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Make your Web site work for you

David Zybert

So you’ve decided to put up a web site.

Or you have a web site that hasn’tbeen touched since the Clinton administration and you’ve moved once andchanged your phone number twice since it was last updated.

And what was the name of that guy who did it the last time? I thought I told him to make those changes, but he never answers my calls because he’s also a college student and has finals …

or something.

Does any of this sound familiar? If it does, then it’s time for an Internet reality: efficient, effective, technologically advanced and useful web sites are not cheap and they are not easy.

It is very much a case of “you get what you pay for.” If you bought a discount copy of Microsoft Front Page through eBay and then spent two hours putting together something that you then put up on a $7.95 per month hosting service, do not be surprised if no one visits your site.

It would be more to your advantage to do nothing than to give that kind of first impression to your customers.

Let’s say you’re a trombone manufacturer.

If you walk into a local musical instrument retailer and they tell you they don’t stock your trombones because they can get cheaper ones from the local high school metal shop and they have all the same parts and make all the same noises, what is your opinion of that retailer? Do you honestly think their trombones are comparable to your product? If you don’t pay as much attention to your website as you do to your product or service, then you are telling the world that they are dealing with that local high school metal shop.

So what do you do? There are guidelines.

First and foremost, understand that graphic design is not web design.

A web site is not just a group of related pictures and text strung together in some attractive way.

This is not to take anything away from a fine group of people like the graphic artists.

However, you do not go to an official timekeeper to build you a clock.

Graphics are only one element of a much larger project.

And that project is the tool that is your web site.

That word “tool” is not used lightly.

A web site should be a tool that not only represents your business on the World Wide Web, but does any job that is necessary in order for you to conduct business on the Web.

Yes, it is possible that you have or do something that you can’t sell over the Web.

That is no excuse.

Your site should still work as hard as you do every day.

It should be interacting with your customers and your employees, making their every contact with you productive and positive.

How about some examples? Well, password protection is a wonderful thing.

You can actually create two or three full sections of your web site, each separate from the other.

The first area is your public site.

This is the face that you show to the world.

It is the part of your Web presence that includes the things you usually find in a web site, such as product and service information, mission statement, ordering contact information and the like.

The second part of the site is a (password-protected) vendors’ section.

Do you have customers that you deal with on a regular basis? Make them feel special by providing them with their own private section of the site where they can be greeted by name, view special offers, ask private questions, place special orders or order product at their wholesale prices.

The third possible area, also passwordprotected, is an employee area.

Here you can post work schedules, sales leader boards, announcements, company newsletters and other information of interest to your employees.

These are just examples.

The only way to find out what’s going to work for your business is to consult a web professional.

And how do you find one of those? The things to look for include stability, a strong and varied portfolio, the ability to create both attractive design and efficient interview.

Talk to two or three design companies.

Get references and follow up on them.

Finding a good web developer is like finding a good contractor.

You need to find someone you’re comfortable with.

Above all, do not let price be your deciding factor.

While it’s always nice to get a bargain and your budget is always a consideration, fixing a problem late could be more of an expensive headache than paying to have it done right in the first place.

David Zybert is manager of web design at Reno-based Great Basin Internet Services, Inc.

You can e-mail him at dave@gbiswebdesign.com.


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