Sunday, January 3, 1999

In Haddonfield, Web-Site Design Firm is Taking Off

In Haddonfield, Web-Site Design Firm is Taking Off
David Cho, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 3 1999

Like so many Internet experts, Michael Kuehl and Dan Birchoff learned their craft mainly on the computer in the home office instead of getting formal training in college.

And like so many new Web-site production firms, their month-old Digital Facilities Management of Haddonfield is sailing into a precarious business world where hundreds of companies seem to rise and fall every year.

In the tri-county South Jersey area, there are about 107 Web-page-design companies listed in the phone book, all less than a decade old. Some of those listed have already folded.

But Kuehl and Birchoff, whose company consists of themselves and eight part-time freelancers, believe they have the vision to turn a profit in a tight business field. Their 50 clients include some of the richest firms in New Jersey: casinos in Atlantic City.

..."When both of us went to college, there wasn't really even a Web,'' said Birchoff, 27, the company's vice president and only other full-time employee.

"Look at [Microsoft chairman] Bill Gates, who dropped out of college. Or Steve Jobs, who was just playing around with computers in his garage before Apple. If you really want to be in this thing in the beginning, you can't wait until college courses come around to jump in. By that time, it will be too late.''

Birchoff has been designing Web sites since 1989 and started getting paid for it in 1993. In 1994, he designed the Web site for Burlington City (, where he lived from 1994 to 1997.

"Town sites are always a little more complicated,'' Birchoff said. "There are different aspects of a town: the government, events and a gazillion little civic groups and historic societies.

"And each one tries to be more historical than others vying to be on the site. You end up being an ad-hoc tourist council for the town.''

The site also included the trash-collection schedule, demographic information, housing prices and information on community events. It was one of the first municipal Web sites in South Jersey; now, nearly all South Jersey towns have their own (a list can be found at

(addendum: my name was misspelled, and I had been on the Internet since 1989, designing web sites since 1993, and getting paid to do it since 1994. Unfortunately, I was out of town when this article was finished up, so I didn't have the chance to offer corrections.)

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