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Modern Web Site Design: Getting People To Come Back Part III

By Marc Bissonnette

Since the first two articles in this series seems to (still!) generate a lot of traffic, I thought we'd carry it on with another installment :)

So what's next, you ask? Your site is in all the search engines, your URL is everywhere but written in the sky (and you're working on that, too), your content is being updated bi-weekly, at least, and your site transfers in less than half a second on a 300 baud modem :)

There is an area of web site maintenance that people often overlook: CGI Upgrades.

We tend to write a lot of our own CGI stuff, but the original ideas for these scripts have to come from somewhere. Our bookmark file is absolutely crammed with sites that list and categorize freeware, shareware and commercial CGI scripts. Using this as a reference, we've found we've been able to not only increase the useability of our own scripts, but increase revenue from our clientele by offering upgrades or technology shifts to clients with existing CGI solutions. Here are a few thoughts to consider:

First of all, take a look at all the CGI's you are using, as well as those of your clientele, *even if you no longer do business with that client* (This is a great way to 'bring them back into the fold' if they've left you for another web developer)

Separate your CGI list into categories; mailers, search engines, discussion boards, guest books, etc.

Then take an afternoon and look through the CGI resource sites to see how these scripts have progressed, whether there are upgrades to the specific CGI you used or scripts with similar goals, but added functionality.

For example, last time we took a look at all of our clienteles CGI's, we found there were a couple of clients still using an original version of a mailer script that simply printed a $key:$value pair on each line. Since implementing those mailers (two years ago), we've moved on to templated mailers that allow the users to write a plain text template, with slots for the variables to be replaced as they're mailed (allows for more 'letter-like' CGI mails. After contacting all these people using the old scripts, all of them upgraded to the newer mailers, which increased revenue for us (the web developers) and added funtionality to them (the clients) in making the mailed results more useable.

The same thing can be looked at for any script-type: Search engines have come a long way since two years ago (I'm talking about the simple Perl-based fake-a-bases here, not the ultra-expensive 'real' databases like Oracle, AltaVista, etc, etc). Discussion boards have evolved tremendously, file uploaders, so on and so forth.

If you are managing your own site, or that of your employers, the benefits are tangible:

  • Increasedfunctionality in your scripts
  • Better "PR Value" from your clients/users as your firm keeps a modern image
  • Better information retrieval as you move more of your scripts to storing copies of data into database format for later analysis
  • Increased speed and response time from your scripts as they take advantages of newer environments (Perl5, for example)
  • Brownie points from your supervisors/managers as you increase the above mentioned attributes for your firm (Remind them of this when you ask for your raise!)
If you are a web developer, the benefits are equally tangible:

  • All the above benefits for your clientele
  • Earned 'brownie points' from your clientele as you prove you are looking out for their best interests
  • increased revenue from the new work this creates
  • A good starting point for new business you may want to pitch
And of course, the users of sites with new / upgraded or revamped scripts all benefit from:

  • Fresh look to tradidtional interfaces
  • Increased speed
  • More functionality
  • More 'toys' to play with on their favourite sites

If you would like a list of the sites we commonly use for CGI ideas and implementation, please feel free to send a note via email

Marc Bissonnette is the proprietor of CanadianISP, Canadas' largest Internet Service Provider search and comparison site.

InternAlysis - Customized, specialized, dedicated eMarketing specialist
CanadianISP - Canadas' largest Internet Service Provider (ISP) list and comparison web site

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