High-quality images leave indelible impressions on customers. Today's color scanners and digital cameras make capturing and integrating memorable images into Web pages, sales presentations and desktop publishing documents a snap.
One solution to consider: Hewlett-Packard's PhotoSmart C30 digital camera ($399 street; http://www.photosmart.com). It features 1 megapixel resolution (1,152 x 872 pixels), 24-bit color and 2X digital zoom. A 4MB removable CompactFlash memory card to store images and photo-finishing software are also included.
At 2.3 megapixels (1,792 x 1,200 resolution), Ricoh's RDC-5000 digital camera, scheduled to be out this month, boasts impressive image quality. The RDC-5000 (http://www.ricohcpg.com) also contains a variety of high-performance features, including 2.3X zoom, a 1.6-inch supermacro for close-ups, continuous shooting, time lapse and 8MB internal memory. (For more on digital cameras, check out next month's "Buyer's Guide.")
If you need of an affordable, entry-level scanner, look to the ArtiScan 636DX 36-bit color scanner from Tamarack Technologies Inc. The ArtiScan 636DX ($109 street; http://www.tamarack.net) can scan 600 x 1,200 dots per inch via a parallel port. It comes with Xerox TextBridge OCR software and image-editing and document-management applications.
With the vast number of small businesses adding sites to the Web every day, a ho-hum entry simply won't cut it. Your site has to capture the attention of visitors, provide useful information and keep visitors coming back for more. Just ask Fred Waymack, 48, an owner of International Travel Inc. in Nashville, Tennessee. Two years ago, Waymack's company set up a Web site (http://www.itbna.com/fiesta) to provide information to the parents of 4,000 students--members of 18 high school bands--who were using the company to travel to and from the Fiesta Bowl.
Waymack used Microsoft FrontPage to design his Web site. FrontPage is a WYSIWYG program that provides professionally designed themes or graphical templates, so Waymack could create his Web site with all the bells and whistles necessary to look professional and present a big-company image. He also used Microsoft Access to maintain 18 separate databases to track flights and other travel information for the individual bands. Then Waymack's firm designed 18 sub-sites around the databases, assigned a password to each and used active server technology to instantly update flight times.
The site impressed clients and lowered the overhead for everything from staff time to postage and printing of literature. As a result, Waymack decided to expand the site significantly. In the last year, the $4.5 million travel agency has spent $20,000 on Internet marketing and has positioned itself as an innovator in its market niche. "Because of our ability to stay at the forefront of technology, we now have a close ratio of about 80 percent compared to 25 percent before," says Waymack.
To lose your Web site's amateur status, consider the following tips:
1. Design for maximum readability. Artsy backgrounds and fonts can make a site difficult to read. Choose dark type on a solid white background.
2. Make each page stand on its own. You never know which page on your site a visitor will bookmark. Include contact information, copyright and a navigation bar on every page.
3. Provide simple navigation. Sketch out how your information flows and design a system visitors won't get lost in. If you're selling products, make that clear on your home page and provide quick access to catalog copy.
4. Don't overdesign. Too many bells and whistles can slow down load time and cause impatient visitors to go elsewhere.
5. Include a response mechanism. Involve your visitors by using contests or offers for special information, such as an e-mail newsletter.
6. Keep the site fresh. Update your content continually to give visitors a reason to come back.