Web sites have become the business cards of the 21st century. Even the smallest business needs an Internet presence as much as it needs business cards.
If you’ve seen some of the business cards floating around out there, you know some are effective at conveying a good image and attracting business, and some aren’t.
The same is true of Web sites.
So what does a business owner need to have an effective Web site?
The answer is as simple as ABC, said Chuck Bankoff, owner of KreativeWebworks of San Clemente, Calif.
Bankoff works with 10 different Web design teams worldwide building sites for companies of all sizes, but he said the basics apply to any Web site worth its HTML.
A — ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY
Why buy a bicycle if you can get a race car? A DOS Web site isn’t as effective as HTML.
‘‘Technology (related to the Internet) has so much more capability than it used to,’’ Bankoff said.
A Web site can capture demographics of visitors, encourage feedback and other interactive relationships with customers, take orders and provide product demonstrations, just to name a few.
Bankoff ticks off some of the fun and effective uses for technology online: A restaurant can provide a 360-degree view of its facilities. A pediatric dentist can set up a coloring contest for pintsized patients.
B — BE FOUND
A business Web site must be able to be found among the millions of sites on the Internet.
‘‘You could have the Picasso of Web sites, but if no one sees it, what good does it do?’’ Bankoff asked.
A site must be marketed to be found. And the means range from the no-cost to expensive. Let return on investment be your guide, he said.
‘‘If you have a Web site, you need integrated marketing,’’ Bankoff said. ‘‘A lot of people put the Web address on their business cards, but how about putting it on your voicemail message and your invoices?’’ Many small-business owners know they need to sign up with search engines, which can be free, but they may want to pay a search engine to get higher listing when someone types in certain key words.
‘‘Yahoo now charges $300 just to be considered, and there’s no guarantee to be listed,’’ he said. Yahoo ‘‘knocks a site down for being slowloading, ugly or having no content.’’
An entrepreneur might use e-mail marketing to push customers to his site.
‘‘That’s different from spam, which is one of the Internet’s biggest challenges right now,’’ he said. ‘‘I use a double opt-in on my clients’ sites. People give permission to receive e-mail, and then we send back an e-mail asking ‘Are you sure?’ ’’
C — CONSULTIVE AND EDUCATIONAL
A Web site ought to provide information and value to visitors.
A company can do more than tell about itself and its product specifications, Bankoff said. For example, a restaurant can show its menu and match entrees with proper wine selection.
‘‘A guy can go online and get that information and impress his date that night when ordering,’’ Bankoff said.
By the same token, the Web-development firm ought to give some information away when vying for a company’s Internet business, he adds.
‘‘Some consultation is misleading,’’ he said. ‘‘They’ll say, ‘We can get you hundreds of hits a day.’ But one click on a page with 14 pictures on it counts as 15 hits. The number of unique visitors is a better measure.
‘‘A good consultant will make even a simple Web site work for you.’’
D — DESIGN
‘‘Clothes go out of fashion, so do Web site designs,’’ Bankoff said.
If your Web site uses oversized lettering in Times New Roman font on a textured background, it’s as dated as poodle skirts and pompadours.
‘‘Also, navigation is key to a site’s effectiveness,’’ he added. ‘‘People don’t read on the Internet; they scan. You want to use headlines and briefs that people click on to find out more.
‘‘You have to push visitors down the trail you want them to follow.’’
E — EXPENSIVE
‘‘E’’ also means effective. The most expensive Web site is the one that isn’t effective.
‘‘The question I get all the time is how much does a Web site cost,’’ Bankoff said.
‘‘Well, how much is food?’’
Don’t spend extra money foolishly, he advises. Return on investment is the measuring stick.
If advanced technology, being found and effective design costs a little more but significantly boost return on investment, go for it. If not, pass.