Who Shouldn't Create Your Web Site

Let me guess: If you had a nickel for every time someone tried to sell you a Web site for your business, you could retire. And on top of that, one company seems to be offering apples and another, oranges. How do you decide between one company's offer and another?

Let's begin with what you don't want in a Web site. Just follow the old adage, "If it's too good to be true, it probably is." Many of you have received calls from companies offering to put together a one-page Web site for you. You then have 30 days to decide if you want to keep it. What happens more often than not is that you have so much going on, you forget that you have this, but continue to pay for it. In the event that you go with the site for six months and don't receive any leads from it, you conclude that the Internet is not really a powerful tool for the kitchen and bath industry.'

But the fact is, one-page Web sites just don't work that well for many reasons. First of all, Yahoo!, the most widely used search engine, will not usually list a one page site. For some kitchen dealers, a good listing on Yahoo! easily accounts for at least half the traffic to their site.'

One-page Web sites also tend to cram far too much information onto one page. By doing so, the download time (the wait for information to come from cyberspace onto your computer screen) is far too long. Internet users will not stand for long download times.'

Neither can one-page sites tell the whole story. Such a format can severely limit the amount and scope of information you'll be able to provide to visitors.

Finally, the more pages in a Web site, the more likely the site will be found. The analogy I like to use is, if you go fishing in the ocean, take a net; you're going to catch more fish than if you take a single fishing pole.

Destination sites
"Destination sites" normally offer you a listing, usually with a picture or two, within their site. Examples of destination sites would be your local Microsoft Sidewalk.com, Yellow Pages or newspaper's site. I'm not a fan of these, and here's why. To begin with, no matter what, the correct way for you as a kitchen dealer to have a presence on the Internet is to have your own site. You might believe you're saving money when you pay $20 a month to your online Yellow Pages or newspaper for a listing, and your Internet presence is then covered. Not so. While having a listing on these (or even your manufacturers' sites) won't hurt you, I'd venture to guess that you'll only receive about 10% of the traffic you would if you had your own site.'

If someone is searching for a kitchen dealer online, most people begin looking for you with a search engine (the equivalent of an online library). Typically they aren't inclined to head to a Yellow Pages or another type of destination site to do a search.

Another reason destination sites don't work is because their focus is too broad. For that reason, one of the secrets to building a site that works is to build it correctly behind the scenes.'

For example, if someone searches for the words "kitchen" and "design," the higher the number of those two key words in your site, the better the chance your site will be found.'

So, if your "destination site" has other key words in it (as in all of the hundreds of items listed in the Yellow Pages), the chances dramatically drop for you being found through that site.

Regarding cost, Microsoft's Sidewalk.com charges approximately a couple of hundred dollars per month to be listed on their site. By contrast, you can have an entire 12-page Web site create for your company for as little as $400.

Creating a Web site
Are you thinking about creating a Web site yourself? How many hours do you think it will take? Do you know Front Page? I don't suggest trying to build your own Web site, for a couple of reasons.

1. Have you ever had someone walk into your showroom, look around and then say to you: "You know, I have a kitchen in my home, I know what I want, so I'm just going to save money and design my new kitchen myself."? I'm sure you thought, "Okay buddy, good luck." You know that kitchen will not turn out as well as if he'd had a professional designer create it. The same premise holds true for a Web site.

2. Let's say you spend 50 hours to create a Web site. How many kitchens could you sell and design in that time? Your time and talents will make you more money in that 50 hours than you'd save by creating your own site.'

Besides, once you build a site, you'll still have to pay someone approximately $20-$40/month to host it (hosting a site is the equivalent to giving it a place "to live" on the Internet.)

Ad agencies are now getting into the Web site design business. What I find ironic is that many of them don't even have a Web site for their own business!

If you're going to have someone build a site for you, use the following questions as a guideline:

  • Do they have their own Web site? (Make sure you visit it!)
  • How many users (NOT'
    hits!) do they receive on a month-ly basis?
  • Can they tell you how to promote your site?
  • What is the background of the person who is creating the site? Remember, the key to creating a solid site is ensuring that it's built correctly behind the scenes 'not just pretty to look at.'
  • Find out who will make the changes down the line and how much those changes will cost you.
  • Find out if hosting is extra.
  • Ask if listing your site on search engines is included in'
    their fee.

The best way to find someone to create a site for you is to surf the Web. Look for user-friendly sites that you can find easily and navigate without difficulty. Normally, there will be a link at the bottom of the first page of the Web site to the Web site design firm's site.'

Another way to research possible Web site design firms is to ask friends and associates who created their sites, and if they're happy with the results. Make sure the site is working well for them!

Karla Krengel is v.p. of sales'and marketing for WorldView Technologies, Inc., a Chicago-based Web site design firm