The Small Business Website's Changing Face

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It used to be a small business person could snag a program such as FrontPage or Dreamweaver, scan a logo and slap a webpage together, and achieve a search engine ranking by mass-submitting through a service. But 1996 is long gone, the web and the search engines that mine its gold are way past that point, and if you have a 1990's style website which bloated code is not up to standards left eating someone else's dust Especially if you followed the search engine optimization recommendations in vogue at that time.

The key purpose to current web standards is easy access to INFORMATION . Anything that can be done to allow surfers and search engines access to the website information will help you in the times to come.

There are two trends operative here. One is the move towards a more standardized web. Most businesspeople can not see that side of it, it's the machine behind the curtain that drives what people see on the screen. The other trend is how that information is accessed by the browser. More and more sites these days are dynamically generated from databases and accessed via server side coding. Because not all browsers interpret these standards in the same way, there's been a huge move toward specialization both on what developers call the front end, which is what browsers show, and what they call the back end, which is how and where browsers get the Bits and pieces they pull onto the screen. The bad news is that it's almost impossible without a huge learning curve for a small businessperson to build a "new style" website. The good news is that, because of the separation of front end and back end coding, having a dynamic website built and having a custom template designed for it is more affordable than ever, especially with the availability of quality open source web applications.

What's the benefit in this to the small businessperson? If good choices are made the small businessperson can have a website today with the features that will take that website easily and accessably into the future. What are those choices? The backend scripting and templating, whether it's an ecommerce shopping cart, a content management system, or something simpler such as a blogscript used as a blog or as a mini-content management system, should be chosen carefully to take advantage of the most current webstandards . This means templating that allows the front end developer a free hand with xhtml and css. The other important factor is RSS or other Feed access.

Coding a website to current xhtml / css standards has many benefits. Ease of updating or refreshing a website's look is the most obvious, since it can, in many cases, be done simply by updating one css file, which is much less expensive than updating a few hundred static html pages coded in the old way. A benefit less obvious to those who do not understand code is the code to content ratio. Xhtml / css sites take away much of the code bloat that's present on old-style sites. That means that there is a higher amount of information content in relation to the amount of code, which makes xhtml / css sites much more search engine friendly, giving those search engine spiders more content to munch on, and allowing them to find it much more Easily. The third and largest benefit going into the future is the ability of xhtml / css designed pages to be accessed in devices other than the traditional computer, which allows cellphones, palm pilots, and accessibility devices such as screen readers, as well as devices not even Invented yet, much easier access to that same information, which also has the benefit of putting that information in front of that many more people.

A database driven scripted site has another HUGE benefit to the small businessperson- timely updates. No longer is the small business person at the mercy of the schedule and availability of their web specialist for updates. Scripted sites can be updated by the site owner or company clerical staff by simply filling out a webform in the admin area and hitting a button. So if a small business will benefit very by immediate release of certain information, such as sales, new arrivals, press releases, etc., then this alone is worth the cost of the upgrade to a new style site– the site owner will have Total control over content and its addition, editing and deletion. And updates done this way carry much lower overhead than static html edits done on old style sites do.

RSS and other Feeds allow that timely release of information to be accessed immediately by anyone with an interest. RSS and other feed aggregators are the wire services of the web. If a small business website is RSS enabled, then, when new information is added to the website, the RSS feeds will be immediately immediately, and have immediate access to that information. RSS is a must-have going into the future for the small businessperson, and, if set up correctly, will allow the search engines instantaneous access to any new content on the RSS enabled website.

Because people are turning to the web more and more these days for any and all information it is becoming more and more important for small businesses to not only have some sort of web presence, but also to have an effective web presence. It's speculated that over half of all Americans now use the web instead of their local yellow pages to find local goods and services. Is your current small business website up to snuff?

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