Internet Marketing - the Why's and Wherefore's

The Why's - Why Internet
A look at the reasons for and against taking space on the Internet
The Wherefore's - Tips for your page
Some useful tips and hints on web page design do's and don'ts
Using your space
Ways to use commercial and personal space on the Internet
With the UK in Mind
A look at the Internet as a marketing tool with particular reference to the UK retail market

These articles include a few of the ideas and criteria I work to at Bearpit, other people will have other and equally valid views. If you are contemplating putting your company on the Internet have a surf around and view pages from other companies - watch for points such as content, design and particularly download time - don't feel constrained to copy slavishly what another company has produced. Above all for company pages it does pay to employ professionals - as you would for any other service.

Your page can say a lot about your company - good and bad -
remember you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

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Tips for your web page - whatever your platform
The Wherefore's

Whether you use a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, raw HTML or a combination of both you can get your page up on the net and potentially viewed by millions.

What are the basic rules for web design?

Remember visitors to your site PAY to read your words - they might not pay you, but they pay the telephone company and with some servers they pay for time on line. If you remember nothing else remember this - it will help more than any other design rule to ensure your site is well designed, easy to read and navigate.

The more complicated your page the longer it will take to download, the longer it takes to download the less chance there is people will hang around to see it - or if they do they will only visit the once. There are few surfers out there in the wide blue cyberland who will wait more than 25 to 30 seconds for a page to download.

Remember many Internet subscribers have what might best be described as 'minimalist systems' - they too are part of your audience. You might have a state of the art computer system with thousands of fonts, video and sound boards, and all the latest programmes and techno gizmos, BUT not everyone has the same equipment.

Other good reasons for keeping your page simple, besides the obvious one of getting your message over quickly.

There are many Internet subscribers who do not use the high end browsers such as Netscape 3/4 or Explorer, many have browsers that won't display frames, tables or graphics (let alone moving gifs), even with the more sophisticated browsers people often choose the option not to display images. Try viewing your pages without the images - still interesting?

Some subscribers have small screens, find out what 468 means - and stick to it. 468 pixels is the maximum optimum width your page should be to enable visitors to view without having to scroll sideways. If you're not into pixels 468 is roughly the width of an A4 sheet of paper (that's the short side, not the long).

Some still have black & white monitors - view your page in black and white (turn off the colour - on Macs that is the Monitor in the control panels). Is it still effective? More important can you still read the text or has it disappeared into the background? - if not go back and start again.

Remember: in a community counted in millions 'some' can be a very large number.

Colours appear differently on different platforms - pages designed on a Mac will show darker tones when viewed on a PC - try to keep to pastel colours for background, use a dark colour for print. Viewing your page in black and white will help to eliminate many anomalies caused by different browsers and platforms.

Patterned/Textured backgrounds - clever use of logos look great as a background to your page - but again different computers will display the colours in different intensities - often resulting in only the background being visible - the words get lost - is that REALLY what you want?

Reverse type, that is light type on a dark background is difficult to read, try to keep to the expected of dark type/light background.

Fancy fonts: not a good idea - try to keep to the fonts most people have on their computer otherwise your text won't be seen as you intend.

Font Size: Try sitting in front of your computer for two hours reading a small size font - better yet try reading a small size font in a pastel colour reversed out on a slightly darker colour. Reasonable size fonts - 10 point or preferably larger, in dark colour on pastel background give a more user friendly environment.

Designer links (buttons, bars, image maps, etc): All images add to the download time of the page. Simple text links which give accurate information of where they take the reader are more useful. E.g Contents Page, To top of page, To this subject heading, etc.

Moving or flashing type is a no-no - difficult to read and can make the viewer feel seasick.

Frames & Tables - only if you want to stop a large portion of the Internet community viewing the product of your hard work. They can also take a long time to download to screen - costing your audience money.

Music - again no, unless you don't mind about limiting your audience, a few bars of poorly reproduced muzak can be as annoying as those phone systems where they have you holding for hours.

Illustrations - keep file size small, smaller and smallest possible. Photographs do not have to be scanned at high resolution for screen reproduction (75 to 90 is more than ample). If necessary scan twice, once at thumbnail size for inclusion in your page and again at the size you would like it to appear on a separate page, with a link from the thumbnail - that way visitors have a choice. As some viewers turn off the image option or their browsers don't support images always include the 'Alt' script with each image - if only to let them know what their missing!

Moving gifs - clever, but boring - how many times can you marvel at a little ball whizzing round, or 'Rover' picking up an envelope. Homepage builders should be particularly wary of those banner offers - sometimes the advertisements take 2/3 times to download as the rest of the page.

Counters - useful record of how many visitors to your site, some will even give analysis of time, geographic location, etc. Unless your page loads down very quickly these should be sited somewhere near the top - some counters do not count a visitor until the page has downloaded past where they are sited. If the counter is at the bottom of the page that might mean some visitors are not counted.

Guestbooks - another useful way for people to actively record their visit to their site - with comments - check frequently and edit where necessary some people have a warped sense of humour!

Getting your page seen - one of the most difficult tasks. You can upload your page to your server, but people will not automatically come and visit. Your page should include META tags - these don't display on screen when your page is seen on a browser, but they are there to tell the Search Engines what subjects your page covers and a brief synopsis of its contents, without them the chances of your pages being found by a search 'by subject' are very much reduced. Register with Search Engines - rather like a combined telephone and trades directory for the Internet - this can take longer than all the previous work on your page - anything up to 24 hours!! Don't limit your Search Engine registration to the top five or six, depending on the subject/content of your page it might be sensible to register it with up to 20 - 200 Search Engines (there are probably about 1000 search engines serving the Internet at any one time), some are subject specific: e.g. medical, architectural, religious, etc. and for this reason can give good exposure for a product in a 'niche' market.

One final word about illustration, gifs, pics, music and all the other equivalents of the pop-up picture plays a nursery type books we all had in primary - remember how pleased you were the first time you managed a 'grown up' book - one with a minimum picture content and an emphasis on the words? Most of your target audience are probably adult and, like you, have spent more time learning to absorb information through text rather than pretty pictures. A strategically placed photograph with short caption is fine, but unless you are deliberately targetting the younger end of the market, your product will probably benefit from an approach that more nearly mimics what people are used to seeing in the printed page. As I have said in other articles, the Internet is no longer the sole property of the techno/computer/academic world - it belongs to everyone and many of these new users of the Internet will appreciate your friendly, familiar environment. The point is to sell your products, services or ideas - not to impress your audience so much with the computer wizardry they spend more time wondering how that was done than absorbing the message about your product!
Ieke, mcij, maip
Member, Association of Internet Professionals

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