The Internet on the Cusp of the Millennium
a brief overview from timeandspace.com
When the internet went graphical in the early 1990s, it didn't take long for people both inside and outside the computer business to start recognizing the commercial potential that was developing through online computer usage. The sex business drove the technology much as it did at the dawn of the VCR age in the late seventies and eighties. Does anybody remember video stores in the early eighties? They were almost all porno. There was one shelf, usually over in a corner, of regular movies, and the rest were hot and steamy.
By the mid 1990s, many other types of businesses were establishing a presence on the world wide web. Web sites were certainly not commonplace, but online computer related services in particular were starting to pop up everywhere. The browsers lead by Netscape were starting to improve quickly. The implementation of Java scripts and applets were adding some life to formerly static sites. Internet Service Providers started offering higher speed connections and common gateway interface bins. Everything digital was getting easier to access via the internet. Sound files, animation and executable software were literally at the web surfers fingertips.
Dropping Prices Due To Competition
As I write in 1999, commercial web sites are a routine part of marketing in corporate America, and small businesses are turning to the web in ever increasing numbers. Competition and the sheer numbers of people entering the internet professionally have made things a lot less expensive in practically every aspect of web design, hosting, and internet access. The web developer was a relatively rare commodity a few years ago. Now, the Yellow Pages are full of them. Not everyone who has a computer and some design software qualifies as a commercial web designer, but there are certainly a lot more qualified people performing these tasks than there were just a few short years ago.
Internet Site Priorities Design
As a web site designer, I wish this aspect of the project was more important than it is. The fact of the matter is in the commercial web market, the bottom line is revenues generated for the customer. There have been surveys done where the results show that the profile of the typical web surfer is three clicks and then on to the next site. Another thing I have learned from internet observation is that unless there is a naked body involved, the typical web surfer does not hang around very long waiting for images to load. Therefore, the effective web site starts out by getting as much information on the surfer's screen as quickly as possible.
Of course graphical presentation is important. However, there are irritating sites with animation for animation's sake, and things moving around the screen simply because the web developer learned how to implement a java script. These special effects seemingly are more for the web developer's ego (or cure for boredom) than the client's bottom line, revenues. Special effects are not wrong by themselves, as long as the information relevant to a sale is presented clearly.
Web Site Navigation
It is crucial to create the web site that is easily navigable. I have clients who get really into the notion of the Home Page, then page 2, then page 3, etc. Well, web surfers are not limited by horizontal linear navigation. In fact, the way the search engines index pages, it is common for the surfer to drop into the site somewhere other than the Front or Home page. Wherever they start, they should be able to get anywhere else in the site with minimal effort. This is accomplished in several ways by the use of navigation bars, linked graphics, and the ever popular site map.
Depending on the size of the site, the ability to navigate can be the most crucial aspect of the page. I designed a web site for Polynesian Adventure Tours in Hawaii. This is a ground tour company offering dozens of tours spread over four Hawaiian islands. With the competition and complications in search engine keyword indexing, it is crucial that wherever someone drops in, they be able to easily get to what they are looking for. Seemingly, we got that done on their site.
Hosting costs have dropped dramatically the last few years. In 1995, the monthly cost of a medium size (5-10 Megabytes) commercial web site could easily exceed $100.00. In order to meet the ever increasing bandwidth needs for web sites, many large companies have chosen to specialize in the field of site hosting only. This is a great development on the internet because the companies offering these specific services can bundle really useful services like extra e-mail accounts, CGI goodies, and Java options for the web developer and client. Now high quality reliable hosting for a custom domain is affordable to almost every size business. One can get a great hosting package with statistics and several email accounts, including really cool interactive features, for under $35.00 a month.
Is it safe to use my Credit card on the Internet?
There has been a lot of discussion about the security of credit cards online. I have heard ostensibly intelligent people say things like, "No way I would use my credit card on the internet." This is kind of strange to me. These same people will put their credit card inside of a folder and hand it to a waiter or waitress in a restaurant that they have never seen before. What is the difference in risk by punching in a number on a web site showing a secure socket layer? Spare me the answer. My point is there are risks and benefits every time one uses a credit card, whether online or offline. It is my personal opinion, shared by many, that purchasing on the internet while not 100% risk free is safe.
Search Engine Placement The Holy Grail
If the bottom line of a commercial web site is revenue generated, then the line just above it must be search engine placement. I have heard this subject referred to as the "Holy Grail" of the web developer. It is crucial. If a web site shows up in the first 10 hits of a search on an engine like Alta Vista, Excite or Hot Bot, it dramatically increases the chances of being seen. Common sense tells me that this is now a numbers game on the search engines. The same market factors that have caused professional web services to plummet in price are also filling the internet with web sites competing for the attention of web surfers.
There is no easy answer to this situation. It is further complicated by the fact that the people who operate the major search engines tend to reshuffle the deck every so often to stay a step ahead of enterprising web marketers. Individual search engines index web sites using differing criteria. Usually this is done through some sort of relational algorithm between text, meta tags, and subject relevance. It is tough to guess when the indexing criteria is going to change or what exactly the changes might be. Everybody in the commercial web business knows somebody who claims to be able to "anticipate the indexing" changes as they occur. Algorithm forecasting is at best speculative, however there are a few statistically proven methods to cut down the odds and aim for optimum search engine placement. Search engine positioning is an ongoing endeavor as the flood gates of internet web presences open wider.
Marketing Integration The New Frontier of Web Development
Internet marketing is a distinct and increasingly vital component of electronic advertising. It is important that more businesses seeking to profit on the world wide web begin to recognize the internet as a legitimate spoke in the wheel of media marketing. Once this fact is recognized, it is just as important that they begin to develop a marketing integration relationship between their print, electronic, outdoor, and specialty advertising. The understanding of the marketing integration concepts should weigh heavily in the selection of web development personnel or internet consultants.
Web developers in turn should be wary of clients who are seeking to make a big splash with their products on the internet because it is cheap. I have run into a number of people in my travels who price all kinds of advertising and chave erroneously concluded that they can market their products exclusively on the internet. There was a time in 1994 and 1995 when this might have been a legitimate strategy. If a business could be assured of non contested search engine position for extended periods of time, they might enjoy a sort of virtual monopoly. As mentioned before, this is no longer the case.
Everyone sees web address (URLs or Uniform Resource Locators) on television commercials these days, and hears the endlessly repeated dot com ad nauseum. Whatever the internet is or isn't, it most certainly is the most effective means the world has ever had to move large quantities of information from point A to Point B quickly. When your business has decided what information it wants to move globally and have available for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, send us an email at email@example.com.
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