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VOL 3. NO. 15 Friday, March 30 - Thursday, April 12, 2001
BBC Technologies - A User Friendly Guide to the Internet
By Avonie BROWN

Donya Douglas

While the statistics may vary, one thing remains constant, more and more black people are using the Internet regularly. According to a Commerce Department study 23.5% of black households had Internet access as of August 2000 up from 11.2% in a 1999. That figure does not address the overwhelming number of black people who also have access to the Internet through work or school. The bottomline is if you want to share information or sell your goods and services to black people; the Internet is one avenue that must be included in your marketing portfolio. Indeed the relative anonymity and reach of the Internet allows you access to global market. But if thoughts of "URL" and "HTML" leave you frustrated and confused, Donya Douglas of BBC Technologies says the new technology need not intimidate you, all you need is the user friendly guidance her company provides.

"Most of our clients are small to medium-sized businesses who know they need an Internet presence but they typically don't know how to begin and where to begin. That's where BBC Technologies come in. We offer a very comprehensive and fairly priced program that begins with Internet training and instruction," Douglas said. "We make sure our clients get an understanding of the medium so that they can then make a reasoned decision about how useful it can be for their type of business. Its important to us that each client clearly understands the process because that is the only way we can design a site that will meet their needs."

It is indeed a very hands-on process and Douglas is prepared to work very closely with her clients through all stages of the project. "From our initial meeting we encourage our clients to bring all their information and ideas to the table, whether it's the colors to be used or a logo. Once we know how much information we are working with we can then plan our design strategy," Douglas said. "And because most of our clients are working with a limited budget, this open process works because we can then move ahead in stages the client is comfortable with."

In addition to be very responsive to her clients needs, Douglas has a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw on in creating these Internet-based business environments. Unlike most web designers who come from a graphic design background, Douglas has extensive technical skills and know-how. She has a mechanical engineering degree; in fact she said she knew at the age of 10 that like her father, who was an electrical engineer, she too going to become an engineer. But while she loved computer programming throughout college, she would not be sidetracked from her career goal.

Once she started working at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., Douglas had the opportunity to get into programming and she really enjoyed it she said. And she was also very good at it because she even developed a reputation within her branch -- if you had a programming question more often than not she had already figured it out. From there she then got keenly interested in web development and so she picked up some books on the subject and did research on the web and taught herself the programming language. One of her first projects was developing a knowledge capture website for her branch. Two years ago she started BBC Technologies (named after her three children with husband Keith - Blair, Brooks & Christopher). While the mainstay of the business is web development today, Douglas expects to move into other areas like training on various software programs that take further advantage of her skills.

Douglas' vast technical know-how is an added benefit that most small business owners treasure because she is then able to offer a wider range of services free of charge. "I know computer programming, I know how to get out on the web and find things and do things to enhance their site that they may not get from someone who only knows graphic design," she explained. And even if you already have a website, Douglas says with her knowledge she can go in and offer enhancements that many other designers cannot.

"I actually write the codes, I know HTML. There are quite a few programs out there like FrontPage and Dream Weavers where you basically lay out the pages and drop the information in and it generates the code for you. But people oftentimes run into trouble because when they want to add things to their site many web designers cannot go in and edit the codes. So then they have to find someone like me. Because I know programming I'm actually able to go in look at someone's site that's been created by someone else and make the adjustments or additions that they need." Douglas is also particularly good at database management and e-commerce sites. And if you visit her website she provides links to sites the company has created.

But Douglas cautions that building a website is only the beginning. "Just because you have a website doesn't mean that people are going to come to it, that is why we also work with our clients to promote their site. We look for different avenues to market your website to people and from there you get your customer base," she said. "Even though the cost of maintaining a site is relatively cheap compared to some other activities, if you are in business you want your site to help generate income. The only way that will happen is through effective marketing so that is a part of the package you get when you have us design your site. We design, publish and promote your site."

Douglas admits that her greatest challenge now is time and putting a value on her time. She gets so caught up in her projects that she looses track of time. "I start working on a project and time gets away from me and I'll be up at 2 or 3 O'clock in the morning at the computer. Really the biggest challenge is putting a price on it because I do so much more for my clients that I don't charge them for." But Douglas with not let that challenge quell her passion for programming. "I love it, it's a whole lot of fun. And I particularly love working from home."

If you have questions about the internet or simply want to learn more about how your business can have an effective web presence contact BBC Technologies by calling toll free 877-531-6589 or by visiting their website.

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