When you imagine creating a Web site for your company, do visions of revolving logos, musical scores and video clips dance in your head? If so, you may need to rethink your dream. Your customers' computer capabilities are the most important things to keep in mind when designing your Web site, cautions Tera Lee Gemmil-Mugrage, co-owner of The Internet AdVenture Company, a Web site design firm in Whittier, California.
"You must know the modem speed and browser customers use," she says. If they don't have the latest hardware and software, a Web site with too many bells and whistles can take too long to download, may lock up their computers or may not appear on their screens at all.
To create the right site, start by charting the demographics of your potential visitors. Are they women or men? What ages? What types of businesses do they operate? What are their income levels? How often do they upgrade their computers? Find these things out from trade association Web sites, by setting up a test site to gather information, or by mailing questionnaires to your customers. Using this information, a Web site designer or consultant can match your site to your customers' sophistication level.
"Most nontechnical companies should keep their sites low-tech," adds Gemmil-Mugrage. So who gets to use all the fun stuff? Computer-related companies, mostly. More important for most entrepreneurs are the three hallmarks of a good site: 1) attractive, simple graphics; 2) coherent organization and presentation; and 3) value-added content. Only after those basics are in place should you consider adding high-tech extras.