March 2006 Newsletter
Our 10th Birthday!
Ten years is a long time in the Internet. On February 24, 1996 I registered the domain name Specs-Online.com and the site was online at the end of February 1996.
I liked the way Specs-Online looked with the hyphen. Looking back I suspect that I could registered specs.com. Later on I had search problems with the specsonline.com domain belonging to Specs Liquors in Houston Texas. In March 1999 I changed the name to 4specs.com. This sorted to the top of most lists and was simpler.
From the beginning 4specs has been a very simple site, designed without the bells and whistles found on many sites.
When I started Specs-Online I was still a full-time independent product rep in the San Francisco area. What I knew when I started was:
- Binders were very expensive for the manufacturer.
- Binders were very expensive for the architect to maintain in their library and update.
- The web was a natural convergence of the CAD computer system in the architect's office (with an Internet access) and the manufacturer's information on the Internet.
- Sweets had 1,500 advertisers who would probably develop websites in the next few years.
- Web and E-mail were going to change the way construction information was exchanged. I recall one phone call with a Reno architect. He wanted me to fax a spec to him. When I asked him if could email the spec. He asked me why he would ever want email. I told him I could emal the file and his secretary would not have to type it again. He was silent - considering the possibilities.
My business model when I started was to have 1,000 advertisers at $50 per year. Not one marketing manager I spoke with could understand what I was doing. I worked for 2 more years until our first advertisers asked us how they could get better position. Today 4specs includes 12,500+ manufacturers listed plus 700 trade associations, with over 500 advertisers.
There were several surprises along the way:
- Web designers and many sales and marketing people still do not see the website as an online 3-ring binder. The websites are complicated and make it difficult for the architect and specifer to find and use their product information. My first article in the November 1996 CSI Specifier is still on target today.
- The maintenance of the links is a much bigger task than I originally envisioned. It should have been obvious.
- Great tools for web design were developed - first FrontPage and then DreamWeaver. I can remember being excited with FrontPage - as compared to coding the html by hand. As the web evolved, the tools evolved.
- Specifiers consistently tell me they want better websites - ie easier to find and use information. That is the biggest hurdle manufacturers need to overcome. The worst offenders are the large companies, especially companies with a European base. Selling and marketing construction products is very different in Europe. CSI (or SCIP or someone) needs to set some web standards and get the word out.
Publisher - 4specs