eComWorld May 2001

Why is that shoppers will tolerate the worst kind of treatment from the real-life experience (snooty sales assistants, queues for the change room and so on) but will instantly click to another site if an e-commerce outfit doesn't satisfy immediately? This is a question eternally debated in dot-com circles - with a variety of opinions and guesses being the result.

The answer is a little more straightforward for poorly performing sites. It takes a loyal customer indeed to keep trying your site if it's unavailable or excruciatingly slow. For most customers, it would be a fast click to a site that is up and ready to take their order or provide the information they're looking for. In seconds, you could lose that sale or lead.

This reality can be a disturbing one for companies that have struggled to carefully craft their site. After all the money spent on getting it together and making it look good, not to mention training staff to process Internet orders and other procedural changes, it seems heartbreaking then to spend more of the Web budget on behind-the-scenes expenses. Hard as it is, this is pretty much what you need to do - but it need not be prohibitively expensive or complicated to make sure there's enough strength built into your site to withstand most causes of downtime.

Most hardware companies looking to extend their customer base have realised that smaller businesses need good technology, too. The result is simpler products designed for SMEs without the corporate price tag from major vendors.

Besides products, there are strategies you can use to minimise the amount of time your site is down. One answer is adequate testing before you launch the site. Taking the time to make sure everything works together and that you have a plan in place if it falls over will more than make up for a delayed launch date if you can avoid lengthy downtime and lost orders.

On a simpler level, just ensuring that staff who aren't involved in the maintenance of the site keep away from the technology can avoid some of the more common causes of downtime. You'd be surprised how many times a site has been made unavailable to customers online because someone has knocked out a plug. A bitter irony, indeed, for Web site operators who have made all the right technology investments to be brought low by such a mundane trouble.

And to ensure we can measure the progression towards our goal of 2001 Web sites online by 2001, we invite you to register your business's Web site with us. We'll be providing an online directory - categorised by industry, business and site type - for our readers, consumers and other businesses alike.

To register your site, follow the links at http://ecomworld.com.au

We hope you enjoy the May edition of eComWorld, out now. If you have any suggestions, comments, or ideas for case studies, please don't hesitate to e-mail me at deanne_macintosh@idg.com.au.

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