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Web Site Development FAQ

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 The Questions
Web Design FAQ--frequently asked questions about developing a web siteThe first question might be, "What's an FAQ?" It means Frequently Asked Questions. FAQs are collections of simple answers to questions that are often on the minds of newcomers to a given topic. FAQs are great for finding quick answers. Reading the FAQ is also a fantastic starting point when you don't yet know what questions to ask.
 bullet Reciprocal Links--Good or Evil?
 bullet Why is business in such a rush to get on the WWW?
 bullet What do I need to start a Web site?
 bullet How should I send in my Web site materials?
 bullet What constitutes excellence in Web-site design?
 bullet What mistakes are common in Web site design?
 bullet How does one market on the WWW?
 bullet How do I bring readers to my Web site?
 bullet What about updates to my Web site?
 bullet How do we upgrade our Web site?
 Lots of Questions?
FAQ on web site development and Internet marketingFeel free to print this page. You can then read through the whole list of questions and answers at your leisure.
 No Answer Here?
If you don't find the answer you're looking for here in our FAQ, please e-mail us or give us a call and ask us directly.
 Need In-Depth Info?
Books on web site ownership and Internet marketingIf you're the type that likes to read up on things before diving into new territory, check out our bookstore.
Helpful Tips to Get Your Site Going Fast
  Quick Startup Tips           
  Best Design Practices     
  Cost Control Tips             
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 1.   What's So Big About the WWW?
  • It's worldwide!
  • It's well populated!
    • 50% of households in our area of Hampton Roads, VA are on the Web.
    • There are 464 million readers worldwide, 120 million plus in the USA alone.
    • Over 124 million domains
  • It's Growing FAST!
    • Sustained compound growth near 100%/Year!
    • Net commerce is the fastest growing business sector on earth!
  • The Advertising Cost Per Reader is Incredibly Low! Compare Annual Costs for a Web-Page-Sized color Ad In Hampton Roads (Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, Newport News, Hampton)
    • One quarter page in the local newspaper @ $860,000/year reaches 520,000 in Hampton Roads
    • One page in the Yellow Pages @ $30,000/year reaches 670,000 
    • One Web Page @ $625/year reaches 750,000 in Hampton Roads plus 464 million worldwide!
  • Not Having a Web Site Makes Your Company Appear Outdated.
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2.  Getting a Web Site Established

Do I have to own a computer to get a Web Site?
No. While it helps to have a computer, and to be computer and web literate, it is in no way a requirement. Advertising on the web is no different in that respect from advertising in a newspaper. You can certainly run a newspaper ad without owning a publishing empire. However, with web advertising, it helps to understand the Internet community. You can gain that understanding by owning a computer and spending lots of time on the WWW, or you can piggy-back on our understanding. We do own computers and we do spend lots of time on the web. :-)
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Where are the Web Site's files stored?
Web site text and graphic files are stored on a Web Server, a computer running a special WWW-server-software package. Usually, these servers are very fast computers with lots of memory, so that they can serve files to many different Web users simultaneously.
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How can I keep start-up costs in control?
Read the suggestions we've collected on our Cost Control Page. When you've finished reading that, use your browser's "back" button to return to this page.
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After start-up investment, what does a Web Site cost monthly?
Operating costs for a web site vary based on a number of factors. For instance, Microsoft has a web site that includes many thousands of pages of text and graphics, and that is read by millions of people each week. The costs of maintaining such a site are quite substantial. In contrast, a small business may have a site that has only a few pages of text and graphics, and sees no more than a dozen visitors a day. While some localities, ours included, are tight markets with pricing running in the $75 to $100 per month range, small sites can usually be hosted for $50 or less per month. Smart shopping can push the monthly cost down to just half that figure. On the other hand, for mammoth commercial sites like Microsoft or, monthly costs may run into 5 or 6 figures. If you'll tell us about your needs in Web service, we can help you accurately predict both the one-time and recurring costs for such a site.
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Why is there a monthly charge to keep my site on the WWW?
Recurring costs for WWW sites fall into two categories, one of which you must have, and one of which is optional but which is commonly selected by business sites. The first cost is for Web server space. This is like a rental fee for use of the high-end computer, Internet connection, and the highly trained personnel needed to set up and maintain this equipment. The second charge is for domain name service (DNS). DNS is, as we said, optional. Most businesses choose to have DNS because it gives them a more substantial looking presence on the web, and because it makes their Web site address easier for people to remember. The difference is that a florist shop with DNS might be while one that cuts every possible cost corner might be One is easy to remember and builds corporate identity for its owner. The other won't even fit in one line on a business card.
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Why can't I use my own computer as the Web server?
It takes more than just a desktop computer to set up credible Web Service. First, there is the issue of the software to serve files to users as they "request" them by entering your address, or by clicking links. Good server packages, particularly those with security features for accepting on-line credit-card transactions, are in the thousands of dollars and require a set-up procedure that taxes a skilled network administrator. Next, you need a router. This is a separate computer that manages protocol conversion between computers that talk by modem, and Internet nodes, that talk by various packet structures. Typical Routers go for about $5,000.
     Finally, you need either a direct connection to the Internet backbone, for which you must pay a large monthly fee, or a blazingly fast telephone connection to a Internet Service Provider (ISP) who has such a backbone connection. Usually, it's the fast phone line, because very few of us are conveniently located next door to a node of the Internet backbone. Local phone companies charge thousands of dollars per month for 24 hour/day 7 days/week service on such fast phone lines. Regular voice lines just won't do. Your Web server would slow to a snail's pace when more than a couple of users were simultaneously connected. This all assumes that your computer is fast enough, and has enough memory.
     The bottom line is that it takes about $20,000 minimum just for the hardware and software to set up a Web server. Rather than invest all the time, learning, and money; most people let the pros handle it for them. Large ISPs make a huge front-end investment to set up many gigabytes of Web-server disk space. Then they rent chunks out, 10 or 20 megabytes at a parcel, to thousands of customers, thus dividing the heavy investment costs into manageable chunks.
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How can I get started quickly?
Read the "Quick Start" suggestions on our 2GetStarted page. When you're finished, use your browser's "back" button to return to this page.
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3.  How Do I Send Materials for My Web Site?

How Can I Best Define What I Want in a Web Site?
When graphic artists and artistic managers develop a new presentation, they use a tool called a storyboard. It's nothing more than a series of sheets or "boards" with sketches and roughed out areas for text, along with notes on what will go in each sketch box and attached blocks of text for each text box. You can do the same for your web site. Don't worry if you're such a lousy artist that you can't draw a stick man. You really don't need to draw. Just a block or box with a label inside will do. Attached to each sheet, you can include copies of artwork or text with a corresponding label to show what goes in each box on your storyboard.
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What Are the Layout Limitations of HTML?
Good question. HTML is not as flexible as are the tools of the printing trade. This is because HTML documents must be viewable by all sorts of different computers using different operating systems, browser software, and graphic display capabilities. Positioning elements such as graphics and blocks of text is easy in printed art. In HTML, there are substantial limits to what can be done simply. Basic text can be aligned left or right, or centered in the page. Graphics can be put above or below text, or set so that the graphic goes to the extreme left or right of the page with the text wrapped around it.
     Other alignments require putting the graphics and text inside the cells of a table. You can specify that the table cells be invisible on the finished page. The FAQ definition and graphics at the top of this page was handled that way. Invisible tables allow the HTML designer much more freedom in making sharp looking pages for you, but we do have to charge for the work of creating them. Often, such tables require several adjustments to get all the elements positioned just as they should be. If you want a layout other than the HTML left/centered/right default, feel free to discuss your ideas with ET! Productions' design staff.
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How Should I Send My Text?
Where possible, always send your data in both electronic and printed form. Your text can be transmitted attached to e-mail, in the body of e-mail, or mailed on a floppy disk. Whichever way you send your text, be sure to send a printed copy as well, clearly showing how you want the finished output to look. If you are sending plain, unformatted text, you can mark in formatting notes on the printed copy. If you want special formatting such as boldface, italics, or headlines, be sure to indicate that clearly. Avoid using underlining as emphasis, since this is easily confused with links on a web page. Other forms of emphasis, such as bold face, italics, or all caps are preferred.
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If I Use ET's Marketing Consultant to Write, What Will He Need?
Our writer can craft your text, and knows the subtitles of the Internet world. He is also a published author with one book in a second edition, and many magazine articles as well as Web publications to his credit. If you can supply literature, product brochures and the like, he can work from them. He can also develop corporate literature for you if you're just getting started. Contact us for the best way to get your project going.
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What Text Formats Can ET Accept?
Electronic formats we can accept include:
  • Apple MacIntosh SimpleText
  • ASCII Text (.TXT or .ASC)
  • E-Mail text (What you want to say in the body of the e-mail)
  • Microsoft Windows Write (.WRI)
  • Microsoft Word for Windows, all versions (.DOC)
  • Rich Text Format (.RTF)
  • WordPerfect through version 6.0 (.WPD)

If you use some other word processor, the best idea is to use the "File, Save As" menu selections and choose either Text (.TXT) or Rich Text Format (.RTF). The advantage of Rich Text is that it preserves most of the formatting you do in your word processor, so we will know what is to be in italics, bold, or various headline formats without your having to attach a bunch of notes.
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How Should I Send My Graphics?
That depends. If you already have graphic art, logos, art spots or pictures, you can send B&W or color glossies of them and we can scan them for you. We can also scan art and pictures from printed paper or magazines, although the quality will not usually be as high as it would if we worked from an original. If you already have artwork or photos in electronic format, that's an excellent way to send it. You can either attach each item to an e-mail, compress them all into one file using PKzip, WinZip, Apple Stuff-It or UNIX Tar and post them to an FTP server; or mail them on floppy disk or CD. If you send them electronically, send a hard copy as well so we know how your file is supposed to look.
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What Graphic Formats Can ET Accept?
Here's one area where, as you can see from the long list below, we're pretty flexible. Note that three formats, *.jpg, *.png and *.gif are in bold print. This is because they are the graphic formats used in Web Page presentations. If your graphics are already in that format, so much the better. However, don't despair if they are not. We can translate from any of the other acceptable formats. We can handle graphics in:
  • *.ai or *.eps Adobe Illustrator 1.1
  • *.dxf AutoCAD Release 12 or earlier
  • *.eps Encapsulated Postscript or Corel Trace
  • *.gif (87 or 89a) Compuserve Bitmap
  • *.jpg (*.JIF *.JFF, *.JFT) JPEG compressed
  • *.pct MacIntosh Pict.
  • *.png Portable Network Graphic
  • *.tif (*.tiff)Tagged Image File Format
  • *.xls Excel for Windows through ver. 97

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What if My Graphic Files Are in a Format You Can't Read?
Don't despair. There are several options to explore. First, if you have software that lets you view and save the file type, try opening your graphic in that software and saving it as a different file format-one that we can use. In most software packages, this is done either by the "File, Save As" or the "File, Export" menu selections. Whichever your package uses, selecting it will open a dialog box in which you can pick the file format for export of your graphic. Use GIF or JPG formats if those options are available to you. If not, just choose one of the types in the "acceptable format" list above. If the self translation option won't work, how about having your file converted by the graphics firm that created it? Then again, you might find a local print shop with dye sublimation printing capability that can provide you a high-resolution color print from your file. We can then scan the graphic from your print. If none of this helps, call us and discuss the file translation problem. Perhaps we can solve it by working with a graphics house here.
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Which Web-Graphic Format Is Better, JPEG or GIF?
This debate has raged for years on the Internet and our chances of resolving it to everyone's satisfaction are no better than our chances of settling the perennial lid-up-versus-lid-down debate regarding macho-man vs. feminist restroom preferences. Still, for those who don't already feel passionately about JPG or GIF, we can pass on some worthwhile tips.
     First, it's important to know that GIF, PNG and JPG are the only graphic standards in use throughout the Internet. Putting graphics on the net in any other format means that they will be unviewable by a significant segment of the Web's users. Next, it's important to know that both the GIF and JPG format are standards for compressing graphic files so that they will download faster over dial-up phone connections. Which to use in any given instances really revolves around which does the best compression job for a given graphic, and a few special considerations we'll discuss later.
     In general, the GIF format does a much better job of compressing line drawings, text, cartoons, and similar drawings that have a limited number of colors. It handles paint-by-numbers graphics well. The JPG standard, on the other hand, is far more efficient at handling black and white halftones and color photographs where color gradations change constantly instead of one color filling a large block of space.
     Animations are one special condition where the choice is simple. GIF files are the only method to use for animations. It is possible to put movie files on the Web, but many if not most of the readers won't have a viewer configured to see them, and those that do may not be willing to wait while the enormous movie file downloads. For most Web sites, movie files are best avoided. Another special case is the transparent GIF. Again, only GIF and PNG allow you to set a transparency color. What transparency refers to is making one color in the drawing appear as if it's transparent, so that your background color or artwork shows through it.
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What Can You Do with Photo Retouching Software?
The possibilities are staggering, but not limitless. One thing we can't do is add resolution or useful contrast to an overexposed picture. Unless we draw it in, we can't add detail that was never in the negative. We can take red eye out of a model, or even put your head on Charles Atlas' shoulders. We can cut and paste together, add artistic touches such as soft lens or brush strokes, increase or decrease sharpness, posterize, etc. If you have an idea for a special photo-processing touch, let's discuss it.
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You Charge for Photo Retouching. How Can I Avoid this Cost?
There are two common reasons we have to retouch a perfectly good photo or graphic. One--the graphic file is supplied so large or in such high resolution that its file size would be prohibitive on the Web. We like to keep files to no greater than 40K for a large graphic and just a few bytes for a small one. We do this by resampling graphics to smaller sizes and in resolutions of 72 dots per inch (DPI) instead of the 300 DPI monsters common for files on your local system; and by quantizing colors to allow dithering to no more than 8 bit (256 color) instead of 24 bit true color. With these tricks, we can often reduce a file from 200K to 40 K with no discernible loss of clarity. The cost is minor, and is well worth it in improved loading speed for your site. Two--the graphic does not look right. It may be too dark, too light, or need its contrast or color balance adjusted. Graphics scanned from printed material often show an interference pattern due to a mismatch of the printed DPI and scanned DPI settings. We can sometimes correct this with software, but not always. That's why it is preferable to work from original photos or art.
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4.  Excellence in Web-Site Design

What makes some sites so slow to load?
Usually, slow-loading sites are full of large, poorly conceived graphics. A screen full of text will generally require only a few K bytes of storage. It will download to a user's screen almost as fast as they can click to request it. A full-screen graphic, on the other hand, will probably require a file of 300K to 500K in size. Downloading such a file with a 56K modem takes so long that most users will just give up and click off to somebody else's page before the beautiful picture ever flashes into life on their screen. Get the picture? Keep graphics sized reasonably for the Web, and make sure your Web designer understands how to minimize colors and DPI settings on graphics to make graphic elements look sharp on the WWW, but not take up too much space. (HINT: We know how to do that. :-)
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Why do some sites jump to the top of search-engine results?
There are several things that can affect search engine results. The first is outright bribery. Some site owners pay to leap to the top of any search containing certain key words. Short of buying your way to a number one listing, there are things you or your designer can do, however, to improve your chances of appearing near the top of a search for pages like yours. By salting both the pages and META statements with appropriate keywords, your designer can assure that search engines will list your page early in the search results whenever someone searches for a keyword that would indicate an interest in the subject matter of your site. You can aid this process by listing every word someone might use to search for a site like yours.
      Even with those words in hand, your designer must know a good deal about search-engine behavior. The most important thing to understand is that search engines index text. If you build a stellar page that's all images, the search-engine robot won't have a clue what to make of it. Your gorgeous page we end up listed underneath thousands of simple text presentations when surfers search. You need text on your page, and your keywords should be logically used it that text, and in headings, which organize your text. Good search robots "know" that what you put in Heading 1 is most important, what's in Heading 2 next and so on down the ranks to paragraph text and even ALT text describing images.
      Mindless chanting of a few keywords is definitely NOT the key. Blatant repetition of the same word may disqualify pages from listing in some of the better search engines. This rule was established because some of the porno-site owners were submitting pages with every four-letter word they could think of repeated thousands of times in the META statements, or in text the same color as the page background, and the search-engine owners didn't think this was very fair. If tinhorn promoters and snake-oil salesman were allowed to usurp search results in this manner, the very usefulness of search engines would soon be destroyed. Thus, the search-engine gurus burn midnight oil to develop software to detect and deflect cheaters. We do NOT cheat.
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Is there a "do's and don'ts" list for Web Site design?
Of course there is "Do use ET! Productions." But past that, there are some definite rules of thumb that will improve your results on the WWW. We could break down a few points as follows:
  • Do keep your presentation lively, interesting & colorful.
  • Do use graphics to highlight and communicate.
  • Do use graphic buttons & white space to help users understand the organization of your information and navigate your site.
  • Do use buttons and text links to make finding specific info easy. Web surfers are notoriously impatient, and will quickly leave a site that doesn't instantly convince them that it has the info they're seeking.
  • Don't overshadow your message with excessively flashy design.
  • Don't overdo graphics and make your pages too slow to load.
  • Don't switch formats for navigation. Keep your format consistent.
  • Don't complicate navigation. If there are lots of links, categorize them in lists.
  • Don't let pages get too old without changes. Antique displays are called "Cob Webs," and that's not a compliment on the WWW.
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What's better, one big page, or information split into little chunks?
That depends. For most WWW presentations, it's better to break your information into modules, and put no more than a few little chunks on a page. This way, readers can use your navigation links and buttons to zip right from your home (index) page to the thing they're interested in, without having to wade through a lot of data that's of no use to them. Web surfers are notoriously impatient. If data on your site is too difficult to access, there's a good chance they'll click over to some other site in search of it.
      On the other hand, there are special cases where one big page makes sense. This page is one of those special cases. If you think your readers might want to print the page and read it off line, then everything should be collected into one large document. Having to link through twenty pages and print each separately would try a user's patience just a surely as would having to wade through too much extraneous data. However, when you do go for the one-big-page approach, be sure you provide some sort of linked Table of Contents right at the top of your page so that your Hasty Hanna readers won't throw their hands up in disgust.
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How Much is too Much Razzle-Dazzle?
Dismiss anybody who rolls out a pat-hand answer to that question. The obvious truth is that it depends on the purpose of the web site. If you are a graphic arts firm, your splash page and the example pages showcasing your work had better wow them. For such a site, you don't have to worry so much about fast downloads. While a graphics-heavy page may discourage a few readers, most of the ones you'll loose will be tire kickers, folks with no intent to ever do business with you. Your potential customers will mostly have fast connections to the Internet, and those few that do not will be willing to wait to find out if you can strut your stuff artistically on your site.
      If, on the other hand, you're building a site for a group like our Amputee Support Association of Hampton Roads site, you want the widest possible audience to be able to sign on and read your pages. Too much razzle-dazzle there will cost you valuable readers, including some of the very handicapped people the site was designed to help. The right rule on glitz and glamor is use no more than is needed for the purpose of the site, and do your best to make the site accessible to all readers, regardless of the hardware and software they may be using. For more on how to do this, see the discussion of Degrading Gracefully.
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Continued Above Right
   4.  Excellence in Web-Site Design (Cont.)
What's ET's Opinion about Fixed-Width Layout?
There was a great debate raging within HTML authoring circles three years ago about the use of fixed (pixel) width tables to allow artistic layout of pages. HTML purists complained that using a fixed-width table violates the very idea of HTML, which is to provide a cross platform, software and hardware independent method of publishing content on the WWW. There is certainly truth in that viewpoint. If I set up a page with a fixed width of 700 pixels, it will look great on an 800W x 600H pixel display, a very popular screen resolution in use today. That is it will look great so long as the user has the viewing window maximized. If they have the viewing window sized to half the screen, or are using an old Macintosh with a 465 pixel maximum screen width, the page will look terrible, and the user will have to use a horizontal scroll bar at the bottom of the page to scroll left to right in order to see the whole thing.
      Fixed-table proponents countered that some content "needs" a certain width display to look good anyway, and that they were willing to present a less-than-perfect picture to the very small percentage who have undersized displays in order to provide a truly stunning presentation to the many who have adequate equipment to view their pages. You could design a table just 400 pixels wide, but it would look ridiculous on the 1024W x 768H displays that are becoming all too common on today's PCs. Some users (Us included) even run at 1600 pixel display width for graphic design and CAD.
      Which side do we come down on? For the most part, we think that CSS is the right solution, and that it is now widely enough supported by browsers in use to select it as the solution for layout. However, there are sites where the older browsers may make up a significant part of the traffic, and here we use tables. Fixed width or percentage? That depends on the purpose of the page. We used a 784 pixel table for our these pages, but we set it up to have an equal margin on the left and right side of the page, and for this margin to expand to fill any screen width greater than 800 x 600. Our thinking in this is that there are very few potential web site development customers today using machines that will choke on our 784 pixel width. For the purposes of this particular site, we'd rather provide an eye-catching display to the many than a universally viewable and universally dull one for all. We chose not to use CSS for layout because it did not degrade gracefully in this design.
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Browser Incompatibility--What does Degrade Gracefully Mean?
What it means to the Web Site designer is a lot of work. What it means to the site owner is getting a site that has a certain amount of razzle-dazzle, say JavaScript, sound, Flash or whatever, but that has built-in methods of providing decent looking content to browsers that aren't equipped to handle these extras, or that have them disabled by the user. If you visit Microsoft's Website with a recent version of Internet Explorer then come back using Netscape, you'll see this in action. Microsoft uses some jazzy tricks that only work with their own browser. But they have designed the site so that it still looks fine in Netscape, or Opera, or even Lynx, a text-based browser for the UNIX OS. Their site doesn't offer all the bells and whistles to the non-target browsers, but it "degrades gracefully." Excellence of design demands that any flashy features be of this sort. Neat if you can see them, but reasonably innocuous if your hardware or software can't handle them.
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5.  Common Web Site Design Mistakes

Ignoring the Unique Culture of the Internet
Don't overlook the uniqueness of the culture on the WWW. If you do, you are sure to offend many, including some of your readers.
      Most of us are aware that if we visit a far distant land, we need to study the cultural conventions of our hosts lest we offend them by breaching some rule of etiquette. A behavior that would be perfectly acceptable in our home land may be deeply offensive in this foreign culture. Likewise, things may be demanded of us, if we wish to be polite, which would be a serious affront to decent conduct at home. Thus we read a travel guide while on the plane or cruise ship, steeping ourselves in the culture and lore of the land we will visit.
      It's easy to guess that we'll be visiting a new culture when we have to garner passports, visas, shots, and airline tickets. When we spend the time needed to travel 10,000 miles, we know we are going somewhere new and different. Not so with the WWW. We simply buy a properly outfitted computer, arrange to hook up with a Internet service provider, and enter this brave new world from the comfort of our own well-known environs. Don't let the familiarity of your surroundings fool you. When you first leave RL (real life in Internet jargon) and venture into cyberspace, you step across a cultural boundary easily as profound as any that a 10,000 mile trip might provide. Just as you would do when traveling, take time to study the new culture you're about to enter. Any decent bookstore or library can provide you with books that will serve the purpose.
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Cyberspace doesn't end at your town's borders
Newbies often forget what the first two letters of the acronym "WWW" stand for. Cyberspace truly is World Wide. Before you make some pronouncement about what everybody does or doesn't do, say or think; consider whether your statement applies equally from Aba, China to Zyrardow, Poland.
      Excessively insular attitudes will offend many Netizens, even if they agree with the basic premise of the prophet of parochialism. Most Internet users are fiercely defensive of the rights of all readers to be the unique people they are. Those who try to enforce their own narrow regional or religious standard for acceptable thought on the entire World Wide Web will not win many converts. That's not to say you can't express opinions or beliefs. You can, so long as you don't insist that everyone else accept them.
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Learn what the Caps Lock key on your keyboard does. All caps is the e-mail convention for shouting. Since there is no volume control in e-mail, we use all capital letters to convey the idea that we are angry, and we're screaming at the recipient of our missive. Unless that's the message you want to broadcast, avoid using all capitals to show emphasis. You can occasionally capitalize a single word or very short phrase for emphasis, but even that can quickly get tiresome. There are many more efficient and less off-putting methods to emphasize text in HTML. Besides, a long string of text in all caps is very difficult to read. Don't type with the Caps Lock stuck in the "on" position.
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Is it a link or a lunk?
It is really up to each browser how a link is displayed, but since the early and enormously popular Mosaic set the standard, the near universal method of denoting a text link is to display it as underlined blue text. Links that have already been visited generally are shown as a redish purple to light red underlined text. And links that are active (currently being selected, or clicked) are usually bright red underlined text. HTML authors can "suggest" different color schemes if they want, and can even use Cascaded Style Sheets (CSS) to "suggest" the underlining be omitted. I say suggest because the client can set her system it ignore all such HTML tricks and display links in their default format.
      From all this, we can draw two conclusions. First, we should never use background color schemes that make the default presentation of links unworkable. If all our links disappear when the client forces default colors, some users won't get past our first page. Instead, they will leave our site quickly, and not in the best of humor. Second, we should never use underlining or colors for text in any way that might be confused with links. Example: This is a link cleverly disguised to look like it's plain text. This is a lunk, plain text cleverly disguised to look like a link. Only a lunkhead would build pages with lots of lunks and incognito links.
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6.  What Are the Web's Marketing Rules

What is the most common error business websites make?
You won't have to search long to find examples of it. This error is the single biggest reason why businesses "discover" that the web won't work for their type of organization. The most common fatal error is concentration on MY company, MY products, MY features. In any marketing and promotion program, the focus should be on what the potential customer wants. The message should address the benefits the customer will get from your product or service, the good feelings they will receive, the advantages that are unique to your offering. But web advertising, with its sense of immediacy and intimacy, makes this focus an imperative. On the web, a site with an I problem will bore readers, and boring sites don't hold web surfers for long. They'll simply click on to some more interesting site, a site that caters to them instead of its own authors. Make sure your site is heavy on the advantage and benefit of every feature you present. Stay user focused and your site will prove that web advertising not only works, it works phenomenally well.
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How do I defuse the Internet bias against commercialism?
You may have heard that the Internet evolved from the NSFNET of the National Science Foundation, the DARPA Net of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and various Universities. This is true. Though the Internet has changed dramatically since those halcyon days 13 years ago, it still bears some of the marks of its beginnings within its culture. One of these marks is displeasure with blatant commercialism. Hoopla that might serve well on a used car lot can get you tarred and feathered on the Internet.
      What can you do? Don't ask for the order, offer information. Let your products and your pages speak for themselves. Use real customer testimonials rather than unsubstantiated claims to excellence made by your sales manager.
      Most importantly, follow the rule that "It is more blessed to give than to receive." The Internet community thinks most highly of those business sites that give something back to the community that supports them. How can you give back? Provide an organized and useful body of information that users of your goods or services might find useful. That's what we're doing with this FAQ. If you are in the cleaning business, info on fabric care and stain removal might be a good idea. A home improvement firm might provide a free set of suggestions on ways to cure common household problems with a minimum of expense--floor plans for additions--alternatives for replacing old, leaky windows--and so forth.
      Just about any business will own a body of information which, while highly useful to potential customers, is not proprietary trade secrets, and could easily be shared. By sharing it, you'll accomplish two worthwhile goals. First, you'll dull the edge on the argument that you're just using the Net and not supporting it. Secondly, and perhaps of more interest to you, the data will attract readers who would never visit your site if all that you offered was a sales pitch. Once there, they just might see something that convinces them to do business with you. That's what we hope this FAQ will do for ET! Productions. :-)
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What's the best marketing strategy for the WWW?
We're glad you asked. There are some old acorns that fit just fine in this brave new cyberworld. There are others that are as useless as a water-soluble boot. "Give and it shall be given to you, pressed down, shaken together and running over." This one fits the Internet like a glove. "Ask for the order" may make perfect sense in door-to-door sales, but it's a washout on the Web. DO make it clear how to easily place an order, but don't TELL readers what to do. Another blueprint for failure is, "If you build it, they will come." It probably works fine for ballparks. They're inherently difficult to miss, anyway. But your new Web site will be just one more among many millions hitting the Web in this year, alone. Unless you make the right moves to let people know it's there, and what they can find on it, they simply won't come.
      Another major mistake made by business sites is making it difficult or time consuming to do business via the Web. Web advertising is not like any form of dead-tree advertising. When you place an ad in the newspaper, you list your phone number and your address and you expect interested customers to contact you. You can just forget about that strategy for the web. Web users are often highly motivated and active "upwardly mobile" people. Yet somehow, when they get on the Web, for the time they remain there surfing sites, they develop an incredible case of laziness. If they can't get their needs met with a simple click of a button on your site, the chances are they'll just surf on to somewhere with a more user-friendly interface. Only the truly motivated customers will tear themselves away from the computer long enough to call an 800 number. If you get a Web surfer to send you a hated "snail-mail letter," then you have a true Internet Winner of a Web site. Plan on making it "Internet Easy" to do business or get more information through your Web site.
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What are some good uses of a business Web Site?
Obviously, generating new business is one clear reason to be on the Web, but it's certainly not the only valid use that businesses have found for the WWW. You can also use the net to build corporate identity. A very small phone company, AmeriCom, did just that by building a web site with a free area code look-up service. They soon had millions of users signing onto their site and finding area code information. Coincidentally, these "free service" users were "asking" to see AmeriCom's advertising by signing on to their home page.
      Other imaginative uses include providing service and troubleshooting information, listing spare parts information, providing on-line help for users, and training information for a field-sales staff. How about helping potential customers through the early stages of preparing for your goods or services. For instance, if you build custom homes, you might have a site that lists a selection of floor plans and that guides people through the thought process needed to define a spec. home. Such a site might save you hours of unpaid work with new customers. Who knows? It might even work if a Web Design company provided a document answering people's Frequently Asked Questions about launching a business Web site. :-)
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What if I market through distributors or reps?
If your company markets through an independent sales force, you need to be careful when setting up a web site. You want it to be clear to your rep. force that the page is not a first step toward going direct, but is a powerful tool to help them sell more of your product, and thereby make more money for themselves and for you. You can do this by involving your reps in the early decision-making process of setting up your new site. Be sure to give contact information for each representative. If any of your reps have a website of their own, be certain to provide a link to them. Encourage those who don't currently have sites to consider establishing one, and promise to add a link to those that do so. You might even offer each rep their own page on your site.
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7.  Bringing Readers to Your Web Site

How do Web users find my site?
There are five good ways to let Internet users know about your site. First, be sure to list the URL to your site on all your business stationery, cards, brochures and advertising. Next, you can submit your site to the search engines. Most good developers will do this for you as part of the web site development process. If this is done properly and your site is built with the proper attention to search-engine protocols, Web surfers will find you when they search for keywords related to your site. Next, you can exchange links with related sites. See our Links Page for more details on how to do this. You can buy advertising in traditional media and Web space, listing your site address and details that would encourage readers to visit your pages. Finally, you can get great service from word-of-mouth advertising. If your site is a business site, you might consider a guest book and offer some premium to existing customers who encourage a friend to sign in and leave the referring customer's e-mail address.
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What's SPAM and can it help me sell on the Internet?
SPAM is the inside name for unsolicited advertising on the Internet. It's the cybernated equivalent of junk mail. As such, it might not seem like such a nasty thing. Consider, however, that it is relatively easy to throw away unwanted junk mail. Most of us don't even bother to open such advertising unless it looks like something we might want. Junk e-mail is not so easy to sort. In many cases, we have to open the e-mail and partially read it before we can decide if it is something job related and important, or just another sales pitch.
     Also, while the typical cost per mail piece for junk mail is about $1.00 including mail-list use, paper, printing, stuffing, and postage; you can e-mail thousands of people for that same $1.00. This means that advertisers don't need to be the least bit selective. My 12 year old son is bombarded daily with the rankest appeals from XXX rated porno sites and get-rich-quick investment schemes. The clutter can amount to hundreds of irritating, useless pieces of e-mail every single day.
     Then too, e-mail isn't the only target. There are more than 30,000 USENET discussion groups making up what's called USENET News. Until recently, they were a lively forum with a special-interest group focused on just about any issue you could imagine. Now, many are a wasteland of advertising for garbage not even remotely connected to the topic of the discussion group. Because of all this, announcing yourself to the Internet via SPAM is about as effective socially as wearing dog manure cologne to a party. You will get attention, but it sure won't be favorable. The costs will far outweigh any benefits.
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How can I get listed in the search engines?
You can either do it yourself or, if you're not certain how to begin, hire your Web designer or a promotions company to do it for you. Whoever does it, what's most critical is that you make a complete list of keywords before you begin listing the site. Think of all the words that a Web surfer might enter into a search engine when trying to find a site like yours. For business sites, be sure to include product brand names and generic descriptions, services rendered, etc. If your business serves a particular locality or region, enter all the names locals use to describe the area so that your customer base can separate you out from the pack of distant competitors. Also, write a description of your site in 25 words or less. This will be used by search engines to compose a brief review of your site along with the link to it, so that people searching can get an idea of what you have before deciding to click to your home page.
     Next, a word of warning. There are several services that claim to submit your site to as many as 1000 search engines for more for an incredibly low price. The worst of these don't seem to provide any service past cashing your check. Even the best don't deliver any more than you pay for. They are operated by automated programs that send your site information to a selected series of search engines. They collect an extremely limited series of keywords and almost no description of your site. ALso, there aren't thousands of search engines. There are only a handful that are regularly used by Net surfers. Most of the 1000s of listings these automated guys submit to are just banner farms. Our experience with these computerized submission services is that if they do send your site to the search engines, the listing quality is so poor that your site turns up hundreds of items down in the search. Nobody ever sees it, so it might as well not be there. This is just one more instance of the old adage, "You don't always get what you pay for, but you almost never get more than you pay for."
      Lastly, avoid at all costs promoters who claim they can "Guarantee" top listings. The only way anyone could honestly make such a claim is if they owned all the search engines. Since nobody does own more than a few search engines, anyone making a "Top Listing Guaranteed" claim is obviously either an idiot or a scam artist. Whichever's the case, you don't want them working for you.
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How can I get my link on other people's sites?
The most important step is to include a links page on your site. List a few links to neat related sites you've found, and ask those site owners to reciprocate. Also, on your links page, include the HTML code you want used for links to your page. If you don't know how to do this, then ask your Web designer to do it for you. Once there, the HTML code will generate gratuitous links without your having to lift a finger. Other WebMasters who like your page will just add your link as your page instructs them to do, then e-mail you and ask you to add a reciprocal link to them.
    Beyond this reactive approach, you can proactively generate link exchanges every time you go out surfing the Web. When you see a site that's not competitive with yours, but would be attractive to readers of your site, e-mail the WebMaster. Tell her you liked her site, and would be honored if she'd trade links with you. Doing this will serve two purposes. You'll soon have lots of sites sending readers to your home page, and you'll learn a great deal about the latest in site designs and content so that you can continuously improve your own site and keep readers interested in returning to it.
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8.  Updating Your Web Site

Are updates costly?
It's kind of like education. It does cost, but it costs more to go without. Sites that never change soon loose fascination for their readers. Don't let your site become yesterday's newspaper. Typical rates to update pages run between $30.00 per hour and $100.00 per hour. The lower end is found among the smaller, independent designers who don't carry much overhead. The higher rate is typical of large firms with a heavy overhead structure. You can keep the costs to a minimum by making sure that what you submit for changes is correct, and doesn't need editing. Have all your changes typed and in e-mail or on a floppy disk. Make it clear what is to be deleted from the existing page, and where the new material is to be inserted. Sending your designer freehand notes with taped on addenda and footnotes abounding is a sure-fire way to drive costs up.
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Can I learn to do updates myself?
Yes! The happy news is that Web design isn't all that tough to learn, particularly when the basic format is already done and all that's needed is switching this text to that or swapping a few graphics. To help our customers with this, we've developed an on-line training class in Web Site Design. If you know how to boot your computer (Win95/98 or above) and get onto the Internet, we can show you how to update your pages. You learn at your own pace, working through lesson plans on our Web site while our instructor talks you through each step on the phone. Lessons are $49.50 per hour by phone or $75.00 per hour if we come to your site The benefit of on-site training is that more than one person can participate, and lessons tend to go faster. Call us for details.
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9.  About Upgrading a Web Site

How can I sell more from my site?
One major improvement is to move up to on-line ordering and credit card acceptance. If you already have a merchant account, check with your account provider regarding Internet transaction processing. If you haven't selected an account provider, look for one that can handle Internet transaction processing and has the necessary software and hooks to give you fully automated on-line transactions. Shopping-cart software can give your store a look and feel that shoppers are familiar with. Also, use creative marketing methods. If you're debuting a major new product next year, how about giving away a minor product or premium that will lead to interest in your major new product, and will coincidentally build a qualified list of potential customers when the big product introduction finally occurs. Free premiums, drawings and the like are a sure-fire way to attract readers, some of whom will become customers as well.
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How can I make my site a design winner?
There are so many different award categories on the Web these days that winning an award isn't as tough as you might think. A nice award banner or ribbon on your site does a good deal to enhance the Site's credibility. Don't be afraid to submit your site's URL for consideration in various contests. Ask loyal customers if they will nominate you, or vote for you in contests where you're already in the running. If you've exercised all the hints on our pages, and you are persistent about applying for an award, you'll soon be displaying one on your home page.
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