Documenting price lists?

Subject: Documenting price lists?
From: "Geoff Hart" <geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Thu, 6 Jan 2000 10:24:23 -0500

Brian Doonan <<...would like to hear from people who produce
price lists. What sort of style/format would you use? What other
considerations would I need to know?>>

It's been a good many years since I've done this, but one thing
remains engraved in my memory: printed lists were (and probably
still are) a disaster. Why? They took forever to print out, took a
long time to bind and distribute, were cumbersome (imagine a 3-
inch stack of dot matrix line-printer printouts in AccoPress
binders!), rapidly became outdated and full of handwritten notes,
were difficult to search through, got lost, and fell into the wrong
hands far more often than we liked. You can't do much about the
security issue other than by teaching your sales staff the
importance of confidentiality, but the other problems suggest that
this is one of those cases where an online solution is by far the

What kind of online solution depends on the users of the price list
(both in terms of their needs and their technical sophistication).
Something like this is ideal for a small, custom-built database
application, since it lets sales staff search and sort through the list
based on their "needs of the moment". Conversely, small lists
might work very well indeed as Acrobat or HTML files. Issue
updates of the files by e-mail*, and you've got an efficient, up to
date, easy-to-use solution. Security is at least as good as with the
former approach based on printed copies: so long as your sales
staff don't redistribute the files and delete old copies, you're
reasonably safe.

* You could also post them on a Web site, but in my experience,
it's easier to work with materials I already have in my in box than to
remember to go seeking them on the Web. The security issues are
also simpler.

Formatting again must follow from user needs: figure out how your
sales staff look up information, and organize the price lists to follow
that approach. For Acrobat, you're following a fairly standard "print"
model; if someone decides to print a copy, it's already formatted
efficiently for their use. If you use HTML, output format could be
poor enough that you might want to make it available as a separate
Word file. If you're using a database, you'll need to include a
reporting (printing) module so the users can print decently
formatted copies.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca (Pointe-Claire, Quebec)
"If you can't explain it to an 8-year-old, you don't understand it"--Albert Einstein

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