OS/2 eZine

16 December 2000
Simon Gronlund is earning his Master of Science in Computer Science at the Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, as an adult student. He also teaches Java and computer-related courses at the college. When he isn't tampering with his Warp 4 PC, he spends his spare time with his two boys and his wife.

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Reflections from Sweden

Last months the dot com death has touched Sweden and Europe as a plague. The stock holders happy last spring now tear one's hair in feelings of frustration. Millionaires quickly became holders of ueless stock options. The digitized Black Death shows its evil face. Why?

Ask the business men of the dot com's, they will blame the software developers, investors unwilling to unlock the wallet once more, but most common the customers  are blamed!!! The customers visit their web pages, yes a lot too, but only a few out of houndreds ever order anything, and if so it is pocket money spent. Hence the customers are to blame.

Let me reflect over these explanations. Anyone have heard of Boo.com I suppose, a giant flop that drained the investors' funds and caused many suppliers to almost go bankrupt. Of course the developers took their part of the fortune gone, everyone have heard of the salaries developers are paid.

The system later was sold to a software firm at a few million dollars, admittedly considered rather well polished and functional. But see for yourself, the developers must have earned many million bucks.

We have seen other dot coms go bankrupt, and the developers have been ranged from middle sized Internet web bureaus up to big and blue IBM. And now the educated and reputated developers and programmers moves employers, old fashioned consulting firms and software producers has their pick and choice. See how developers leave the sinking boats instead of staying and give a helping hand for free. They must obviously be bribed to move away.

And of course those nasty capitalists must be to blame, after letting out billions of dollars it seems natural that the investors must inject a few more million bucks. And not try saving a few bucks back if they can. The cry "if we only get a few more millions we will make it" is sound and basic, it must be easy to prove that a few more millions will do. Especially when considered the hundreds already spent, you know, it is the last drip that makes the bucket overflow, and the wealth to pour down.

Finally the customers must be guilty, since they are eagerly visiting the home pages but rarely buy anything. Tracking customers show that they are putting stuff into the cart, but often they seem to disappear and the logs say something about errors.

"Ahem, what errors these customer cause me, how stupid they seem to be, always causing me the very same errors over and over again.

And why does the rest but a small rill disappear at the log-out and pay page? Everything is set up plainly, give me the credit card number and I will withdraw the sum from their account. I do not get it, I have even removed the figures on tax and charges added since that looked too messy. Charges are the same as mail order, go read a catalogue if necessary.

Further, I have not added a lot of boring text and information about our policies and stuff that no-one likes to read anyway. Most customers realize that our low cost items admit no refunds or warranties. And a child can understand that we can not guarantee delivery within a few days or so, we first have to find the item at the promised prize somewhere. Or at least at a nearby prize. Or a close to similar product.

I really try, I track the customers and try hard to get their e-mail addresses, using log-in's, memberships and stuff. Then I send these visitors nice letters every soon and then to remind them going back. I do not understand, some responds unpleasantly though I only want them to realize that I, too, have to make my earning somehow."

Okay, that is true, quite a few Internet shops do not fit into this description. But amazingly many sites do not survive a closer inspection, especially if it is made by an expert on interface and interaction. Stupid mistakes are made; navigation helpers, information and user friendly after thoughts are simply not there. The sites seem to be built without a single thought on customers, except as the paying crowd.

Other mistakes match exactly those ones discussed in the recent Hands on HTML articles; many images of huge file sizes, layout that do not respect different screen sizes, fonts hardly seen even using a magnifying glass, etc. Then it must be the software developers!?!

Not for sure, software developer's work do not show, but web designers do. If, and only if, the bureau has that distinction between employees.

What am I to say? I would like to see the Internet marketeers grow mature and sound quickly. Internet can and should be the ultimate market place, but then we must offer be offered mature services and products.

Sweden, as other countries, see a few music resellers--CD, DVD and cassettes--that hardly make both ends meet, except for example Ginza, a firm that have been in the business for decades on mail order. I suppose they know how to run the logistics from years of training, they have both the customer relations and the suppliers relations working, and--important--thay have the stock and can deliver timely.

If you are to go on-line with your business, first think of the customers. These can be your neighbour, your mom-and-dad, your cousin's little kids, or anyone computer illiterate. Will they find you? Will they find their way within your site? Will they find their way out? What options do you offer? What services make you better than mail order? How reliably are you and how do you prove that? 

Go on-line! That can be your way to successful business. But remember, business is and will remain a win/win affair between you and your friend, the shopper.

Now I will send another e-mail and see if the other firm offers me another raise, and I hope they do not offer me stock options.

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