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To Dot Or Not
(Web design for the rest of us!)

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Chapter 3
Technical Design: How Much and How Often?

The most sensible answer to this question is "only what's necessary!"

How many times have you gone to a site and clicked on the contact information button only to be met with a form? How does that answer the question of "how do I contact you or find you in the real world?" It's a case of "just because you can doesn't make it right!"

Intuitively, you expect "Contact Info" to lead to a page of contact information, not a form. That's not only bad usability, it's bad technical design.

Similarly, when you click on a link that says "more info", are you expecting to get a streaming video that brings your system to a halt while the data download and application services start up? Probably not. Again, not so good a use of technological design or usability.

But more importantly to you, the new client of a Web design consultant or Web developer, is the question of cost of technology.

$40K for what???
Let's say you're a community foundation working with financial advisors and donors in a limited geographical area... and let's say you have predominately static information about your organization and services... and let's go just a little further and say you have to update your list of funds or donor list 3 to 8 times a year. Now, a Web developer could provide you with a database and/or a dynamically driven content deployment system for updating that information on your Web site, but at what cost? For one tenth, or less, of that same cost, you could have the designer/developer simply update the site with static information.

Now let's say you're a provider of news feeds to a public or member-based audience and your content needs to change on a daily or hourly basis. OK, the cost of development and implementation of dynamically driven content management systems starts to look warranted. Now you're faced with a different set of decisions centered around a Web-based business model. This is a much different scenario that demands a much different budget.

We're gonna make millions!
If 2001 and 2002 taught us anything in the Internet-related businesses, it's that having a Web site, or a Web-based business does NOT equal financial success. So, before you invest thousands in that new Web t-shirt company, you might want to see if you can start slowly and for less initial investment. Maybe it makes sense to "rent" someone else's shopping cart technology for a while to see if you've got a going concern. If it works out well for you, then upgrade later to a more costly credit-card transaction system of your own.

When you find out that your technology systems, be they hosting, network servers, shopping carts, databases, etc., are not meeting your current needs, make the appropriate expenditures for upgrading then. You'll know a lot more about what you really need for your Web store after you've gotten some experience under your belt, as well as having proved your product or service's viability in the marketplace.

Good choices and good planning
In general, trucking companies don't begin by ordering a fleet of 100 top of the line sixteen-wheelers. They start small and build their "technology" as their business grows.

This is a good model for business development on the Web as well. I think we've seen the time of venture capitalists throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at "ideas" before they're proven come to an end.

Purchasing and implementing technology on your Web site should be done with planning, good intelligence about outcome of expenditures on technology, and appropriate design and architecture for the use of technology.

This applies to smaller scale use of bells and whistle Web technologies also. Not every Web site needs CGI based form scripts, or ASP driven content. Find out what your user base will really use before you pay for development and implementation.

I have had clients push to implement expensive Web-based bulletin boards and chat rooms, only to find out their user community had no interest at all in using these systems. They just sat there, pathetically unused and as evidence of a costly experiment. Less funding might have gone toward researching the user base to find out if the level of desire for such technology warranted the expense.



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Connie Seidel, Seidel & Assoc., and