Whether you're a home or business computer user, if you've thus far resisted putting down a stake on the Internet with your own Web site, now may be a good time to get up to speed. A variety of approaches are available for joining the Web world, from hiring a consultant to do it all for you to doing it yourself with either tools on your own computer or "hosted" tools.
Bear in mind that if you're one of the Web homeless, you're not alone, even if you're in business. A survey by Verizon Communications indicated that only 27 percent of small companies with 50 or fewer employees have their own Web sites. Only 57 percent of all U.S. businesses have Web sites, according to market research company Ovum.
Despite the current turmoil in the dot-com world, with many Web-based businesses going under, the advantages of having a Web site remain, particularly in aiding the marketing effort. This is why, even though the overall economy is precarious, organizations that already have Web sites are planning to invest more in them this year, according to a survey of businesses, educational institutions and government agencies by Interactive Week magazine.
A LITTLE OR A LOT
Costs range from several hundred dollars for a simple site consisting of a few pages to a half million dollars or more for an e-commerce site with easily updateable product databases, a search engine, animated product demos, secure online transactions and audio and video.
Choices include independent site developers, Web design shops, technology consulting firms, traditional advertising and public relations agencies and interactive agencies. You could even hire a student or hobbyist. Referrals make sense here.
If you're willing to roll up your sleeves, and your needs aren't terribly elaborate, you can better control the process and usually save some money by creating your Web site yourself.
For some years now individuals and businesses have been creating their own Web sites using HTML editors—HTML is the language of the Web. The latest programs are easier than ever and are similar in complexity to a word processor or low-end desktop publishing program. One newer and affordable package that a lot of people are talking about is Trellix Web (www.trellix.com).
The program comes with attractive pre-designed pages, or templates, and add-ons that you can simply drop on any page of your site, from a map to your office to a tool for alerting those interested about new information you add to your site.
The program has attracted such a following that some computer manufacturers have preloaded it onto their machines, including Compaq and Hewlett-Packard. You'll also find the program at some Web services that provide free space for hosting your site, including Tripod (www.tripod.com), though you can use Tripod's version of Trellix only at Tripod.
You'll have more flexibility if you buy a stand-alone version of Trellix, which costs under $70. Most Internet service providers offer plenty of free Web space for a relatively simple site.
The most widely recommended high-end HTML editor for some time now has been Macromedia Dreamweaver (www.macromedia.com). You won't get the handholding as you would with Trellix, and you'll pay more than $250 for the program, but you'll have a high degree of control in creating sophisticated effects.
After you've created your Web site and found a host for it, you shouldn't stop there. You may also want to give it a distinctive, easy-to-remember name. Check out Internet Goldrush (www.igoldrush.com), for more information on selecting a domain name for your site.
"If you build it, they will come" may work for Hollywood, but it doesn't hack it on the Web. You'll need to promote your site to attract visitors. At the very least, if it's a business site, include your Web site address in your other marketing materials. You should also submit your site to the major Web search services, such as Yahoo and Lycos.
Finally, keep your site up to date. On the fast-moving Web, nothing makes you look worse than outdated information.
Reid Goldsborough is a syndicated columnist and author of the book Straight Talk About the Information Superhighway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://members.home.net/reidgold.