Found In Space

Hazard Ahead

In the race to net success, it's full speed ahead, right? watch out--some road blocks could stop you in your tracks.

It's easy to build a poor site--use lots of slow-loading graphics and make it difficult for visitors to buy [your products]," says Jaclyn Easton, a computer columnist for the Los Angeles Times and author of (McGraw-Hill).

Who would do that? Unfortunately, thousands of entrepreneurs doom their Web sites by erecting clumsy pages that take forever to load. "There's just a low level of patience for poor Web design when people are ready to part with their money on the Internet. They want to get to the goods very quickly," says Paul LeBlanc, president of Marlboro College in Marlboro, Vermont, and director of its Internet Strategy Management Program.

To get it right the first time, pick your niche--find an area where the Web has unique appeal to customers, and discard all preconceptions. Who would have thought a wedding site would prosper? Or a print shop? Today's Netpreneurs are rewriting every rule in yesteryear's business books.

Simplification is also key. "You want a simple, straightforward design. People need to be able to navigate the site easily," says LeBlanc, who advises testing every element of a site on the 28.8 and 33.6 Kbps modems that remain the primary avenues for connection to the Internet. Keep the customer's technology in mind.

Then be ready to keep changing the site: "Static sites are death," says LeBlanc. "You have to be prepared to make an ongoing investment in keeping it fresh."

And you can never forget the basics of doing business successfully anywhere: "The best Web sites excel in customer service," says Easton. "You need to answer e-mail in hours, not days, and you should put your toll-free number on every page so customers can also call."

Follow these basic principles, and you'll likely stand out--even among the tens of millions of companies already doing business on the Web.

Contact Sources

The Chocolate Vault, (800) 525-1165,

iPrint Inc., (650) 298-8500

The Knot Inc., (888) 933-KNOT, (404) 261-9975,

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This article was originally published in the June 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Found In Space.

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