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JUNE2, 1997


Owners Of Small Business Need Some Information Before Setting Up On Web

David Yochum

Here are10 questions to ask yourself before you establish a presence on the World Wide Web:

Is there a particular advantage to selling my product on the Web?

There ought to be. There's no great reason for anyone to buy an easy-to-get perishable like

milk, for example, on the Web because it's so easy to pick up a jug at Piggly Wiggly or the

Exxon mart.

Take a look at http://www.amazon.com, the Web booksellers. They have 2.5 million books "in

stock"--more than 10 ordinary bookstores put together. It's easier to browse their shelves

than it is to drive to the mall, park and shop in a traditional bookstore. Convenient search

functions direct you to works by the same author and similar subjects.

What makes a successful Web site?

Two things: Lots of fresh, valuable information and ease of use. A page that has not been updated

for three months--
http://www.llbean.comhad Christmas information online until March--

will do incalculable damage: Busy Web-sters won't visit a stale site three times. Update at least

monthly, without fail. Weekly is better. Customers of a small business typically won't expect

daily updates.

And where do I get this "fresh, valuable" information?

That's the hard part. A small-business Web site should put customers first. Think about what

customers want: service information, news about your product line, pricing and product

specifications, and even advice. A question-and-answer session with customers hosted by

http://www.investorama.comhas been a big hit. You can put up all your news releases. If you've

written a technical article for a trade publication or your profession's scholarly journal, put it

up like they did at

What about links to other sites?

Links function as an exit from your site and an entrance to someone else's. Do you want to show a

customer the door? Consider link options carefully before picking one. The innkeepers at cozy

Archway Bed and Breakfast in Trumansburg, N.Y.,

links to Ithaca College and Cornell University on their pages which, of course, have maps and

rates, plus photos of the old homestead. One of their links is

http://www.fingerlakes.net/which has links to Upstate New York wineries. It works.