Features - ConstructionWebLinks.com: Cyber-Tool for the Cyber-ContractorBy Angelika Ryan, Published on May 14, 2000
Angelika Ryan is the Content Web Editor for ConstructionWebLinks.com, an in-house creation of Thelen Reid & Priest LLP. Previously she worked at the University of Notre Dame as the Coordinator of the European Union Documents Collection at the Government Documents Department, and as a cataloger at the Bibliographic Access Department. Ms. Ryan has an M.A. from the University of Arizona in Linguistics and Foreign Language Pedagogy.
Although the construction industry is one of the biggest players in the world economy, it has been slow to take advantage of the Internet revolution. This is in spite of the fact that the Internet has a massive amount of resources either designed for or incredibly useful to the construction industry. Construction is a $1.2 trillion industry that the Internet can help become bigger and more efficient. Information is the power that drives the entire economy, and the construction industry should be a part of that power. With the right tools, a cyber-contractor can harness a world of information and resources.
There are a multitude of Internet resources available to the construction industry professional. If the cyber-contractor is able to access these resources, he can do such things as: learn about new projects, locate subcontractors, review product catalogs, download specifications, find qualified personnel or download sample contracts and other vital documents.
The construction industry is heavily regulated, and the World Wide Web offers numerous legal resources that will give the cyber-contractor access to current laws and regulations, latest court decisions, building code issues, licensing requirements, safety regulations and insurance information. In addition, the Internet can also be a great educational tool that allows construction industry professionals to read articles in professional journals, download technical reports, find out the latest industry news, sign up for continuing education courses or even take courses online.
However, these vast resources are useless if they cannot be accessed quickly and efficiently. Cyber-contractors do not have time to go on extended fishing expeditions to locate these resources. ConstructionWebLinks.com was designed to solve this problem. It promotes itself as a one-stop portal that allows the construction industry user to access the best and most useful Internet resources quickly and efficiently. ConstructionWebLinks.com is not the first Web site to attempt this monumental task; however, its approach is different. The site provides a quick and efficient window to the Internet by means of: detailed profiles, a straightforward organizational structure and other timesaving reference sources.
ConstructionWebLinks.com does not simply provide links to resources under applicable categories, but provides detailed profiles. Profiling is not a novel concept: a number of industry portals give brief descriptions of sites they link to. However, in ConstructionWebLinks.com profiling goes beyond such brief description. It is a detailed analysis of the site’s contents that includes explicit descriptions of the kind of information and resources contained on the site.
Profiling enables the user to quickly and efficiently determine which site is most useful and helpful, without having to link to each site individually. Absent detailed profiles, users are forced to link to each site, which can be a cumbersome and time-consuming process. In addition to the connection time, it may take several minutes for the user to determine what the benefits if any the site may offer. ConstructionWebLinks.com does this work for the cyber-contractor, allowing the user to directly access only the most relevant and useful information.
One of the difficulties of online research is finding information on a particular topic from a long list of sites that might contain the needed information. ConstructionWebLinks.com sought to solve this problem by use of simple and straightforward categories of information. Detailed site profiles are organized into relevant categories. A single site may be featured in as many as a dozen categories, depending on the variety of information it contains. The categories are broken down to represent a wide cross-section of topics significant to construction industry professionals.
The site contains categories familiar to the construction professional such as Trade Organizations, Publications and Books, New Projects, Specifications and Product Information, Building Codes, Licensing, Insurance and Bonds. The cyber-contractor need not engage in cumbersome and often fruitless Internet searches. He simply turns to the category of information he is interested in, and then browses the resources to find the ones that best suit his needs.
Recognizing that the Internet undergoes dramatic and exciting changes every day, ConstructionWebLinks.com is regularly updated to ensure that the information is current. Because the Internet is constantly growing and evolving, many sites change, drop or add features. These regular updates ensure that the user channels through the site quickly and efficiently. As the Internet grows, so will ConstructionWebLinks.com.
Flexibility is more than just keeping the current sites up-to-date, it also means that whole new categories of information will need to be efficiently analyzed, profiled and added to the site. For instance, some categories evolved during the creation and even after launch of the site. When the site was first conceived, e-commerce was far from being a household word. With the emergence of companies specializing in e-commerce services for the construction industry, such as Cephren or buzzsaw.com, ConstructionWebLinks.com evaluated, selected and profiled sites for inclusion in a new e-commerce category that now contains over 30 e-commerce sites’ profiles.
Today, if cyber-contractors take advantage of the latest developments in e-commerce, they can even manage an entire project with laptop computers. They can bid on projects; check and comply with local, state and federal government regulations; communicate with project participants; share, edit, modify and update construction plans and documents; purchase construction products and view a myriad of useful construction sites online.
ConstructionWebLinks.com was conceived as a resource tool for construction industry professionals, but it includes reference tools useful for any user. The resource section of the site contains a variety of helpful tools, including a Web-user tutorial, people finders, reference links, news sites, and travel tools. This section is in keeping with the site’s philosophy to create a one-stop window to the Internet. A cyber-contractor logged on through his laptop in a construction trailer can not only make and update project bids and view plan modifications, but he can also chat with his son in another country, plan his next business trip, and see how his favorite sport team is faring.