Hyperweb was recently featured in the Small Business section of the Toronto Star. The half page article showcased Hyperweb as a innovative web developer providing effective online solutions for it's clients.
The Toronto Star
Thursday, May 9, 2002, p. H06
Building a Web site that matters
Online presence can reap big results if done properly
Putting your company name on the Web these days involves much more than building a homepage.
"It now means building an e-business strategy and Web presence," says Shelly Lowe of IBM Canada.
"If people integrate it into their existing business model, they're going to get more value than just putting up a Web site."
Small and medium businesses have to put more into building an online presence than they might have in the Internet's early years, says Lowe, who is IBM's territory executive for mid-market.
"Back then, companies were looking at a very basic Web presence. They were probably looking for a page that has information for customers or it might not have even been to that stage. Maybe it was just accounting or e-mail.
"Now we see customers more focused on extending the business model that they've already got by integrating technology into that. They've done a better job of strategizing business into better Web presence."
Carl Messenger-Lehmann, president of the Web design firm Hyperweb Communications (www.hyperweb.ca), agrees.
"The field has changed considerably," he says. "People used to get Web sites for the sake of getting one. Nobody really tried to determine how he or she would measure their success and the practical function of it. They knew they had to have one.
"Nowadays, it's much more about knowing how you're getting traffic to your site and that the right people are seeing it. It's just as much about the marketing and measurement as having the site."
David Bradfield, vice-president of design firm iStudio (www.istudio.ca), says small businesses are better equipped for the Internet than their larger counterparts.
"It's a medium that allows companies to put their best foot forward and create a façade in terms of design, content and functionality to compete with medium- and large-size businesses," he says.
"It's almost like a brochure. The better you make it look, the more credibility you have."
He says one of the most important things for a business is the ability to manage and respond to online queries, and that's one area where a smaller enterprise excels.
"An effective Web site goes a long way to optimizing business process, customer service, customer communication, things like that."
Messenger-Lehmann, whose firm has been in business since 1995, says the dot-com meltdown didn't really affect small business.
"All of the hype of the Internet has been stripped away and people are looking at it as just another communications medium rather than the be-all and end-all that it was touted as originally," he says.
"In the last quarter it's probably as good as it's ever been. The dot-bomb didn't really affect small business. It affected me and my ability to sell, but the average small business probably didn't take a huge hit."
IBM has three centres devoted to small and medium businesses, one of them in Toronto at 120 Bloor St. E. (416-355-2000), where customers can talk to an IBM representative for the plan that best suits them.
"We'll handle a company with anywhere from one to 5,000 employees," Lowe says. " We deal with very small businesses.
"The key to a Web site is to start simple and grow fast," Lowe says. "You don't need to do everything up front.
"Establish some return on your investment and then decide what to do next. It's about building a strategy."
Messenger-Lehmann says about 60 per cent of his business "is fixing other people's mistakes" for those who tried building their own Web sites and then recognized the flaws in them.
One firm that didn't make a mistake is PLASP Child Care Services, which operates 156 school-age facilities and 17 childcare centres in schools throughout Peel Region and Etobicoke.
When PLASP surveyed its clients if they would use a Web site, about 90 per cent said they would, says Cathy Paolucci, marketing manager for PLASP.
"We couldn't believe the response. We couldn't believe how many people had access to computers and the Web."
Hyperweb set up a site (www.plasp.com) that was not only informative to clients but also had an intranet component for staff.
"The key to a Web site is to start simple and grow fast. You don't need to do everything up front"
Clients and staff can go to the site and read a calendar of events, as well as how to get income tax receipts and other important information.
"We needed an area where staff could communicate with each other as well as head office," Paolucci says. "Hyperweb set it up so that somebody who isn't computer literate could figure it out."
Staff need to update information on the site frequently, and can do so easily themselves without going back to the Web designers, Paolucci adds.
Hyperweb also did a site for Canadian Wilderness Trips Inc., (www.canadianwildernesstrips.com), which provides guided canoe and kayak trips.
"In three years our Web site now accounts for 40 per cent of our bookings, and the bookings come from all around the world," says office manager Terry Graham.
It also did a site for natural products portal NPIcenter.com, which, in turn, led to developing sites for companies in Australia, Britain and India. Other Hyperweb clients include the Bank of Montreal (www. bmo.com/banking/).
Messenger-Lehmann says Hyperweb will set up a Web site for a company for $2,500 to $7,500.
"People aren't spending millions of dollars on Web sites any more," Bradfield adds.
"Up to $10,000 gets you a pretty good Web site these days. I would say the majority of businesses in Canada have some sort of Web presence, even if it's a page sitting on a free service and an e-mail address."
He says the key for Web design shops is to think of their customers from an online perspective.
"What do customers know, or what would they like to know but are afraid to ask or don't know where to ask? We try to create a Web site that is much more than a static marketing brochure.
"We help companies infuse service functionality into their Web site. It's much more service-focused than marketing or promotional."
Lowe says someone who goes with IBM might start with a homepage where customers come and do simple inquiries.
"A year from now, they might want to do commerce on the Web, or have the ability for customers to make purchases and want to track the orders and do inquiries online," she says. "Then extend it even further so they can deal with vendors and suppliers."
Paolucci says PLASP is considering adding online registration and payments and possibly a page for each site with a calendar and list of activities, as well as a secure site where parents can log in with a password and watch their children at play via a security camera.
"The Web site exceeded our expectations," she says. "We had a vision of what it could do for us. But when we brought them in they said we could so much more."
HIT PARADE: Clients of the Web design firm Hyperweb Communications, top, have included the Bank of Montreal, and Canadian Wilderness Trips Inc.