Article - November 2000
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Creating and Maintaining 
Your Virtual Image

Article as published by

Engineered Systems 

November 2000,
 in their monthly column 
Building Automation.

Ken Sinclair

Send the message to your management; Become closer involved in the care and feeding of the corporate virtual image.

To the connected community you are your Virtual Image. This is the way they will first meet you and create their relationship with you. Your core business is the purpose for you to create and maintain your virtual image but do not underestimate the power of this new medium in evolving your business to a new identity and purpose. It is inevitable that your virtual image and real identity will become one.

Our lack of understanding of the new virtual world has us contract out our important virtual image creation. In creating our virtual image it is not wise to give a free hand to a group of Internet gurus who have little or no knowledge of who we are or who we wish to become in the new virtual world. I suggest that you work with the hewers and shapers of the connected world to help them portray your image exactly the way you see it. If your present understanding of the virtual world does not allow a clear view of your transition into the net-based world, seek the advice of new and old mentors while looking closely at what your competitors and associates are doing and how they are virtually positioning themselves.

Control Solutions, Inc This new medium is extremely interactive and when well-executed takes on a life form of its own, silently delivering brochures, answering technical questions, collecting orders, etc. One of the first things to understand is that this medium is more than an advertising medium. The first web sites built from mutual misunderstandings between web gurus and clients were advertising sites depicting client's products with a phone number but no email address. There was no method of interacting. Often the client's business core values and industry purpose were lost by the web designer who was more intent on drawing the spinning corporate logo while potential users fumed and were frustrated by the total lack of site content and interaction. Did the company executives know the messages they sent out to the virtual world? I think not.

Close connection and interaction must exist between all stakeholders in the company and the new appendage of your virtual image. Send the message to your management; Become closer involved in the care and feeding of the corporate virtual image. This image is now shaping your company's future and if you are not part of it then you are not in control. Outside web building resources if required, should be the virtual architects to guide you through the implementation of the functionality prescribed by your core leaders who will provide all corporate content. If your core leaders have no idea of how to effectively build company worth virtually consider re-treading or replacing them. It is likely that each department will require a different touch, look and feel on the corporate website. This creates no problems and generally enhances the site. When function and form vary too greatly from the core site the ease of creating a new virtual identity/site often provides a great solution.

Once your site is up and operating maintenance becomes a daily if not an hourly chore. If maintenance is not done faithfully the site quickly becomes obsolete. Providing a quick method of advising your visitors of recent changes increases the likelihood of them returning.

Setting your site up so it works continuously on line for you will greatly increase your corporate value. Collecting information online and having the server email you requests for special products, quotations, etc. amplifies your web worth.

Watch out for the Java Jungle

Java script and pure java applets can add to the functionality of your site but be careful how you use this power. One of the most annoying uses is to do a Java redirect when your visitors click the browser back button. Your visitor came to your site on their own free will and expects to leave the same way, do not attempt to trap them.

Opening new browser windows is often overused and creates great confusion for the one screen ahead one screen back navigator. I agree that there are times when opening a new window is useful but warn your visitors and explain why you are doing this. Experienced users will open their own windows. Do not ever assume that you can predict how your visitors will navigate your site.

In Summary

The care and feeding of your virtual image is mandatory - it and your real identity will become one.

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