When I began my career in the Web industry, one of the biggest selling points for small businesses was that the Web provided a level playing field. Because the Web had just evolved from a text-based environment to a a graphical one, there wasn’t much one could do to add flash and function to a Web site. Therefore, a small home-based business that consisted of nothing more than a guy in his PJ’s at a card table in his dining room could have a site that was as robust as that of a major corporation. These were the days before plug-ins, Java, and even animated GIF files. Anyone could put up a Web site, but no matter how much money you had available to spend, there wasn’t much you could do. The playing field was level.
My, how times have changed!
The universal access is still there. Anyone can put up a site. But the playing field is no longer level. Interactivity, database integration, e-commerce, embedded multimedia, and extranet all combine to produce million-dollar internet projects for Fortune 500 companies. Because they have raised the bar, it’s harder for a smaller business to avoid looking like one on the Web.
So what’s a business person to do? Here’s a list of some of the tricks and tools to keep your site in league with the “big guys.”
1.) Updates – Updating your site regularly will create the impression that there’s lots going on with your company. Press releases, new products, promotions can all contribute to an “always-fresh” site, and they don’t cost all that much to do. Many of our clients have set up a maintenance program with us where they automatically email, fax or snail mail their press releases and newsletters to us for inclusion in their site. Some have had us teach them how to do the updates themselves with tools like FrontPage, while others have contracted us to build a password-protected Web-based module to update areas of their site. The bottom line is: it doesn’t matter how you do it, just do it!
1a.) If you’re updating your site, make sure your visitors know how often you’re doing it! An autoresponder on your home page allows visitors to sign up for an email notification whenever the site is updated.
2.) Email addresses – If you have your own domain name (which is a given if you want to be taken seriously), why in the world would you fill your site with email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com? When we set up a domain account on our server, the first thing we do is point domain email addresses to your dial up email account, or to your network email router. But even if you only have one email address, you can still map multiple addresses to it. Your email address may be firstname.lastname@example.org, but we can map email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com… even firstname.lastname@example.org to point to it.
3.) Interactivity – And that doesn’t mean loading up your site with expensive custom Multimedia games. It has been said that the successful Web sites are not the ones that tell the visitor about you, they are the ones that tell the visitor something about themselves. Hopefully that “something” they learn is their need for your product or service. Self-evaluation profiles, with automatically calculating scores are a great way for visitors to qualify themselves, and have fun in the process. Trivia quizzes can position you as the expert in your field. Moderated discussion groups give your visitors a resource base, and make your site THE place to be for that information.
4.) Multimedia – Although adding some cost to your site, features like sound and video can really put your site in the big league. But even we have a couple tricks up our sleeves to help you put multimedia on your site without having to mortgage the farm.
Let us help you move your site to the next level. The playing field isn’t level any more, but we can help make it a little less steep!