Computer Column - You Can't Run a Business Without a Website

Computer Column

By Craig Crossman, Computer Column

Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Jun. 23--Trying to run a new consumer-oriented business in this highly competitive world without a Web site would be like trying to run a business without a listing in the Yellow Pages, only far worse. I'd say it comes close to going without a Yellow Pages ad, no telephones, no mailing address and no advertising anywhere to promote your business.

An Internet Web site in many ways rolls all these basic methods of communication into one window of access for your potential customers.

Once you've made the decision to create a Web site, how does one go about doing it? As with anything as complex as the Internet, there are many solutions that come with varying degrees of cost, lengths of time invested and requirements of expertise.

Until recently, you had two choices. You could either hire a company or individual to develop one for you, or you could do it yourself. The former could literally cost you hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. The latter could literally cost hundreds, even thousands, of hours of learning how to program in HTML.

And you would still be faced with the expense of having to buy special development software such as Macromedia's Dreamweaver or Microsoft FrontPage, plus finding and paying for a service to host your Web site.

And while there are a number of applications out there you can buy that will let you create a Web site without having to know HTML programming, I'd like to tell you about another alternative that lets you create, design and publish an original Web site for your business without having to buy any software.

Ironically enough, the product that helps you develop a Web site is in itself a Web site. SpinSite is a service you access using an ordinary Web browser. After logging on to your account's development page, you begin to create and design each Web page, deciding where to place graphics and text.

The company calls SpinSite a "Web page designer" and not a series of Web site templates. The system lets you choose from a large selection of themes to get you on the way. But you can modify, add and delete just about anything you want.

You can literally paint the screen as you add columns, rows, text, images and links. Threaded newsgroups and special Web pages such as a FAQ (frequently Asked Questions) pages and discussion forum pages are literally a few clicks away from creation. Many other important elements can be created, such as requiring users to log in before being able to post a public message.

And as time passes and you become more proficient, SpinSite even allows you to go under the hood so that you can tweak and enhance your Web site using HTML. And since you don't need any development software, you can literally change or edit your Web site from any computer with Internet access and a browser.

A more recent addition to SpinSite is the ability to create an online store with inventory management that is integrated with PayPal's shopping cart. Currently, SpinSite does not offer a facility to accept credit cards.

After you create your Web site, SpinSite offers two performance packages. The Express package includes three months of hosting your Web site, an Instant Setup lets you go online in a few minutes, two e-mail accounts, 25 megabytes of document and image storage space and five Web pages for $49.

The Platinum package ups the storage to 50 megabytes, five e-mail accounts, 50 Web site pages and adds several other features for $99. Check their Website for more details.

I'm not saying that SpinSite is right for everyone. But it does offer another alternative to creating and hosting a Web site. Having a server-based setup like the one offered by SpinSite offers a number of

advantages over the more traditional methods of Web site creation and collaboration.


Craig Crossman is the host of the radio show "Computer America," (http://www.computeramerica.com/) heard nationwide. Send questions to him at: ccrossman@computeramerica.com or 340 S. Ocean Blvd., Suite 4B, Palm Beach, Fla. 33480. Please include your phone number.


Craig Crossman is a national newspaper columnist writing about computers and technology. He also hosts the weekly radio show, "Computer America," heard nationwide. For more information, visit his web site at: http://www.computeramerica.com.

(c) 2004, Craig Crossman. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

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