From the October 1998 issue of Startups

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.

Bargain 'Book

Do you yearn for a notebook computer but cringe at the high cost? Now you can boot up on a budget with the GeoBook NB-80C Personal Digital Notebook from Brother International Corp. For $799, you get a full-sized keyboard, a color VGA display, a built-in 1.44MB disk drive, and a 33.6 Kbps modem. The GeoBook connects to most printers and has connections for a mouse, a telephone line for Internet and fax access, and a full-sized monitor for presentations.

The preloaded BrotherWorks '98 software suite includes word processing, desktop publishing, spreadsheets, an Internet browser, a planner and more. Although the GeoBook uses the GEOS 3.0 operating system, you can import and export files to and from your PC in several formats, including ASCII, MS Word, WordPerfect, WordStar and Lotus 1-2-3. Or use the included CD-ROM to load BrotherWorks '98 software on your office computer, where it will run under Windows.

One caveat: If you don't like Brother's software, you're stuck. Off-the-shelf software can't be used with the GEOS 3.0 operating system, and the GeoBook doesn't have enough memory to load Windows. For more details, call (800)?84-1937 or visit http://www.brother.com

Shop Talk

Of all the hats you wear, the one you most dread donning is probably "purchasing director." If so, check out the BuyersZone Web site (http://www.buyerszone.com). It's packed with information to help you make informed purchasing decisions on products and services in more than 60 different categories, from photocopiers to overnight delivery companies.

If you're looking for a specific product--a printer, for instance--simply answer a few questions about your needs, and BuyersZone provides a detailed list of models that meet your criteria. You can even compare two or more different models right onscreen.

Know what you want, but don't know where to get it? BuyersZone can help there, too. Type in your ZIP code, then answer a few questions about the product or service you're looking for to receive a list of vendors in your area. Or contact vendors straight from the site using a BuyersZone CybeReply card.

Donna Chambers is a freelance business writer and small-business owner. She can be reached at donna94142@aol.com

Contact Source

The Internet AdVenture Company, (800)?96-8653, http://www.netadventure.com