How to evaluate a Business Website - Part I 7 questions to ask for determining authenticity

The Internet is a great help to find information on almost everything. Its like a universal library where anyone can just walk in and explore the universe of knowledge with simple and readily available tools like PC, Modem etc. There is very little entry fee (Internet Time and Telephone bill) and most of the information available is free.

However, one niggling question that frequently comes back is - how reliable is this information ? Can we depend upon this to start a venture ? Is it as reliable as information given in printed books and reports ?

There is no shortcut or ready answer to this question. Indeed, there are extremely good and reliable sources of information in Internet - but there are also websites which are of questionable background. Like the fraud bank site Nigerian scam artists created few months back to defraud gullible surfers.

The anonymous nature of Internet is a great level playing field for small and medium businesses - but unfortunately also provides cover to fraudsters and conmen.

Like many other areas in life - the solution to this challenge is to remain alert and follow certain basic guidelines. Just as driving car is always risky as accidents can happen - but remaining alert and following traffic rules greatly reduce the risks.

Here is a set of criteria or checklist of questions to help you evaluate a business website.

Evaluation Criteria for determining Authenticity

There is always a commercial enterprise behind every business web site. Usually, the website reflects the name or function of the enterprise and ends in a .com (commercial) or .biz (business).

Perhaps the most important task is to determine how authentic or authoritative is the enterprise behind the website. Questions to be asked are:

  • Is it clear who is responsible for the contents of the site ? Any confusion/ambiguity is to be taken with great caution

  • Any website with only IP Address (e.g. instead of a .com .biz or any other top level domain name is a suspect. IP address is a perfect cover to hide oneself and a legitimate business will always try to promote itself - instead of hiding behind an anonymous cover

  • Is there a 'About us' page or link to a page describing the nature of the company, who owns, its products and services etc. ?

  • Is there a way of verifying the legitimacy of this company ? Some of the simple tools for verification are telephone number, postal address etc. Only e-mail address is not enough

  • Is there a way of determining the stability of this company ? Does it say how long they are in business ?

  • Does the enterprise show some verifiable proof of reliability like list of customers, comments of satisfied customers, references etc.

  • Is there a statement that the content of the page has the official approval of the company ? For example, copyright statement in favour of the company in main page ?

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Source: FAIDA - Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad Vol: 3, Issue 36 December 26' 2002

Author : Dr. Amit K. Chatterjee
(Amit worked in blue-chip Indian and MNCs for 15 years in various capacities like Research and Information Analysis, Market Development, MIS, R&D Information Systems etc. before starting his e-commerce venture in 1997. The views expressed in this columns are of his own. He may be reached at )

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