To the connected community, you are your “virtual image.” This is the way people 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.

Lack of understanding of the new virtual world has companies contract out their important virtual image creation. In creating a virtual image, it is not wise to give a free hand to a group of Internet gurus who have little or no knowledge of what your company is or wishes 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 how your competitors and associates are virtually positioning themselves.

Support From The Top

This new medium is extremely interactive, and when well-executed, it 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 websites built from mutual misunderstandings between web gurus and clients were advertising sites depicting client’s products with a phone number but no e-mail 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 more involved in your 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 retreading 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 online for you will greatly increase your corporate value. Collecting information online and having the server e-mail 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 visitors came to your site on their own free will and expect 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. ES