Technology is a wonderful thing; knowing how to leverage technology to your advantage is even better. If you're doing business on the Web today, there are steps you could be taking right now to create that advantage, turning your website into a powerful tool for building markets and making sales.
Try the following:
Shred your download times with HTTP compression. No one wants to sit and wait for your website to load, but people take notice when an attractive site loads in only a second or two. It looks like magic.
The trick is a technique called HTTP compression; the web server is configured to compress the data before it transmits to the user's web browser, and then the web browser uncompresses it before using it. Far less data is actually transmitted, and the few milliseconds taken up by compression overhead is very negligible compared to the time it would have taken to send the full files. The result: most of your download time vanishes.
All modern web browsers support this feature, and some web hosts offer this feature by default. Others don't offer it at all. Give your host provider a call and ask - a simple phone call could make a huge difference for the success of your website.
Reduce your dependence on large image files. Even with compression and caching, large image files can cause a significant drag on your load times. Limit your image usage as much as reasonably possible, and don't scale your images using HTML IMG tags - if you scale up, you're creating deresolution; if you scale down, you are transmitting more image data than you're actually using. Use actual-size image files, and only use a few very effective ones.
Offload display elements into CSS stylesheets. Most commercial websites today are still based on tables, loaded with display elements in the main bodies of their pages. By shifting display elements into external stylesheets, you'll thin out your primary pages, reserving them for solid content - and making them much friendlier to search engine crawlers.
Automate as much as securely possible. Your staff needs to sleep sometimes, but your website doesn't. How much of your online business can be flown on autopilot? Develop strong features for your site that allow it to assume more duties around the clock - taking orders, providing information, maintaining mailing lists.
Just do it securely. Protect your customers' data with all the modern techniques, and don't set yourself up to be the next hacker's headline. Make it as simple as possible, but no simpler.
Add unique, informative, quality content. A few people surf the Web to buy; a lot of people surf the Web to learn. If you can provide the ability to do both at once, you'll own the secret of succeeding in e-commerce.
Develop informative, educational content for your website that could rival the standards of any print publication. Create unique materials rather than simply reprinting material from someone else. Build a web resource that doesn't simply sell, but provides your customers with the tools they need to make great buying decisions.
Which, of course, just happen to be yours.