Winning the small business Web war

Many people have learnt from bitter experience just how difficult, and costly, it can be to get a Web site established for their small business. ZDNet Australia speaks to a local company that launched its Web efforts with minimal fuss and expenditure.

Unfortunately many people have learnt from bitter experience just how difficult, and costly, it can be to get a Web site established for their small business.

Professional Web designers don't come cheaply, and all too often, many of them don't seem to really understand the business ramifications of some of their design choices.

But it is only once sites have been open to the public for a short time that some owners realise what a nightmare that they have unwittingly created for themselves.

To keep their site up to date, they are now trapped in a vicious cycle where they have to pay these same designers more money to modify existing content, and to add new material.

Brett Charters, general manager, Pc Pro Systems, has endured several attempts at getting a useable Web site up and running for his company.

The sorts of problems that he has experienced included having somebody write a Web site and then leave or stop doing Web sites. That left him in the unenviable position of having to interpret what they had written, and for somebody else to transfer the information across to another version.

"We tried 3 different companies," Charters says. "Time is money, and every time we had to redo the Web site it cost us more money".

"The sites did eventuate, but with our company we have changes to our software and updates to our programs, so we need to have the pages updated on a regular basis".

Charters was looking for four key features in his company's Web site construction: smart simple design; easy to read; easy to navigate; and easy to update.

He finally found the solution that he wanted with the EzySite service.

Network Point EzySite is a "Do It Yourself" Web site management system that has been specially designed for small businesses.

EzySite gives small business owners the ability to edit and maintain their Web site without the need to learn HTML, complex design applications, editors or publishing tools.

EzySite is totally Web driven, which, in practical terms, means that all that's needed to update and expand an EzySite Web site is a Web Browser.

In addition to ease of use, Charters emphasizes that his EzySite site gave his staff the capability to update content with no further cost to his company.

According to Charters, the initial steps in using the EzySite service were straightforward: choose a design and a colour scheme, and supply his company logos.

Once that had been finalized, it was then a matter of filling in the pages with the appropriate content.

When asked about what's involved, on a day to day basis, to keep his site running smoothly, Charters responded: "Nothing, that is another benefit to the system, it is fully managed. And I don't need a Web server to keep my site available. Again less cost for my company".

From Charters' perspective, a major advantage with the EzySite service is that his Web site's content can be updated using just a Web browser.

"Simply log in to the EzySite server and then manage your pages," Charters says. "From there you can add, remove, edit, check how many hits on a particular page, update links, update photos, etc."

There are features of the EzySite service that Charters particularly likes, for example, "its updating ability, where we can do the work, and its expandability. What we start with is not what we are stuck with; and unlike HTML, we can add modules to the site and then update them with the same ease".

One area of EzySite that Charters and his staff are yet to explore fully is its mailing list manager. "We have used the feature only once so far, and yes, it got the message out to clients very efficiently".

Examples of just some of the other functions that have been incorporated into EzySite include a forum, news items and a photo gallery.

"We use news items," says Charters. "And we also use a secure downloads section for our clients. At this stage, we are happy with our current setup".

Best of all, you don't have to be technically-minded to maintain a site that has been built with EzySite.

"Simply use your Word skills, and you are away and running. Adding new content to your site is as simple as creating another Word document," says Charters.

Charters responded enthusiastically when asked how EzySite compares financially to his past attempts at getting a site up and running: "Very, very cost effective. The system makes a hard and expensive job, simple and kind to the back pocket".

Tony Stevenson is the author of the two best selling Internet books, "The Australian Guide to the Internet" and "The Australian Guide to Online Business" . His company also publishes the two free e-mail newsletters, "Internet Update" and "Sites of the Day". These newsletters are distributed to readers in more than a dozen countries.