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August 25, 1998


Designing information for the Web

Madhuri Velegar K at Pragati Maidan

Email this story to a friend. Back to IIW coverage index. The trickle of professionals, who streamed into the soundproof auditoriums on the first day of the pre-conference forum of India Internet World '98, was not a happy one.

The carpets were still to get laid, the material describing the programme, including the procedures, were absent; the noise of the exhibition stalls that were still being erected were more than one could bear and some of the speakers were making an interesting subject sound boring.

One of them was William Hunt, senior strategist, Global Strategies Inc. He shared his experience in creating a clear and logical information design for a successful Web site. He explained that clarity is the first step towards conducting electronic commerce over the Internet.

"The three most fundamental reasons to make a Web site successful are: a) give people a compelling reason to come to your site b) give them a reason to come back and c) give them a reason to stay," he said.

Hunt, who is in the business of developing and implementing online marketing strategies for clients like AT&T, Link Exchange and Virtual Vineyards, advises that "It's easier to do business on the Web, especially when you can reach those markets that are geographically beyond your reach."

He explained that "You can offer the widest collection of any product to your prospective customers ( stocks some titles that are not available in other book stores), reduce the cost of doing business (Cisco, which supplies routers worth $11 million a day, managed to save $363 last year due to this method of transaction) and enhance the relationship between the user and seller."

Hunt shared with his audience what he termed the '8 keys' to successfully develop content.

Plan before you set up (can you accept credit cards?) content (the information your prospects want to know and not what you want to put there) design (you must be able to find your information within the first three clicks) involvement (you can foster a relationship with your user if you provide good navigational tools) production (use software that will overcome technical limitations) follow-up (a problem in the US is that sometimes an email asking for help gets answered after 20 days) promotion (how do you promote your Web site? This fuels the portal idea) and finally, maintenance (a commitment must be made on day one that you will adjust and adapt to the changing needs and lifestyles of users).

The next half-hour was enlivened as Hunt spoke about some of the worst designed Web sites that he looked at before coming to the conference. Coca-Cola's site headed the list. It had a few icons to be used as links, one of which was a two-penny coin and the other a shoetree. Non-Americans, Hunt pointed out, would not understand both the icons.

Two pennies led to feedback (give him opinion worth two pennies!) and the shoetree opened to a page on site-tree which was incomprehensible.

Max Green's Men's Wear Inc. home page had not been updated since February 1998 and Coor's, which manufactures beer, had a single sentence on their home page which read: 'Web site under construction'. It also had phone numbers of their retail office, again only for American people.

Then Hunt went on to describe some of the best-designed information sites. '' uses the Internet as a tool to do business exactly in the way it should be done, he proclaimed.

It also has links that lead you to the right information, a bit of design and navigability and access to markets as far as India or Japan in an easy format.

Hunt pointed out that you could click on Japan and find your material in Japanese and the cost of the computer given to you in Japanese yen and so on.

CNN is another well laid out site. When the US bombed Sudan a few days ago, three hours after the event, people jammed on to their site in search for information as no other media had convened it yet, Hunt said.

"They also have a new customised page which appeals to the individual user to have his news delivered in the way he likes it. A personal profile of the user is taken, the areas of news he is interested is recorded, in short, the grain is sifted from the chaff and offered to him."

A financial bank in the US Erwell Fargo is currently working on installing software that would allow them to scan, test and approve loan applications within a timeframe of just 45 minutes!

Back to IIW coverage index.Webonomics by Ivan I Schwartz, according to Hunt, is a must-read for anyone who is set to create his own Web site. "It will tell you how to locate a unique niche and use interactive features to cater to a very specific need."

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