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Businesses should look at vital web questions

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by Ann Bucy

SBJ Contributing Writer

Getting the most out of your web presence has a lot to do with having the right answers to some key questions.

For example, does it load fast? What's its general appearance? Does it grab and hold viewers' interest? Is it easy to read? It it coherent, logical, streamlined and interactive? Do the connective features work well?

Are there catalog pictures, product lists, etc., if needed? Is there a provision made for non-graphic users? Is the e-mail

provision easily usable? Is there a secure, hassle-free order-

ing method (if appropriate)? Is there a reason to keep coming back?

These are some of the items a business or individual needs to look at when creating a web site, according to Mike DePue, business reference librarian with the Springfield-Greene County Library District.

"Sometime back in 1995, we realized how this area was growing and becoming more important. We provide you with the background information, like handouts and other things. We're an information agency: Information is our focus. We're not in competition with a private sector. We don't refer people that provide this service, either. We'll tell you who provides this service in this area and that's as far as we go."

DePue doesn't suggest that most people should develop their own web sites. "When people ask me, 'Should I do this myself?' I tell them 'Yes, but you can also do your own plumbing and your own car repair, but the results will be obvious to everyone.'"

DePue recommends a number of books about the Internet: "Internet Business Guide," by Rosalind Resnick (384.3 R); "Doing Business on the Internet" and "Doing More Business on the Internet," both by Mary Cronin (650.0285 C); "How to Make a Fortune on the Information Superhighway," by Laurence Canter (658.8 C); and "101 Businesses You Can Start on the Internet," by Daniel Janal (025.06 J).

OnThe.Net is the largest Internet provider in southwest Missouri according to the company's president, Kevin Ancell. "We have 21 full-time employees, and we've been doing this longer than anyone else."

He said that a business must have a proactive role in maintaining its web site. "You have to be proactive or you'll be dissatisfied with it. It's important to make changes and constantly update it. You can't sit back and wait for business to come to you."

"We can develop a plain, also called static, site or a dynamic one with a catalog of products or something else more detailed," Ancell said. But he added that he doesn't believe every business should have a web site. "Each company needs to see if their business or idea is applicable. Identify your market and look at your demographics."

Ancell said he believes the current, typical Internet user is male and affluent, but the market is changing. "With computers available for $1,000 or less, more people are purchasing them and getting on the 'Net."

John Wagner owns his own company, Eye Contact. He's been doing graphic design for four years and designing web sites for more than a year.

"The focus of a business is shifting to web sites," he said. "I think that eventually everyone will need to have a web presence. Some people go ahead and get a site because they know they'll need it later. It's important to remember that the web address has to be registered with INTERNIC."

He added that he believes many people don't have sites because they think it's complicated, and they don't understand what it can do for their business.

"The essentials of a good site are an easy layout with simple graphics. A business has to have a clear idea of what their goal is for the site and market it like anything else: Cross market it with radio, TV, newspapers; print the address on all literature; and register it on directories with people who have similar businesses."

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