A Web presence for everyone
July 9, 2006
Five years ago, adding content to a Web site was tedious, somewhat technical work. Content management systems were cumbersome and cost prohibitive for all but the biggest companies.

Portsmouth Herald, July 9, 2006

PORTSMOUTH - Five years ago, adding content to a Web site was tedious, somewhat technical work. Content management systems were  cumbersome and cost prohibitive for all but the biggest companies. Today, anyone can hop on Google and build a blog in minutes, for free.

The rapid development of Web technologies has raised expectations for how companies, even those in industries whose marketing is  traditionally low tech, can use their sites to run or expand their business. They have also changed how Web developers build sites.

"We've stopped building HTML sites that merely provide a Web  presence," said Stephen Steiner, president of Integrated Development Corp. in Greenland. "We only do content managed sites now as they take less time to create, and give customers more control of both their site  and the data it collects to help them achieve their business goals."

In June, IDC launched a new site for the Seacoast Growers' Association, which runs the weekly farmers' markets in Portsmouth and six other Seacoast towns. The new site enables farmers and craftspeople to create or expand a Web presence.

Cultivating customers

"It's a perfect solution for people with neither time nor resources to  create a site," said site administrator Megan Walsh, owner of Root Wise Herbal Products. "SGA members can have their own page put up in  no time."

According to Walsh, a one-page presence can help farmers strengthen customer connections.

"It lets people know who you are, see photos of what you produce, learn your exhibiting schedule, and whether you also sell at any roadside stands, and (to) begin an ongoing communication."

SGA members can link existing sites to the main site, which will feature expanded content such as recipes, cultivation tips and entertainment schedules.

Walsh spent the first week after the launch going around with a clipboard at the farmer's market to tell growers about the site. She says its use will grow in time, though probably not until the fall, once the season ends.

Online road show

In addition to farming, another business in which the majority of sales are hands-on is high-end antiques. eBay is fine for selling vintage lunchboxes, but few will buy a 19th century china hutch based  on a digital photo.

Nevertheless, a new database-driven Website built for R. Jorgensen, Antiques in Wells, Maine, went live just recently, displaying an inventory of more than 1,000 items pertaining to 18th and 19th century British and American furniture and accessories.

For owner Ric Jorgensen, the new site immediately augments opportunities for buying and selling safely at a distance, even if the site has no shopping cart.

"You can't purchase items directly from the site," Jorgensen said.  "But you can basically see everything we have, and that might prompt you to call or visit our shop."

A visit is worth the trip: Jorgensen's shop occupies two large buildings on 52 acres on the historic 1685 Mill House property in Wells, among the earliest settlements in Maine.

If someone is interested in an expensive piece, Jorgensen said he "can guarantee they will like it and ship it to them. If they don't like it, they can send it back, provided it's not damaged."

"The antique trade is slow to move on new technologies, and it's rare for a dealer to have their entire inventory online," said Cheri Haley, owner of Portsmouth-based Primal Media, which built the site. "The  ease of updating a content managed site enables Ric Jorgensen to leverage his remarkable inventory."

Pier reviews

Companies that constantly invent new ways to use a product, especially an obscure one, find content managed sites indispensable for documenting their successes and educating customers.

One example is Twist, a Shrewsbury, N.J., company that makes helical piers, anchoring systems that stabilize foundations against settling,  e.g. houses built on sandy soil or buildings housing heavy machinery.

"Most people have no idea what helical piers are, but those (who) do (architects, engineers, etc.) are always looking for innovative ways to use them," said Rich Young, a principal with Twist LLC. "When we  come up with a cool solution to a problem, we immediately post pictures and descriptions on our Web site, which often serves as a  teaching tool."

Portsmouth's Harbour Light Strategic Marketing created the Twist site using a content management system from its spin-off, Savvy Software.

"The content management system enables Twist to change focus quickly and easily as new trends develop, something that would quickly render a paper brochure useless," said Ned Savoie, Harbour Light's creative  director.

Savoie sees Web technologies as helping to sell people on companies, if not products.

"New and future technologies will continue to take the burden off companies in the areas of customer service, policies and scheduling, and will make it easier for companies to manage customer  relationships," Savoie said. "Companies that embrace the Web in these ways will increase customer loyalty, reduce overhead, and deliver better solutions to clients."

Should every company have a Web site? Haley thinks so.

"I think any business needs a site to at least help people find and be able to contact them, if not to sell," Haley said. "Everyone has an  address and a telephone -- and that information is posted so we can all find one another."

Steiner's bottom line is business function.

"Even small companies are seeking that next level of efficiency, where their site helps guide and adjust their business strategy instead of just promote it," Steiner said. "Cheaper and more powerful  technologies help most when an organization has a clear idea of what they want their site to do."


About Integrated Development Corporation (IDC)

IDC develops strategies that enable organizations to integrate and maximize web, print, and media marketing initiatives. IDC provides website development, hosting, graphic design, custom programming, and a full suite of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) services.  IDC's corporate headquarters are located in Greenland, New Hampshire. News and company information is available at www.integrateddevcorp.com