A recent Activemedia study found that only 31% of all commercial Web sites are profitable, and most of those marginally so. Frankly, I was surprised the number was as high as it was. A brick-and-mortar organization that rented the most impressive office available, decorated exquisitely, and then just waited for the customers to walk in would undoubtedly end in failure. Yet this seems to be the model on which most corporate web sites are based.
Development resources are spent making sure Web sites use the latest technology and incorporate as many high-tech baubles as possible. The theory seems to be that if the site is flashy enough, thousands will drop in to have a look and the site will be a success. This is an odd measure of success. Having a highly trafficked office or store is not the same thing as having successful business. The cool Java applet you commissioned might draw thousands for a few weeks, but unless that traffic translates into sales or savings, it was probably a waste of money.
I'm not putting down the effort that goes into producing some of the flashier sites. The creative programming and design work that goes into the best of them are astounding, and these sites deserve every design award they receive. It's just that many of these sites seem to be designed to win awards rather than to attract customers. Creative use of ActiveX or non-standard Netscape plug-ins may get you mentioned in magazines and talked about on the Net, but they will be unusable for more than 80% of your potential audience.
Some sites actually boldly proclaim "Designed for <browser> 3.0 or later." Perhaps this is a designer's way of saying "our site uses the latest technology", but what it says to a potential customer is "We couldn't be bothered to design and test a site that would work with your browser, so download and install the browser we use and come back later." Trust me, they won't. Web sites must be designed to look great on all browsers -- even with graphics turned off. This may mean that you are using last month's uncool technology, but in the end, it's not what's cool, it's what works.
The same common-sense principals that apply to brick-and-mortar
business work equally well for Net ventures. The following five steps will
go a long way towards preventing your site from becoming one of the 69%
that lose money.
Building and maintaining a Web site does require special skills, but in the end, success depends far more on effort and planning than on technical expertise. In future articles, we'll look at how a few innovative Japanese companies are using the Internet successfully.
|[ Home Page]||[ Back to Index ]||[ Previous Issue ]||[ Next Issue ]|