"It's amazing the way established companies still seem incapable of appreciating the absolute imperative of a decent web presence," said PC Pro's Fearon in his Technology:opinion column.
Cycling is "close to my heart", said Fearon so he road-tested the websites of three bike companies.
"Type http://www.raleigh.co.uk into your browser's address bar and you'll see foul-ups that every text on web design you care to read will tell you to avoid. 'Welcome to Raleigh Bikes,' it chirps, in a manner reminiscent of a personal homepage circa 1996. And then, underneath this, an absolute classic, as obviously rude to anyone with any web knowledge as talking with your mouth full is to your granny: 'Optimised for Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator 4+'. Hello? Earth to Raleigh's website designer? It's beyond inexcusable for a site in 2005 to try and force visitors only to use the web browsers the designer could be bothered to design for."
It gets worse: "Now, click the pointless 'Enter Site' icon and you'll be hard-pressed to find much information on the bikes Raleigh would presumably be keen for you to buy."
Raleigh's sales director Carl Wright knows the site is below par:
"As of January this year, we have brought the management and execution of all web based activities in-house. We recognize the Raleigh website site needs developing and this will take place later this year. Our primary focus has been to ensure our B2B site launched earlier this year delivers the high standards expected from our trade customers. We are delighted with the response to this site and the usage to date has exceeded our initial expectations. I have no doubts our consumer website will achieve the same positive feedback we have received regarding our industry leading B2B site."
But at least Raleigh has a load of HTML to critique. Dawes does not, just a battered badge saying 'we love riding our bikes' and a promise a site would be along soon.
"I tried its site http://www.dawes-cycles.co.uk a few days before writing this and what I saw beggared belief," said Fearon.
"There was no site, just a little message saying they're busy building a new one. One second after seeing that, I was busy too, looking on competitors' sites with the name Dawes irrevocably entwined with amateurishness in my mind. Of course, it's good that Dawes is building a new site, but to remove your old site while the new one is being built is little short of barking. I dread to think the number of potential Dawes customers who've skimmed straight off that page and landed neatly somewhere else."
Just as there's no website, there's also no comment from Dawes, despite five days in which the company could have replied to an email from BikeBiz.com.
Fearon himself departs to the website of On One:
"I happened upon one of the small direct selling companies that's hammering the old monoliths, not in terms of size or revenue but in terms of just getting it right. On-One (www.on-one.co.uk) is a two-man outfit that sells cool bikes to people who know about bikes. Its site is the antipathy of the gloss that characterises traditional advertising. It tells you what you want to know about the products, no spin applied. And it's disarmingly honest: 'It's not a race bike, it's not a jump bike, it's a bike for riding. That's it really,' it says about one of its products. And in the component details of another: 'The [name removed] freewheel is OK... Better freewheels are made by [name removed]. But we can't afford those.' There's a forum for existing and prospective On-One owners, plus photos of their beloved steeds too."
Fearon rams home the point that suppliers need an up-to-date web presence:
"Many firms just don't - or don't want to - realise that the first and only port of call for nearly everyone under the age of 35 when they want to buy anything significant is the web. If we can't get access to enough information to make us confident about a product, we'll buy someone else's."
NB Brant Richard's hallmark humour is stamped all over on-one.co.uk. His emails are funny too. He's now gone off on his hols so anybody who emails him gets an "automated not in shed response'. This includes some "quick answers to questions."
1) Probably an 18in
2) Yes, but we'll have run out by then.
3) About a week.
5) Grease it up well, then slide it in.
6) Like on the high street, usually.
7) No, doing that would make the frame weaker.
8) WE DON'T HAVE ANY FLICKING STICKERS.