If you have a copy of Microsoft Word 97 and an Internet connection, you probably have all you need for your companys Web site.
Most businesses will want to post more than their companys name, phone number, e-mail address and catalog listings, however. The good news is that for just a couple hundred dollars more than you paid for Office, you can get a complete set of software tools and the hardware support to put up a really snazzy site that will keep em coming back ... and maybe even buying.
Most of the money you spend on a Web site is on labor, not on tools, according to Neil Randall, author of Special Edition Using Microsoft Front Page 98 (Que Publishing). Ninety to 95 percent of what you want to do is in these [software] packages, i.e., Front Page, Macromedias Dreamweaver or Claris HomePage. Each supports the icon-centric, drag-and-drop interfaces that made computers welcome in the front office in the first place.
Because the Internet is composed of electrons and similar intangibles, knowing which tools one needs to build a Web site may seem daunting. Most of them are listed below.
Web authoring software The aforementioned products and their competitors offer a range of easily-accessible tools such as text editors (for choosing among fonts, sizes, columns), graphics editors or composers (for selecting and modifying illustrations), linkers (for including e-mail addresses so they can forward customer inquiries to you), etc.
You might consider parting with a couple ducats for a good third-party manual explaining how to use the software; engineers tend to be poor at explaining things to amateurs. And only an idiot could miss all the books for Dummies (or is it the other way around?) now available.
Optional add-in packages If you want to include customizable forms, animation or sound in your site, you may have to invest a bit extra for a compatible software package. But with each release of the [authoring] products, its less and less true, Randall notes.
An Internet connection Besides downloading stock quotes and porn to your computer, you can often use the same Internet connection to upload stuff to your Internet service providers computer. A server is a repository for all kinds of shared information, including Web sites. Many ISPs offer a sliver of that computer space (usually measured in megabytes) to customers as part of their connection fee.
Call your ISP for details on available space, expansion capabilities and prices, administrative and other service costs. Randall estimates $25 to $200 a month should do it, depending on how busy your site is. Lincoln Stein, author of How to Set Up and Maintain a Web Site (Addison Wesley Longman), says a meager 1,000 hits a day requires minimal (often automated) maintenance. A robust 100,000-hit-a-day site, by contrast, will need daily attention.
A domain name The ubiquitous .com address is a service provided for a fee. You can register one under your companys nameif you can wait, it may take several months, and if that name hasnt already been registered to someone else. Or you can let your ISP assign you a name under its auspices. Not as glamorous, but far more economical for the beginner.