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Re: websites

           See The Exhibition Online, And Order Your Catalog.

I'll speak to this issue from the other side :-)

Bookbinding is my passion, but networking puts the food on the table ;-)

Many customers have grand dreams of their website (probably due to the
mass marketing efforts of many ISPs and web design companies) that are
totally unrealistic. They expect to immediately begin to sell products or
services and for the service to pay for itself. Here's a few facts and
statistics that I've gathered from the past three ISPs that I have worked

1) Your web site will not sell itself. You have to market it. Listing your
web site with a search engine is not enough. It must be done over and over
again (monthly at least) to keep your results at the top of the pile. Of
course, search engines frown on repetitive submissions, so that brings us
to the second point.

2) Your web site is never finished. As soon as you think it's completed
(maybe sooner) you need to change it. The content needs to change on a
regular basis so that your customers are drawn back to it even when they
don't need to purchase anything. If it's static, it's boring. This also
justifies the resubmisions to the search engines.

3) Unless you get a mention on the evening news or slashdot.org your
traffic is going to be very low. In fact, if you track your traffic, you
may even find that your visits to your own site far outnumber the others

4) If you get a verisign (or similar) certificate and handle credit cards
yourself, there is little chance that it will pay for itself. You stand a
better chance of this if you farm the credit card stuff out to your banks
web site. You'll also need a programer to do this unless you pay for some
one to do it for you.

It can work successfully. Here's a couple of easy suggestions to help.

1) Either learn to do it yourself, or ask the person/company that designs
the site to show you how to make changes to it. It's even better if they
design a template for you so changes are easy. Regardless of who designs
it, visit sites like "webpagesthatsuck.com" to learn what not to do.

2) Don't expect the website to be a product in itself. The most effective
use that I have seen is as an on-line catalog or brochure (even if you
don't take on-line orders) You can refer your customers to the web site
for current prices, products, samples etc... As an aside, this use can
actually save you money as you get a full color brochure that the customer
has the burden of printing. It stays up to date (assuming you do that) Use
it to back up your other marketing methods and focus on getting what your
customer needs on the site.

3) Make it easy to navigate. The web is full of poorly designed web sites
that look cool on the designers computer, but are hard to navigate, suck
up bandwidth on downloading and really shout the designers resume rather
than your company. Your web site should be about you, not your designer.
Most of your customers who view the website and intend to order will then
pick up the phone and call you. (Rather than order on-line) bookarts
especially would have a difficult time making sales with no human contact.

4) If your going to take credit cards, use a third party to process them
(like your banks web site) It can literally cost several thousand per year
to do it yourself. Call your bank for the details on this if they offer
it. Be careful of services like Paypal. You only need to do a web search
on "paypal" and "dissatisfied" to discover that paypal suffers from about
an 8% dissatisfaction rate (most of which is vendors which you would be)
Several have lost many thousands of dollars with no recourse. Paypal is
not a bank and you will be much happier with a banks services in dealing
with your money.

There are many more things, but I'd be happy to answer further questions

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