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Things I Wish I'd Known!

We set up our website only in November 1999. It has already greatly changed our business for the better!, but there are many things I wish we had known before.

Right from the first week, we started receiving enquiries about coins and jewellery not just from the UK, but from all parts of the world. It took about 2 months, though, before we made our first sale via our website. Shortly after that we made the second sale, and since then the frequency and volume of our internet sales has been steadily increasing.

For about 3 years beforehand, I believed that we should be on the internet. The usual pressures, mainly time, stopped us from getting into it earlier, and yet as each day ticked away, I knew we should be on the web.

During 1998, I spent several months getting familiar with how to use the internet, what could be found on it. The more I looked, the more urgently I realised that our business had to be part of it. In about June, I received a phone call from a close relation telling me that he was making a major change to his business, and was moving into website design. "Would I", he wanted to know, "like to be a guinea pig, a test customer for his design work?" When he phoned me I had been sitting at my computer wondering who I could get to either design a site for us or to show me how to go about designing my own. It took me about one millisecond to say "Yes!" We then started planning a structure for the site, and had weekly, almost daily, phone calls about it. Within a few weeks, we had a front page in place, but then... ...not a lot. My relation was busy trying to move house, and several months went by, until one day...

Searching the internet for stuff about Blackpool, I came across "Blackpool & Fylde Coast Internet Magazine", a very well designed and professional looking website with lots of interesting material about Blackpool, Cleveleys, trams, and all the other attractions of the Fylde Coast. It offered free classified advertising for local residents! Never being one to miss a bargain, I e-mailed a brief advert for our gold jewellery. Within a few minute I received an e-mail reply from Doug Smith, the editor of B&FCIM, and old acquaintance. He asked for some more details for our advert, and within an hour, we had the electronic equivalent of a full page colour advert on the web. For free! Unbelievable!

I was so impressed with the whole thing, that I told Doug about my ideas for our own website, and the lack of progress. In less than an hour, he came back with comments about the design, and quite a few positive suggestions, so that it wasn't long before it became obvious that Doug was the right person to help with our site. The only problem with a project like this is that we were both aware of the potentially infinite nature of the project. Doug solved this problem neatly by offering to create the basic site design, and add a good number of pages, so that we had a working site, and then at any time I could take over the design and further implementation, Doug said once the job was complete, I could pay him what I thought it was worth. I replied that surely he couldn't afford to work for that kind of money! We shook hands on the arrangement.

It took only a few weeks for the site to come alive, with pages about gold sovereigns, rare numismatic collectors coins, diamond rings, gold jewellery, humour, guestbook, information sections, feedback forms. It would take me a day to write the "copy", and within hours Doug would have them designed, on site and uploaded, with an e-mail to me asking me to check and "proof read" it.

Over these few weeks, I watched Doug write the HTML code for some of our pages, adding and manipulating graphics, and I was amazed at how easy he made it look.

Our site now contains close to 1000 pages, and over 1000 images! It has been so successful for us that we have recently had to work 12 hour days just to keep up with our e-mail sales enquiries! Indeed, we have since started several more websites, with the intention of splitting up our original site into smaller sites, each specialising in one aspect of our business.

The title of this article was "Things I wish I'd known". So far I have only related briefly our delight at the success of our site. This brings us back to the point. The things I wish I had known:-
1)  How successful the internet would be for us.
2)  That Doug Smith (Snoop) could have a site designed, up and running, in almost no time at all.
3)  How easy it is to write web pages.
4)  About the book "SAMS Teach Yourself HTML in 24 Hours".
A year ago, I hunted round for a good book about website design and HTML (Hyper Text Mark-up Language), and failed to find one! Recently I came across this book. Even though I have now created over 900 web pages, this book has been very useful. It is written in a simple, good style, and contains great advice for both beginners and experts. A lot of web design professionals should read it!

At this point I have an admission to make. Like Victor Kyam, the American entrepreneur who famously said that he liked the product, Remington Razors, so much that he bought the company, Doug and I went on to form a business to help others set up, design and run their own websites. It is of course called "Your-Name-Here". I have to admit that Doug does most of the hard work, I still find it incredible how patiently he answers FAQ's and provides very practical support for web hosting clients. I reckon although we don't offer 24 hour 7 day support, the support we give our clients is better than you would get from major internet hosting companies who would charge up to 10 times our price!

Lawrence Chard

You made me blush!