Dont get taken in by web cowboys, says Moore Large rep

When not flogging bikes, Simon Watts designs web sites. He wants IBDs to get the benefit of being online...but warns of registration and hosting problems.
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We need more bike shops to take the plunge and get their websites sorted out, either independently or as part of something like BIKEMAGIC.com but there are rip-offs aplenty out there so IBDs should watch out!

One trap its very easy for the web uninitiated to fall into (and even experienced people fall into it too) is the problem of domain names.

Domain names offer big benefits in terms of promoting the size of a site, after all a domain which includes the hosts extension implies a business which is not altogether that bothered about promoting itself fully on the web. A domain which is clearly owned by the shop gives consumers greater confidence.

But we work in a trade which determines to spend as little as possible on promotional tools and whereever possible will cut corners to save the expense. Heres a personal example. Just before Christmas last year I had a general conversation with a dealer about the effectivness of various means of advertising. I said, at that point in time, there were only a small number advertising options available that would actually generate enough business to justify their expense. These were Yellow

Pages; local newspaper classified adverts, and national magazine

advertising. However, the latter is fraught with the possibility of

losing large amounts of cash to pay for the advert and seeing very little

revenue return because the product you advertise is also advertised by 25 other discounters in the same mag who, unless you have a lower margin, are more than likely cheaper than you are! We dismissed newspaper space advertising as having little if any impact.

It was at this time that I threw the internet into the equation. Very low

relative set-up cost and no expiry date. I leave and forget all

about it.

On my next trip the dealer says Oh youll never believe it but that

same afternoon I received this fax from *Net offering to do a website for me. (The name of the internet rip off has been omitted for legal reasons).

Showing me the promotional leaflet he asks what I think. The offer is for site design, upload, hosting and domain name registration all for the incredible price of £99 +vat. I read it through and it seems too good to be true but I advise the dealer to go for it because its the price a weeks classified ad and what have you got to lose?

I generated a very simple one page header page site (the deal only

allowed for a one page shopfront) and collated all the images and their

hyperlinks onto a disk and we submitted the completed item to *Net and said we would go ahead. Two weeks later an invoice arrived stating that payment was necessary to register the domain. This was paid.

Twelve weeks later the site was still not posted and we started chasing. It finally came on-line after a total of 16 weeks and was nothing like what had been sent in. I told the dealer it wasn't a very good advert and suggested that we ask the web company to change it.

Sorry, but on that contract there is no update facility, came the reply. I suggested I update it. Sorry, no ftp access, they said.

OK can we email you the files on disk in html format and you update

it? No problem this is my email address and Ill make sure it gets done.

It hasn't been done to this day!

I suggested to the dealer that we take his domain name and go elsewhere for hosting, I would generate the original site onto the new host and he would then have full email facilities etc. The dealer agreed...but then came the sting. The domain registration was not made in the name of the dealer but in the name of *Net. So, how much to move

it? Probably in the region of £1000!

There are a lot of these special offers floating about from all sorts of companies offering a too good to be true service for a too good to be true price. The risk is that with all the recent publicity about getting on to the internet we will have a large number of dealers caught out in the same way.

Domain names are not the be all and end all but just for interest go and visit http://www.bikeshop.co.uk or http://www.bike-shop.co.uk

or http://www.bikes4sale.co.uk They are all registered and currently have content. The first is registerd to name-shop and you can lease it from them at £100 per month! Or you can buy the domain name outright for £2000!

The second is similar but no price is quoted.

The point of my story is that the dealers really need to be told that they can get ripped off in their eagerness. If they want to register a domain-name, now is the time to do it. And do it yourself rather than through someone else. If it has to be done through someone else then before any money is paid there must be a contract that proves ownership of the domain Nominet issue a certificate of ownership. An initial registration costs about £85+vat and is valid for 2 years after

which the ongoing ownership registration is about £35+vat PA.

Producing a reasonable website is not enough either. Without search

engine registrations the site could sit out in cyberspace for the rest of

eternity attracting 1 or 2 visitors per day. Registering a site is a long

and complex process and professional companies charge £100s just for this part of the service but it is worth it.

I know what effort is involved in generating a site (take a look at Barry Hopkirks Site; http://www.cyclecentre.f9.co.uk or Birley Cycle Centres http://www.birleycc.f9.co.uk) as I have done both of these. Each has taken in excess of 100 hours just to design and upload! The search engine registrations will probably take about 20 hours each! This is a lot of time and time costs money. Professional web site companies charge about £40 per hour! So these sites should have cost in excess of £3000!

Now heres the plug: I am willing to undertake bike-related websites and am not looking for business outside the industry. I know bikes and I am therefore well placed to do an informative and comprehensive site for anyone who is willing to pay my price!

However, this piece isn't just a meagre attempt to drum up business for my own site designs, there are issues here which should be brought to the attention of anybody thinking about getting on the web.

simon@siwatts.f9.co.uk

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