The objectives for a specialized taxation/accounting Web site should be aligned with the business needs of the entity developing the Web site.
Flow charting Initial Web Site Design
A flowchart of the initial Web site design should be prepared to document the intended structure of the Web site. Once the Web site is placed in operation, it wall be under continuous development, as discussed later in the article, but, the initial design flowchart does show the original intentions for the information content of the Web site. The initial design flowchart for the greentaxes Web site is shown in Figure 2. A few recommendations for Web site design would include, to the extent possible, keep it simple, accentuate appearance, and use some humor if possible.
Web site technical considerations include: (1) selection of an appropriate name, (2) registration of the name with Network Solutions, Inc. or other related company, and (3) selection of an Internet host site.
* A good Web site name should be short, interesting, and helpful in identifying the information content of the Web site. The derivation of the name greentaxes is explained in Figure 3.
* If a freestanding Web site is chosen for presenting a specialized taxation/accounting topic, the Web site name should be registered as a domain name with Network Solutions, Inc. A domain name gives you exclusive rights to use the name on the Internet for a two year period with payment of a small fee. Starting in May 1999, additional companies, besides Network Solutions, Inc., have been granted the right to register new Internet addresses.
Again, if a freestanding Web site is devoted to a specialized taxation/accounting topic, selection of an Internet host provider for the Web site should be based on the reliability of the provider and space available on the provider’s site. A small monthly service charge will be payable to the host provider for placing the Web site on the Internet.
Developing Information Content
There are many taxation/accounting Web sites on the Internet at the present time. In the development of a new Web site, it’s economical and efficient to not replicate information already available on other Web sites. The specialized greentaxes Web site is dedicated to the accumulation and dissemination of information on various kinds of environmental taxation issues which exist throughout the world. If information is available on other Web sites which supports the mission of the greentaxes Web site, an Internet link has been established to the other Web sites so that users of the greentaxes Web site can access the information without having to reproduce the information on the greentaxes Web site. Internet links which exist on the greentaxes Web site are listed in Figure 4. Internet links add to the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of Web site development.
In order to accumulate and disseminate information on environmental taxation issues, the greentaxes Web site maintains a board of advisors made up of tax professionals throughout the world. Currently, there are thirty members on the board from nine countries. Board members are asked to submit to the Web site information on environmental taxation issues within their respective countries and to continually review the Web site for improvement. In addition, board members can be contacted by e-mail through the Web site for consultation on environmental taxation issues.
A specialized taxation/accounting Web site sponsored by a CPA firm should have interested members of the firm on the Web site’s board of advisors along with other interested academicians and accounting professionals. All of the board members should be available for consultation by interested Web users.
Web Site Promotion
Web sites can be promoted by paid advertising, word-of-mouth promotion and listing the Web site address on business stationery, business cards and other promotional materials.
In addition, the Web site can be registered with various Internet search engines. An Internet search engine will provide a brief description of a Web site to Internet users who request information in selected subject/topic areas.
A number of search engines allow free registration of a Web site on the search engine and the registration process can be completed on the Internet. One Web site will automatically register any Web site with twenty-nine search engines for no charge. Addme.com will also register a Web site with up to 400 search engines for a small fee.
Installation of a counter on a Web site is also advisable in order to keep track of the number of users who are accessing the Web site. If Web site developers are interested in selling paid advertising on the Web site, keeping track of Web site users is important since Internet advertising rates are based on hits by Web site users.
Covering Web Site Expenses
Creation, development and maintenance of a freestanding specialized taxation/accounting Web site does involve some expenses. Ways to defray these expenses include the sale of products or services on the Web site, selling advertising, and solicitation of grants from individuals interested in the Web site.
The sale of products and services is the main purpose of many commercial Web sites but it’s also common on many not-for-profit organization Web sites which often sell items (books, magazines, monographs, t-shirts, etc.) related to their mission. Selling paid advertising on a Web site is feasible if the Web site attracts considerable traffic among Internet users.
Many specialized Web sites which appeal to a limited audience must rely on grants to cover Web site expenses. Greentaxes.org, being a specialized Web site which appeals to a limited audience, relies on grants to fund its operations. A listing of the grants received by greentaxes.org to cover operating expenses is shown in Figure 5.
A Web site should always be considered a work-in-process and be under continuous development in order to attract repeat users. Continuous development would entail keeping the information on the site up-to-date, making the site user-friendly, and keeping the site user-oriented.
Up-to-date information. If the same information is repeatedly displayed and/or the information is out-of-date, users will usually not return to the site. This would be especially true for a specialized taxation/accounting Web site where reliance on erroneous information could have financial significance.
User-friendly site. A Web site must also be user-friendly. It must be easy to link from one section in the Web site to another section without considerable effort by the user. If navigation on the Web site is too cumbersome, users will normally exit the Web site.
User-oriented site. It’s important to identify what users want from a Web site and provide that information to the user. You cannot adapt a user to a Web site but you must adapt the Web site to the user. A specialized taxation/accounting Web site represents an opportunity to keep individuals with a common interest together and to recruit new interested parties. A Web site with no user interest has little value.
In some instances, a Web site may have high information content but the information is presented in a dull and boring manner (e.g., retailer placing entire catalog on Web site page by page). Again, this may lead to users exiting the Web site.