CGI = Action!

CGI = Action!

William Bontrager
Copyright (c) by William Bontrager.
All rights reserved.

Nice site 🙂

What does it do?

Some of your competitors know what CGI is. Some see its potentials. Some use it to great advantage!

Do you?

A client asked me, “I want to automate my customer support. I want all incoming support email filtered through our current FAQs and product description pages. If the customer mentions an already posted subject, reply immediately with the appropriate URL and say a human will respond if it doesn’t completely answer the question. Then send the email to us so we can determine if further action is required. And I want a special email address so I can forward the customer’s question and the answer for automatic posting to the website.

“Can I do that?”

There was no sound on the telephone. He wasn’t breathing. Waiting for the answer. Afraid it wasn’t possible. Knowing it *must* be possible; it was the biggest bottleneck in his business. The costs were out of control.

Our client is an awesome product developer. He is a facile inventor and a good marketer. But he surely lacks a sense of what is and is not possible for his websites.

I must answer quickly so he won’t fall unconscious from lack of oxygen.

Holding his breath. Prepared for the worst. Yet hoping I can help.

I’ll let you know how CGI works in a moment — in nonprogrammer’s terms. And give you a URL with links to examples. But first I must answer my client and friend.

“Sure”, I said.

He released his breath. Took a few deep ones to regain his oxygen equilibrium. Then he said, “I know you’re busy. And you know I would like this done yesterday. Will you do it for me as soon as you can?”

If he were your competitor, your business would be in dire danger! (Yes, I noticed the redundancy. Consider it due emphasis.)

My friend may lack knowledge of what is and is not possible for his websites. But he knows someone to ask. I am far from knowing all the answers. But I am willing to help find them.

Used to be “lack of persistence” was named as one of the top reasons for business failure. With our rapid internet evolution, that idea is now joined by “restricted sense of what is possible”.

(How CGI works and a link to examples come in a moment.)

First, let me say your belief system is your worst enemy.

No, I’m not talking about religious beliefs.

What I’m talking about is that system of beliefs which restricts perception of possibilities. That system from whence come the words, “That’s not possible!”

Belief systems determine what we perceive. Your internet business may be in danger of being trampled and left in the dust of bygone methods — and you may not even see it!

The internet is changing faster, it seems, than our belief systems can accept.

The “restricted sense of what is possible” is so dangerous because it limits perception.

CGI is the most widely accepted industry standardized method of on-demand interaction with your website visitors. To get an idea of what has already been implemented, consult some CGI script download sites. Links are on the “examples” page:

That is the only URL you’re going to get in this article. The number of examples with URLs that I want to present is too much for one article. Therefore, the links are centralized on that page.

The “examples” page has links to some of the best CGI script download sites. It has links to every example I mention below. It has links to both free and fee books and other publications. It even has a form where you can subscribe to the newly launched weekly, “WillMaster Possibilities”, where one website possibility is presented and three subscriber’s questions answered in each issue.

Got a burning question? Subscribe and ask.

It’s free.

I am a programmer more than a marketer. I dearly love my subject. I can write in nonprogrammer’s terms. Yep, I think you will enjoy “WillMaster Possibilities”!

If you resist going to the “examples” URL to subscribe, just send a blank email to

CGI is a simple concept: A gateway through which a browser on any operating system can communicate with and get answers from an internet server on any operating system.

The browser may speak “Macintosh” and the server may speak “Unix”. Or any other language. Yet, with CGI, the browser can ask for and receive customized content from the server. The customized content can be text, graphics, sound, anything the browser can handle.

With CGI, the browser can ask the server to run any program available to it, including email programs — and acknowledge its compliance!

With CGI, you can provide your visitor with customized pages on demand. You can have your web pages updated automatically. You can ask for and store, or retrieve and present, information to and from any databases on your server — any database you make available.

That’s right. One of the beauties of CGI is your complete control over what is and is not available to the browser.

Are you beginning to see some possibilities?

Suppose Frank and Wilma are cyber friends. Frank happens upon your site. “Wow”, Frank thinks, “Wilma would be interested in this site!”

You’ve made an impression. Is that as far as it’s going to go?

Chances are, when Frank surfs to his next destination he will forget your site. If not your site, the exact URL will surely elude his memory. Surely, you don’t depend on Frank going to the effort of bookmarking your site. Even if he did, your site could get very lost among the hundreds of bookmarks already stuffed in there.

So Wilma never hears about your site 🙁

However . . . what if you had a button that said, “click here to recommend this website to a friend”? That could help. Maybe. If Frank sees the button when he has the thought.

All the functionality on the internet isn’t going to do you a bit of good if your visitor isn’t aware of it at the moment s/he would use it.

The first step is to get the functionality. See the “examples” URL for that.

The second step is to have it available at every point your visitor may want to use it. See the “examples” URL for that, too.

The third step (or maybe it should be the first step) is to provide a website such that your visitors will want to use your functionality. And want to use it often.

From experience, I know that when a visitor recommends your site to a friend, that friend is likely to recommend your site to others. Seems that people who are likely to recommend sites to their friends have friends who are likely to recommend to their own friends.

So, make sure Frank sees that button!

Another scenario (doesn’t apply to everybody):

Frank likes your website and would really like to have a permanent record. His bookmarks are a mess; he knows it but hasn’t got around to cleaning them out. He doesn’t want to save to his hard drive because his drive is already slowing from the sheer volume of stuff it contains.

What Frank would like to do is to print your page. It’s a special page, you see (with links to your site and everything!), and he knows he’s more likely to refer back to it when it’s in printed form.

But you know what? Your page has so many graphics and stuff that he’s not going to bother.

Oops! He almost missed it! There’s the button! It says, “For a printer-friendly version of this page, click here”. (See the “examples” URL.)

And right next to it, Frank sees, “If you want this page emailed to you, simply type in your address and click the ’email me’ button.” (Again, see the “examples” URL.)

Now he has a choice. Wonderful! Frank likes choices. He might even do it both ways!

Other examples you’ll find at the “examples” URL: feedback form, bulletin board, site search engine, autoresponder, anonymous survey, visitor statistics, notify when page/site changes, form-to-email ezine subscription, URL redirection/email forwarding, on-demand personalized content delivery, electronic greeting cards.

Although a list of examples can stimulate the imagination, there may also be a tendency to view the examples as the ultimate application of the technology.

Far from it!

That list is not even close to exhaustive. Heck, it is merely a start! Truly, only your imagination and ability to perceive can limit your potential.

Once I told a client, “It can’t be done.”

A month later I saw an implementation of the thing that couldn’t be done.

Never again have I said that to a client. The lump of embarrassment is still in my throat. It refuses to be swallowed. It is part of the impetus behind “WillMaster Possibilities”. (See the “examples” URL.)

Tired of spam?

“WillMaster Possibilities” is implementing a spam-resistant method to protect subscribers who participate in the newsletter. Now you don’t have to lurk anymore! Ask questions. Help with the answers. Feel free to participate!

Tired of spam?

Eliminate all email addresses from your website so email-harvesting robots have nothing to feed on.


Visitor comment forms. And if you must present your email address, such as on a contact page, well, do so with a graphic. Most graphics programs will let you make a graphic with text on it. Email-harvesting robots can’t read graphics — not yet, anyway. (Don’t ask me to make an email-harvesting robot for you. I won’t.)

Don’t have CGI available for your website? See the “examples” URL for both free and fee CGI script hosting services.

The article, How To Hire a Programmer! is also available at the “examples” URL.

Here are a few possibilities to ponder (all can be accomplished with CGI): After a few days or a few months, Frank surfs to your site again. You greet him by name like you would a friend. You make it easier to use your forms by filling in his name and email address for him. You thank him again for recommending your site to Wilma during his recent visit and offer “if you wish to recommend this site to another friend, just click here.” You provide links to other pages with subjects similar to that which he printed on his last visit, and urge him to print those, too. You offer one or two book titles related to his subject of interest. If Frank provided his geographical location (such as a postal address) on a previous visit, you provide him with a weather forecast along with his current time and temperature.

Et cetera.

May the walls of your belief system become transparent.


William J. Bontrager

Copyright (c) by William Bontrager. All rights reserved.–==– WillMaster –==–
Awesome website and graphic design.
Screaming hot CGI programming.
==–== “WillMaster Possibilities” ==–==