protocol). Your ISP should tell you the particulars. Register your site with search engines for a faster presence (some addresses above). 5. Site maintenance. Update your site to keep it continuously interesting and to add links to other related sites. This means going through steps 3 and 4 many times. Adding a “this site updated on date” helps users know you’ve made changes. Remember to push the buttons on your own site occasionally to see that things are working correctly. Test your page with several browsers (different versions of Netscape, MS Explorer, Mosaic). The STCUG form page doesn’t work with some browsers.
Have a contact e-mail and/or phone number on the page for people to reach you in case something breaks. This is how we found out the STCUG site had a problem.
Call Karen at 206-523-0872 for training and Internet assistance.
copyright 1998 Karen Seymour
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