Author: Yogi Schulz

The spectacular dot-com crashes of 2001 caused some businesses to become web-phobic. Huge hundred million-dollar implosions like Webvan and Excite, among many, caused the pendulum of investment to swing hard to the opposite extreme. Caution and under-investment was the outcome.

A year later, when even can finally boast of a legitimate, as opposed to a tongue-in-cheek, profit, then it’s time to re-start our web initiatives. Here are some ideas for moving forward in moderation. You don’t have to spend the earth to achieve benefits.

Static Can be Meaningful

Inexpensive static web sites can deliver modest benefits such as enhancing your visibility and communicating your corporate vision or product palette.

Static web sites consist entirely of web pages that contain only text and graphics. Such pages can be produced quickly and cheaply. Dynamic web sites, by contrast, add content retrieved from a database. While dynamic content adds another level of sophistication, it also adds another level of cost and operational complexity.

If your web site looks dowdy or dated, it’s time for a makeover. Include content about product and service descriptions, hours of operation, contact information, a map to your office, a feedback form and industry links. {If budget or perception of value allow, add simple graphic content for products and services, customer testimonials, press releases, investor information and profiles of your management.}

Simplify Use

Once you have the basics in place, consider improving navigation and adding a search facility to improve the surfer’s experience. Legions of frustrated surfers abandon web sites daily because they fail to find products or information. In many cases, the information is located too many clicks down into the web site, placed obscurely or identified ambiguously.

Providing logically related links and menus on every web page improves the experience. A search engine, easily accessible from the home page, will also improve web site effectiveness.

Reviewing logs of session navigation data can point out popular pages and dullards. Move the popular pages closer to the home page and upgrade or delete the dullards.

Downloadable Documents

As the next step, offer documents for download that prospects and customers will find useful. For example, investment advisors can offer retirement planning worksheets, car dealers can offer payment calculators and landscape gardeners can provide example flowerbed schematics. Avoid large graphics in your documents. These take too long to download and are awkward to scroll through.

Product specifications, assembly instructions, safety procedures and maintenance guidelines are other good examples that will enhance the value of your web site.

Integration with Dealers

As your web site builds momentum, use it to support your dealers and partners. For example, the Staples web site asks for my location so that product availability can be expressed in terms of my neighborhood. It’s not useful to know that the North Halifax store has the designer bathtub I want.

Other examples include the fan sites of musicians and authors. Many of these sites have links to retail sites where you can purchase their CD’s and books.

Inventory Integration

Potential customers are often interested in product availability. Respond by making your on-hand quantities visible on your web site. This step can enhance sales because customers like to check availability first on the web before they call your order desk or visit your business. For example, if I want to buy a used Toyota, I’d like to check available models and prices for the dealers in my part of town before I head out to verify that the cars really look as good as their pictures.

Making inventory data visible causes customers to browse for similar products and verify color or specifications. This activity simplifies the order process and reduces the return rate. Since the return rate is a costly, no revenue process for all merchants, anything that can act to reduce the return rate is worth its weight in gold.

Order Status

A big follow-on step is to allow customers access to your systems such as order processing to check status. This step is often larger in terms of effort and cost because it requires adding dynamic pages to your web site, improving data quality and investing in more hardware.

The benefit is improved customer service and early problem detection. For example, a farmer could check how the production of his special-order combine is coming along. When he sees that for some reason, it will be delivered with snow tires, he can call the dealer to correct the error before the combine leaves the manufacturing facility.


Making modest investments in pursuit of benefits from business use of the web, now that the excesses of 2001 are behind us, deserves another look. Moderate investments can achieve worthwhile gains and can be made in small increments as budgets allow. You don’t have to spend the earth to use the Web.