The Internet is a network of thousands of computers all over the world connecting through telephone wires, cable, wireless, and satellite systems. The Worldwide Web is a portion of that network capable of speaking the language of the WWW. That language is a graphic user interface called Hypertext Markup Language or HTML.
In order to be a happy "user" of the Internet, you don't have to know how the technical stuff works. But to be a satisfied advertiser or marketer, you need to know what the Web can do for you. You need to understand some unique concepts that make it different from other media like newspapers, magazines, radio, or television. (For a further exploration of these paradigm shifts see Making Sense of the Information Age.)
Web Presence is a marketing metaphor and in some ways similar to a marketing campaign in any other media. For example, your presence in magazines doesn't just mean one ad in one printed magazine of one issue. It refers to your entire marketing plan. The ad layout and design, the media "buy," the geographical area of distribution, the demographics of your potential audience, and, finally, the impact that your marketing objective hopes to accomplish.
Important differences between Web Presence and other media presence is interactivity and global distribution. You probably understand interactivity in terms of DVD or video games (new media content but an old distribution system). Don't take the interactive concept for granted. It's much too important and has greater meaning than our economy has fully experienced.
Let's look at what a message on the Web can do.
Your audience can respond immediately to your message. That response can be more intelligent than an on/off switch or a vote yes/no. Your audience can express subtle opinions, provide you with personal information, or explore in-depth a complex range of products and services that you sell. And they can order and pay for your product at the speed of light.
Like the telephone medium, the Web allows you and your audience to have a one-to-one conversation in real time or over time by posting messages. Like the fax process, you can exchange printed text and graphics. Like broadcast television, you can deliver your message from one point to many points. And like computer conferencing, a group of people of any size can share ideas through teamwork or just have fun!
Like satellite broadcast media, the geographic area of your audience is unlimited. The Web's demographic area is worldwide. This audience numbers 60 million and is growing at an accelerating rate. The average user is well educated and has discretionary income.
Before you immerse yourself in the new fun stuff like Shockwave, Java Applets, and Cookies, or before you pat yourself on the back for all the audio/video techniques you will be able to apply to the Web, remember the Big Picture. Answer the big question: Why would you or anyone spend the money to market on the Web? Some people can waste fortunes on "let's see what it can do."
You have a unique business mission and purpose for showing up on the Internet. The clearer you are about what you need before you contract page design and construction, the more cost effective the process will be.
One of the first things your Web designer will do is ask you what you want to display on your site. Be prepared to provide specific information about your company. Take a few minutes right now to make some notes under these topics:
Now, you're ready to stir the soup and come up with that creative metaphor, that virtual reality, that will entice your customer and sell your products or services.
Networking on the Web, like breakfast clubs and professional organization, takes precious time and your active presence. Participating in any relationship takes courage and commitment even on the Net. But, when you're in business for yourself, you can't afford to hide behind your medium—whether it's a business card, four-color brochure, radio and TV advertising, or even your Website.
(See Web Design article)