HOW MUCH FOR THAT WEB SITE IN THE WINDOW?
An article by Bruce Bickerstaff, Meet the People Pty Ltd, which appeared in the September newsletter of the Ecotourism Association of Australia
As someone involved with the development of Internet web sites, I am often asked the question “how much to get on the Internet?”. I answer, “well it depends” and start to explain. The pair of eyes facing me begin to glaze over. Nevertheless my advice is find out what you are paying for - buyer beware. In this as in so many things, price is not necessarily a good indication of quality or value or usefulness to your business.
Listen up. Forget the ad you put in Yellow Pages. Forget the brochures you churn out. With Internet we are talking a whole new ball game with more and different factors that need to be recognised and considered.
But before I briefly run through those factors, let’s go back a step and ask the question “what’s in it for my business?”. The potential benefits of Internet exposure vary significantly depending on the specific nature of your business. For some businesses, after weighing up the alternative demands on your time and money, it’s probably not worth the trouble (not yet anyway). To make this decision, and to have realistic expectations, you need to gain some basic familiarity with the medium though reading, talking to people, visiting a cyber cafe, etc - maybe even doing a short course. I could explain the nature of those benefits further, but if this article gets too long I will be in trouble. Perhaps refer also to my paper in last year’s conference proceedings.
In terms of realistic expectations, don’t focus solely on bookings. As one commentator noted recently, asking people how many sales their Internet presence got for them is quickly becoming as problematic as asking someone how many sales were obtained by their fax machine. The Internet is first and foremost a business facilitator which can support many aspects of your business. It is already much more than just a collection of floating billboards and sales booths.
To know and understand how much your page/site is going to cost you, you need to recognise the various work components of creating and maintaining a good page/site. To have any hope of translating the potential benefits of Internet exposure into real benefits, the person creating and maintaining your page will need to competently undertake these tasks.
A list of those work components (or specific cost items) now follow. Be warned some are a bit technical. You don’t need to know exactly what they entail, but you do need to know which of these are included in the bill you pay at the end of the day. Some steps are optional for those starting out, and I have marked these with a #. Note that one of the beauties of the Internet is that your presence here can be expanded as funds permit - it’s not like a brochure where you have to pulp remaining stocks of the nasty old ones and start over.
A web page is a single computer file whose size is dictated more by volume (ie. bytes) than by physical dimensions. A web site is an inter-linked collection of web pages. For simplicity I’ll now just use the term “site” rather than the more cumbersome “page/site”. I’m also inclined towards the view that, in most cases, relying on a single page presence is very limiting. A server is a computer from which information can be continually accessed by people with an Internet access account.
To create a good Internet presence one needs to do most of the following:
- Examine other sites to get ideas, etc. This gives you an understanding of what else is out there, how sites work, etc. A basis for comparison.
- Plan the structure/layout of site. A good logical design is essential to present your material properly and for ease of use by visitors. Also, how big should your site be?
- Write appropriate text/copy. Text from existing printed material is often not suitable and requires modification. If the site builder has to retype and/or rewrite material, clearly you pay more.
You should really include some general-interest information for site visitors within your site. People resent junk mail in their letterbox. Why should they invest time and money to navigate through thousands of other sites to visit yours if it is nothing more than a tedious empty-headed sales spiel?
- Nominate relevant search key words and insert in each page/s
- Determine appearance of site. Obviously aesthetics is an important consideration. This includes page layout, font sizes, background colour, use of graphics, etc
- Source and scan photos, slides, logos, etc and saving as appropriate format and size
- Create custom-made graphics, eg. buttons, menu bars, logos, etc. Create animated objects, scrolling text, video, sound, etc. #
- Create forms. These would be in addition to email buttons. #
- Create a ‘links page’ - a recommended element of a good site - along with the addition of other general-interest value-adding material. This also plays a role in online promotion via reciprocal linking with complementary sites. This element involves both up-front work and work on an ongoing basis.
- Promote the site over the Internet. Most work is up-front, but with other work on an ongoing basis. Includes listing in multiple directories, search engines, newsgroups, etc. This may or may not involve paid advertising in other sites.
- Register a special company domain name #
- Rent server space (usually an annual charge). This is for space on the computer from which your material is accessed, and is charged on a volume basis. Note that some servers are better than others, eg. faster, more reliable, etc.
- Establish your material on the server. Test and de-bug the site.
- Arrange for the secure handling of credit card transactions. An overblown issue. Some server operators offer an option whereby they will securely handle credit card transactions. It remains to be seen how this whole issue will be resolved, and the related costs to the vendor, although it is likely to occur sooner rather than later. #
- Arrange for the provision of site access information, eg. who has accessed your site (hit rates). Quite detailed information can potentially be provided. This can be used in ongoing redesign of site to encourage more visits and longer visits. #
- Establish an Internet access account. Usually a set-up fee and a monthly charge. This is usually “by the hour”, but it varies from company to company. Having your own account is desirable so that you can respond to email queries, etc. If you do not do this then you will have to pay someone to respond to email for you, eg. receive it and fax it to you. Just listing your phone/fax numbers on the page is basically a waste of time, and you miss out on potential savings in communications costs. #
- Set up your own office computer and purchase of modem. You will probably need some help in setting up your computer with the necessary software, modem etc.
- Arrange for updating of page. This is essential to keep material fresh and interesting and up-to-date - again a very different situation to a set-and-forget print ad. Usually a set annual charge for small changes plus by-the-hour rate for bigger jobs (ie. expansion of site, redesign, etc)
- Translation of all or part of your material into one or more other languages #
Some of these have to be done by the consultant assisting you (generally with input from you), some will require other assistance, and still others can be done by yourself after some training/practice.
Meet the People Pty Ltd Copyright © 1996