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ORLANDO-Make your website fun and research-valuable for the viewer so he or she will return to it, Richard Buday, president of Houston, TX-based Archimage Inc., told delegates attending the annual three-day National Association of Industrial and Office Properties conference at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Resort. The conference ends Friday.

“Everybody today is fighting for your eyeballs,” the architect says, “and the only way to get the viewer’s attention and loyalty is to make his or her visit to your page an entertaining experience.”

Buday cites Turner Construction Co., a 98-year-old, New York-based general contractor, as an example of commanding viewer loyalty by making the firm’s website entertaining and educational at the same time.

Turner accomplishes the feat by offering a free construction index, giving facilities managers, architects, developers and estimators valuable and updated information which they can use in preparing their project pro formas.

“I don’t have to pay to go to professional meetings or try to call someone at 2 o’clock on a Sunday morning for information I need to work on a project,” says Buday. “I often get that information from their site and that makes me come back to it on a regular basis.”

To make its site entertaining, Turner adds animation and music. “The site is peppered with well-produced movie clips,” Buday says. “Viewers remember things like that and keep coming back.”

Two-dimensional animation technology, generically called Flash, is the latest web design gambit and is “very effective,” the architect says. “If you want people to keep coming back to your site, give them a cookie–not a pastry cookie but a computer cookie.”Companies are paying as little as $4,000 to $5,000 and “up to hundreds of thousands of dollars” for a website design, but if they’re not holding the viewer’s attention, the site isn’t cost-effective, the architect says.

Most commercial real estate sites have to be data-base driven. “You have to change the material regularly or you won’t keep the viewer,” he says.

The Internet offers the commercial real estate industry important tools for research, marketing and project management, Buday says.

“We have to start asking ourselves this question,” he says. “Is it the sticks and bricks we are creating or the data we are compiling in our computers that will become the most valuable product in the near future.” Buday says he has no doubts that data will outlast and outlive conventional paper records and most buildings.

“The big word in the industry today is Project ExtraNet or Project Websites,” says the architect. “It’s the next big concept on the Internet.”

Project ExtraNet involves the storing of all drawings, change orders, correspondence and other project documents that can be shared by team consultants at any time. Project Websites up and running are BidCom, Cephren and Buzzsaw. “You may not have heard of them yet, but you will shortly,” Buday says.

Another new web storage concept the commercial real estate industry will be hearing about soon is the International Alliance for Interoperability. “It is being set up by a lot of big software companies,” the architect says. “It could become a $10 billion industry.”

Buday notes that “once the data base becomes known as a valuable commodity, it could become a huge revenue generator.” The International Alliance believes if project information could be stored and shared by the commercial real estate community, “it could save up to 3% of the cost of a building,” the architect says. “And that’s something all of us are interested in.”

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