Are you using too many images on your Web site? Too few? Face it: Photos and illustrations are critical in constructing a snappy Web site. But a big frustration for Web authors is choosing images that are rich enough to be eye-catching but small enough to be easily viewed by visitors. What's the secret?
Specialty software tools get the job done--and software-makers are rushing to provide user-friendly applications aimed at the small-business market. From Adobe's Photo Deluxe Business Edition ($79 street, http://www.adobe.com) to Microsoft's Picture It! ($54.95 street, http://www.microsoft.com), plentiful tools are hitting the shelves.
One program in particular, though, jump-starts Web image creation: Ulead System's PhotoImpact 4.2, an economy application ($49.95 street) that packs in the tools you need to crop, edit and apply special effects (warping, smoke and more) to any image you can scan into your computer. It handles both photos and illustrations, and it easily renders output in Web-optimized formats. Another plus: Built into PhotoImpact is SmartSaver 3.0, a utility that lets you try out various file sizes until you find the ideal combination of small size and high visibility.
Even tidy Java applets are within reach with Ulead's Button.Applet, a freebie packaged with PhotoImpact. With a few mouse clicks, Button.Applet will guide you through creating buttons that glow, change color or do other visual tricks. To test PhotoImpact, download a trial version from http://www.ulead.com.
Get other free tools at Ulead's Image Mechanic (http://220.127.116.11/effect/index1.htm), including SmartSaver, Particle Engine (for adding special effects such as fog or rain) and an image resizer. Ulead plans to add more tools in the coming months, so keep checking in.
On Top Of The World
Just which nation is tops for business competitiveness? Starting with high productivity, strong growth rates and realistic pay scales, among dozens of economic measures, the analysts at the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland, have created The World Competitiveness Scoreboard to let you know. The survey, which includes almost all the globe's developed nations, is comprehensive--and the 1999 results may surprise you. The world's least competitive nations are Indonesia and Russia. The most competitive? Perhaps not surprisingly, the United States, with a dramatic lead over second-place finisher Singapore. Check in for the details, especially when contemplating setting up offshore partnerships and alliances.
By The Bookmark
The problem: You're in a hotel business center far from home, you're online, and you want to quickly review a critical Web site before a meeting--but all your bookmarks and favorites are back on your office desktop. What to do? Sign up with Oneview, a free Web site that lets you import Netscape bookmarks and Microsoft Internet Explorer favorites. That way, they're always there, ready to be accessed at any time, from any computer in the world. Another plus, especially if you switch back and forth between Internet Explorer and Netscape, is that you can stash both sets of bookmarks in one holding tank. In addition, Oneview provides de facto backup for your bookmarks in case your desktop crashes.
The Search Is On
Is your site in the search engines it needs to be in?
The new research is frightening: Just 42 percent of the Web's content has been indexed in the major search engines, according to Steve Lawrence and Lee Giles of NEC Research Institute. Even more unsettling is that the very best search engine, according to Lawrence and Giles, is Northern Light (http://www.northernlight.com), which captures just 16 percent of the Web's content.
So what's the scare? You've probably spent a lot of time and money constructing a great business Web site--what if nobody can find it?
To avoid this nightmare, make sure your site is indexed. Establish a routine in which every week or two, you or an employee swing through the major search engines to make sure you're listed correctly. If you're not, look for an "Add Your Site" button--follow the directions, submit your site details, then check back again in a few weeks. Still not listed? Keep submitting your URL until you finally show up. And remember, your site could be removed if a search engine checks it when it happens to be down, so be sure to check back periodically to see whether your site is in or out.
Most search engines have a huge backlog of URLs to be indexed, so be patient. It takes time and manpower to input all the sites that want to be listed. But stay on top of this, and, eventually, you'll make the cut.
Build It Better
Webpedia bills itself as "the ultimate Web builder's reference," and if your site is misbehaving--or if you want to jazz it up with some Java scripts--this is a good place to visit. Don't miss the Tutorials section, where hot-shot code writers offer tips (usually in plain English) on everything from using PhotoShop better to setting up a hit-counter. Click on Tools, and you'll find spiffy, free Web site-building tools. And don't miss MetaCheck, which, in seconds, reports back on how successfully you're using meta-tags (hidden keywords) to help steer search-engine traffic to your site.
"Local business starts here," proclaims this Web site's banner--and if what you want isn't the big, national business news distributed by all the wire services, but rather honed-down news that's specific to your town, check in at dbusiness. Covering cities from Austin, Texas, to Washington, DC, dbusiness employs local business writers to provide the skinny on what's happening. Stories are brief, with just enough details to provide the facts you need.
Here's My Card
Want to put up a business card on the Web that includes driving directions to your business so you'll never again have to go through "Take a left on Main, a right on Dutton," and so forth? Visit eCode, where you can mount a personalized business card complete with directions for free. It only takes a minute to fill in the required information and choose your customization options (for colors, art and more), and the resulting eCode card just may start saving you time. In addition, you get a personalized, easy-to-remember URL so you can refer your colleagues to your eCode card.
See And Be Seen
Most banner exchanges give your banner ad one exposure on another member's Web site for every two hits on your site. But Beseen gives one exposure for every click on your site. Sponsored by search engine Looksmart (http://www.looksmart.com), Beseen's one-for-one deal has to rank as the Web's most generous. Check it out, and while you're at it, don't miss Beseen's free submission utility (http://www.beseen.com/submit/index.html), which, with one mouse click, submits your site for entry into the databases at AltaVista, Excite, HotBot, Infoseek, Lycos and WebCrawler.
Online Bonanza: $1 trillion--that's how big the e-commerce market will be in 2003, say researchers at International Data Corp.
Shop 'til you drop: Women are driving the growth of Internet shopping, say CommerceNet and Nielsen Media Research. Just last year, 29 percent of e-shoppers were women. For 1999, that figure has jumped to 38 percent.
To contact Robert McGarvey, e-mail him at email@example.com.