An article by Bruce Bickerstaff, Meet the People Pty Ltd, which appeared in the September newsletter of the Ecotourism Association of Australia

As someone involved with the development of Internet web sites, I am often asked the question “how much to get on the Internet?”. I answer, “well it depends” and start to explain. The pair of eyes facing me begin to glaze over. Nevertheless my advice is find out what you are paying for - buyer beware. In this as in so many things, price is not necessarily a good indication of quality or value or usefulness to your business.

Listen up. Forget the ad you put in Yellow Pages. Forget the brochures you churn out. With Internet we are talking a whole new ball game with more and different factors that need to be recognised and considered.

But before I briefly run through those factors, let’s go back a step and ask the question “what’s in it for my business?”. The potential benefits of Internet exposure vary significantly depending on the specific nature of your business. For some businesses, after weighing up the alternative demands on your time and money, it’s probably not worth the trouble (not yet anyway). To make this decision, and to have realistic expectations, you need to gain some basic familiarity with the medium though reading, talking to people, visiting a cyber cafe, etc - maybe even doing a short course. I could explain the nature of those benefits further, but if this article gets too long I will be in trouble. Perhaps refer also to my paper in last year’s conference proceedings.

In terms of realistic expectations, don’t focus solely on bookings. As one commentator noted recently, asking people how many sales their Internet presence got for them is quickly becoming as problematic as asking someone how many sales were obtained by their fax machine. The Internet is first and foremost a business facilitator which can support many aspects of your business. It is already much more than just a collection of floating billboards and sales booths.

To know and understand how much your page/site is going to cost you, you need to recognise the various work components of creating and maintaining a good page/site. To have any hope of translating the potential benefits of Internet exposure into real benefits, the person creating and maintaining your page will need to competently undertake these tasks.

A list of those work components (or specific cost items) now follow. Be warned some are a bit technical. You don’t need to know exactly what they entail, but you do need to know which of these are included in the bill you pay at the end of the day. Some steps are optional for those starting out, and I have marked these with a #. Note that one of the beauties of the Internet is that your presence here can be expanded as funds permit - it’s not like a brochure where you have to pulp remaining stocks of the nasty old ones and start over.

A web page is a single computer file whose size is dictated more by volume (ie. bytes) than by physical dimensions. A web site is an inter-linked collection of web pages. For simplicity I’ll now just use the term “site” rather than the more cumbersome “page/site”. I’m also inclined towards the view that, in most cases, relying on a single page presence is very limiting. A server is a computer from which information can be continually accessed by people with an Internet access account.

To create a good Internet presence one needs to do most of the following:

Some of these have to be done by the consultant assisting you (generally with input from you), some will require other assistance, and still others can be done by yourself after some training/practice.

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