What type of site do you need?
For businesses providing a service, or those wanting to promote and inform about their products and/or services, the OnLine Brochure is the thing to go for.
It consists of a home or main page (often the file name is index.htm or index.html as this ensures it is opened automatically when the customer surfs to your address), to which can be linked any number of pages detailing your products or services, talking about your company history, philosophy, etc, anything, as the name suggests, that could go in a printed brochure, that would promote your business.
Like a printed brochure, your contact details would be included: e-mail, phone, fax, address (it can give potential customers confidence that if the worst came to the worst they could come knocking on your door if they have your full address).
Like the reply coupon on a printed brochure, the site can and normally should include a reply form (such as the Webby Foot response form - click to see) This can encourage a response through it's interactive nature, the satisfaction of seeing one's own information on screen and being incorporated in a professional, surfed to web page.
Bookings can be safely made from a site like this, and to a certain extent sales of single or low numbers of items, but as this style of site does not contain security features, payment should be made by telephone, post or c.o.d.
E-commerce enabled - the OnLine Shop
This style of site enables ordering and paying for goods online by credit card. It would suit mail order businesses looking to give added service to their existing customers, and searching for new markets for their products. Businesses that haven't yet gone into mail order may find this a cost effective way to test the market.
The site is similar to the OnLine Brochure style, but would typically contain details of more products. In addition a 'shopping basket' facility is included. This means that the customer would click on each item that they require, and the description and price (including delivery if required) would appear on an order form, their 'shopping basket'. When they had finished choosing items, they could amend the form to remove any items or add new ones, before completing their personal details and including their credit card details and submitting their order by clicking a button.
The credit card details are sent through a secure system to prevent fraud, and received by the business where they are treated as a normal mail order style 'card not present' purchase.
Real-time credit card clearance
More expensive, with set up fees in the £100s, there are systems that can be used in OnLine Shops which can validate credit card transactions in real time, i.e. at the time of order. This is more suitable for large organisations doing lots of business online where it streamlines the whole process and can be tied in with their own order/stock control software. Credit card purchases with these systems still count as 'card not present' sales, so charge backs to the business will still occur if the card numbers have been used fraudulently.
An end to charge-backs?
Visa are working on a secure credit card system, SET, which not only gives real time clearance, but also guarantees the identity of the customer. This means that not only can the consumer be confident that his credit card details are safe, but the business can be confident that the transaction is good, the credit card company undertakes not to take any charge-backs.
So what does it cost?