By John Giles February 16, 2004 -- Religion and politics are usually two topics not discussed when doing business. Those two areas can stir emotions from even the mildest person and business can be lost if there is a difference in church membership or political views. Some printers seem to forget that when developing their web sites. It is amazing how many printers seem to forget that web sites can easy offend a visitor and turn a prospect into a lost opportunity. Recently I was surfing the web visiting printing sites. One had a page listed as Links. This page reported that it contained links to other sites that might interest the visitor. Among the links were one to Microsoft and one to “Local Printing Competitors.” When I clicked on the link to MIcrosoft I was exposed to an animated graphic of a little boy peeing on the software giant's logo. A similar graphic was on the competitor page. Being from the south, I'm used to funny bumper stickers and graphics in the back windows of pickup trucks slamming another brand of cars. I like a joke as well as the next person, but I'm not used to a “professional” business graphically downgrading a competitor or product just to be funny. I wonder what prospective customers think when they waste their time going to a “joke” link. Insulting the Customer Just a couple of years ago I found what I considered one of the worst web sites. It was in Louisiana and offered an extensive list of instructions for preparing customer files. As I was reviewing the company's customer-created files standards I was surprised to read that they would accept PageMaker files, but that those files really weren't very good. If you used Microsoft Publisher, a program meant for doing “party invitations” you shouldn't expect good results, and if you designed a page in Microsoft Word, you were just “plain stupid.” More ironic--and certainly funny--was that I found the printer's web site address on the Microsoft Publisher's “Find a Local Printer” page. The opinions this printer expressed on his web site may have crossed the mind of many printers when working with difficult files, but no one it their right mind would said it to the customer. Down south, if someone does something stupid or dumb, we just say, “Well bless your heart.” If a customer brings a printer a four-color 8-page newsletter done in PowerPoint, a southern printer will just say, “Well bless your heart, look what you have done.” The printer who was slamming PageMaker, Publisher and Word file creators doesn't have a web site any more or at least I couldn't find it after multiple searches. That doesn't mean that there are not others out there who are advertising their biases on their sites. Take a Fresh Look When was the last time you looked at your site? When was the last time you visited your competitor's site? Do your pages project a businesslike approach to the Internet community? Would it make the visitor believe he or she was working with a printing professional? Or would it project a company with a strange sense of humor who might not treat the customer's order with respect? The Internet is fun and there are funny sites that make me laugh. I particularly like the ones I find of competitors who call their customers stupid. Guess which one I'm going to point a customer to when on a sales call?