The internet is probably one of the fasBODY-moving media to ever infiltrate popular culture. In the past year alone, Web site addresses have become as familiar as 800 numbers in print, radio and TV advertisements. Not only is the Web a popular marketing alternative, but it's also full of resources and contacts that can enhance your daily business. This column discusses a few software products that can help you make the most of the Web for your business.
Make It Quick
If you want to launch a Web site, check out QuickSite 2.5 from DeltaPoint. QuickSite is a Web-authoring tool designed to assist both novice and advanced users in creating and administrating Web sites. At just $99, QuickSite is a steal for Windows and Macintosh users (we reviewed the 16-bit Windows 3.1/95 program). QuickSite differs from other Web-authoring programs in that it puts all your Web pages in a database, which makes working with and administrating the site much easier.
Upon installing QuickSite (which can be downloaded from DeltaPoint's Web site at http://www.deltapoint.com), you are asked to use the New Project Wizard to establish the look and feel of your site. QuickSite provides easy-to-work-with Web site templates that are designed to suit various users' needs, including "restaurant," "catalog sales," "personal site" and "small business." Click on one of these templates, and you're led to a database that lists the pages.
From the database view, you can monitor the basic elements of the pages (links, site status, etc.); you can even drag and drop elements from one file into another. For example, if you want a page in your Web site to link to your home page, you can drag your home page into the link box, and QuickSite will automatically implement the link. You can also hide a page by clicking the appropriate box or marking it "New" or "Under Construction" in the same manner. These features make it possible for overworked entrepreneurs to get down to the business of creating Web sites without a lot of headaches.
The page templates are laid out clearly and include pre-defined text that can be easily edited to reflect your company's message. You can also import graphics. (DeltaPoint includes some basic .gif and .jpeg files.) A spelling checker ensures you won't publish your site with any embarrassing misspellings.
Of course, advanced users don't have to resort to the templates and libraries; instead, they can dive right into Web creation. Once you've developed your Web site, QuickSite lets you publish it on the Web with an easy-to-use file transfer protocol program. There are concisely written instructions included on every topic, so users aren't left in the dark.
After you've published your site, the Site Promotion Wizard assembles details about your site and automatically registers it with leading search engines. DeltaPoint even includes plenty of good advice for novices, such as "Check your Web site with multiple browsers to determine if there are any browser-specific problems."
Making this product even more useful to small-business owners is the new EasyCommerce feature. EasyCommerce consists of an integrated Catalog Builder and Catalog Wizard. This feature was created so businesses could publish a catalog on the Web simply. EasyCommerce also includes a function for capturing customer information and orders and then e-mailing the orders to the appropriate person in your organization, effectively eliminating complicated server scripts for processing customer orders.
Do you need to create brochures, price lists or other printed materials that would also be a great addition to your Web site? Design Intelligence Inc. has created I Publish to let users generate printed documents that can be reconfigured for publishing on the Web or within on-screen presentations. The idea is to write it and design it once, then use it over and over again.
This program is not for designers; it was created for businesspeople who are willing to spend a little time to create affordable yet well-styled printed and Web-based documents.
I Publish is simple to use. You choose the type of printed materials you want to generate--a sell sheet, brochure, sales letter and so on. Pick a basic style, choose a font combination, and start typing in your text and importing images. This procedure is much easier than using a dedicated publishing program. Of course, you can't expect extremely robust features, but for basic publishing needs, I Publish does an excellent job. Once your designs are finished, you can use I Publish to convert the document to HTML for publishing on your site.
Spread The Word
Want to get the word out about your Web site? PowerSolutions' www.SitePromoter claims it will help your Web site earn a top spot on popular search engines.
Creating descriptions to match search engine requirements, www.SitePromoter submits your site to more than 150 search engines. This means you won't have to retype information and submit it in various formats. As new search engines come online, you will have access to them from www.SitePromoter's Web site. Additionally, www.SitePromoter includes reporting capabilities that tell users which search engine a site has been submitted to, how long it will take to get posted, how well you placed in the hierarchy of listed sites, and more. This program can be used to promote hundreds of sites or just one and is available to both Macintosh and Windows users.
It's also an easy-to-use program. Upon opening the program, you're asked if you want to create a new entry. A tabbed listing of the various components of www.SitePromoter pops up. First, you input basic information such as business name and address, Web site address, phone number and so on. Click on the "Keyword" tab to input key words, key phrases and descriptions used by search engines. You can input as many as you like, and if you need to add more or delete inappropriate ones at a later date, www.SitePromoter lets you easily do so. Then you are asked for a site title and headline. A "Category" tab lists the common categories used by search engines (for example, automotive, entertainment, finance, etc.).
What's so great about www.SitePromoter is it allows you to input all the information about your site in one sitting. If you attempted to do this task without such a tool, you would need to visit all 150 search engines www.SitePromoter works with and retype information each and every time. This program even sends an e-mail message to search engine operators, telling them about your site, and counts the characters and words in various descriptions so you can be assured they fit all the varying criteria.
After you've input the data, it's converted to HTML format, and you are required to launch a Frames-capable Web browser (Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator, for example), which allows you to view the frames used in designing and organizing a Web site. Here the program falls short in terms of ease of use; you're asked to locate two oddly named files in the www.SitePromoter directory (Frames001 and Frames002). The first file lists the top 50 search engines along with their submitting guidelines; the second file lists a hundred or so business-oriented search sites. You can then submit your site automatically or make changes to a previous submission.
4 = Excellent, 3 = Good, 2 = Fair, 1 = Poor
QuickSite 2.5 by DeltaPoint Inc. (800) 446-6955 List Price: $99
Pluses:Combines Web site design with Web site management
Minuses:None of note
Report = 4
I Publish by Design Intelligence Inc. (888) 2-publish List Price: $149
Pluses:Extremely easy to use
Minuses:None of note
Report = 4
www.SitePromoter by PowerSolutions (800) 955-3337 List Price: $99
Pluses:Streamlines Web site submissions
Minuses:Not completely intuitive
Report = 3
Smart Attorney 97: At one time or another, just about every business owner wishes there was an attorney on staff. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford such a luxury, but you can at least afford Smart Attorney. This $89 program includes Smart Forms, a collection of more than 3,000 legal forms; Smart Letters, over 500 letters addressing legal issues; and more. You can purchase Smart Attorney at (http://www.smartonline.com), or call (800) 791-1000.
CurrentIssue: Inlet Inc., a Web site development and hosting company, has created a consumer-based Web site design and management program. CurrentIssue combines design client capabilities (used to write HTML and link pages together), server processing and site management functions. Inlet claims CurrentIssue fills the void between basic Web development tools and expensive custom programming. A free 30-day trial version is available at (http://www.CurrentIssue.com). The full version costs $995.
Drag and Zip: As e-mail becomes the delivery system of choice, we're forced to find the best ways to deliver large files over phone lines. "Zipping," or compressing, them is the answer. Drag and Zip from Canyon Software works within Windows 95's Internet Explorer or its own interface. Users can create self-extracting zip files--which means you can e-mail compressed files to users who don't have Drag and Zip, and they'll be able to open them. This program supports numerous file types. Download a copy at (http://www.canyonsw.com), or call (800) 280-3691. The program costs $30.