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What it will cost to update for new browsers

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oldclass: 2 Web sites are about to become stylized and more dynamic as the next generation of browsers begins shipping. Marketers and their developers will have to evaluate the extent to which they wish to utilize the new features and at what point they want to implement them.

As Netscape begins releasing its new Communicator 4.0, the NetMarketing Web Price Index looks at what it will cost to update our marketers' sites.

Everyone wants new features

Since the Web began taking off as a marketing platform, designers and marketers alike have craved some of the features that the Communicator and Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0, which is due out later this year, support. Using the new tags, designers will be able to control exactly where images and text are placed on a page, and in what fonts they are displayed.

According to this month's survey of developers, putting up a small catalog in a controlled design could cost a median of $13,500.

The new browsers will also expand the dynamic nature of the Web, allowing more vibrant and active content without increasing download time. These features will allow for much more eye-catching presentations.

Brendan Gramer, Web designer at Neoglyphics, Chicago, sees this as an obvious boon for marketers.

"The extra features that get incorporated into a Web site for a promotion can greatly enrich the user's experience and increase the product's profile and its likelihood for success," he says.

Drag-and-drop HTML

Putting together a multimedia presentation for Netscape Communicator 4.0 and Explorer 4.0 could cost a median of $33,500.

Netscape is also supporting what it calls drag-and-drop HTML objects. Using JavaScript, developers will be able to create all sorts of highly interactive Web sites for their clients.

For example, setting up a shopping cart using this new technology for a site the size of Blockmonster Entertainment's could cost a median of $66,250.

Timing will be important. Generally it takes between three and six months before a significant portion of Net users upgrade their browsers.

Steve Van Lieshout, a client service rep at Neoglyphics, says he thinks new features will be developed first for intranets, where companies have more control over what browser version is used.

Mr. Gramer believes that regardless of when sites are updated it will become more important than ever to make sites backward-compatible for other browsers.

"The smart developer will make their sites backward-compatible, and offer alternative pages to ensure that nobody gets left out. This means more time-consuming work paying attention to details," he said.

Next big expense?

And this could be the next big expense for marketers and perhaps, as the production technology becomes more complex, lead to the anticipated shakeout in the developer industry.

"Web users will expect more, marketers will continue to push the envelope, and Web developers who take advantage of these new capabilities will benefit greatly with new business, while those that don't will lose accounts," Mr. Gramer said.

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