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The Internet and a few Types of Web sites

The online world is evolutionary. With the constant debut of applications and opportunities comes a continuous string of new words and phrases. Here are definitions for key terms you’re sure to hear in any online marketing discussion. Also, watch for the Technical Stuff icon in the margins throughout this chapter. It flags explanations for additional terms that apply to Internet usage.

– The Internet, or Net: The global network that links networks worldwide. The Internet allows users to send and receive e-mail and browse the World Wide Web.

– World Wide Web, or Web: The graphical, multimedia aspect of the Internet that uses Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and browsing software to allow users from around the world to enter through a linked server and navigate the Internet by accessing and jumping between documents called Web pages.

– Web page: A document with its own address that is accessible through the World Wide Web. The address is called a Universal Resource Locator or URL.

– Web site: A Web page or group of pages that contains text and graphics that can be accessed by anyone with an Internet connection. The home page is the site’s first page.

– E-mail: Short for electronic mail, e-mail uses the Internet to send and receive computer- to-computer messages worldwide. E-mail is the main reason most people use the Internet, sending literally trillions of messages each year.

– Browser: Software used to access and display Web pages. Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera are commonly used browsers.

– Search engine: A program that allows Web users to search and access sites containing keywords or phrases. Each search engine keeps a catalog of millions of Web sites. Following a user request for information, the search engine returns lists of matching sites presented in order based upon the search engine’s proprietary relevancy algorithms.

Types of Web sites

Defining the purpose of a Web site is just like defining the purpose of any other business communication. You need to know whom you’re trying to talk to, what people currently know or think about your business, what you want them to know or think, and, most of all, what action you want them to take after encountering this communication with your company. Most Web sites fall into one of the following categories.

Contact and brochure sites

These are promotional sites that tell who you are and what you do. Company Contact Sites: These are the easiest and most economical to create and maintain. They allow prospects, who increasingly seek business information through search engines or online local directories rather than through printed Yellow Page directories, to find your business on the Web. A simple contact site includes your business name, a description of who you are and what you do, the products and services you offer, your open hours, and how to reach you online and at your physical location.

For online contact, provide your e-mail address or include a contact form on your site. The contact form is less convenient for users but protects your address from spam harvesters who collect addresses to use in ways you’d like to avoid. Brochure Sites: Just like printed brochures, good online brochures educate prospects about your products and services in a way that convinces them that they want to do business with your company or at least that they would like to receive more information about becoming a customer.

Support sites

Support sites provide online customer service and communication. They offer information about product installation, usage, and troubleshooting; share industry trends and product update news; and help customers put products to use. Sometimes support sites include e-commerce components as well. If you’re thinking of including support and training as a purpose of your Web site, begin by asking yourself the following questions:

– Do your customers all seem to ask the same questions? If so, a support site could provide this information in the form of a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page. But if your customers need a wide range of information, you may need a more customized service approach.

– Do you have a great number of customers? If so, a support site is apt to pay off. But if you have only a few big customers, the investment to build and maintain a support and training site may not make sense.

– Will your customers go to a Web site? Or will they continue to call you directly? Unless you believe they will embrace the Web site as their contact point, skip the cost of building support into your site.

– Are you a reseller or a merchandiser of branded items? If so, maybe you can simply send your customers to manufacturers’ Web sites for support, therefore avoiding the cost of building one of your own.

– Are you ready to commit to serving online customers? Web users expect site content to be fresh and up-to-date, and they expect their online queries to prompt immediate response.

E-commerce sites

The primary purpose of an e-commerce site is to sell goods online. Site visitors can view products, make choices, place orders, and submit payment. Building an e-commerce site is complicated because of the many features that must be included. Customers need to learn about your products, place orders, pay in a secure way, and submit customer information to allow delivery. Although software products assist with the task, e-commerce site creation falls outside the realm of the computer novice. Price tags for professional creation depend on the technology and complexity involved.

About Emma Gilbert

Working in the marketing industry since 2002. This blog is one of my hobbies.

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