"It's one thing to get all excited about the World Wide Web," says Karen Rizzo, marketing manager at Kryptonite, a $10-million manufacturer of bicycle locks in Canton, Mass. "But it's completely different to see whether it makes sound business sense to be on the Web."

Rizzo knows that Internet users are typically upscale, well-educated young men, like her bike-lock customers. Still, she has postponed trying to sell on the Web, the most popular part of the Internet, until she pinpoints her costs and the potential return. After all, a basic Web site with just a few "pages," or screens, of information can easily cost $6,000 to develop, never mind maintain. Equipping a company for sales transactions and customer interaction on the Web can run upwards of $40,000.

Kryptonite, which sells through distributors, will test the waters with a small home page offering press clips about the company. Visitors who request product or company information -- and supply their names and addresses -- will get it via regular mail. "That way we can track how many people ask for information, and if that generates business," says Rizzo, who's budgeted $10,000 for the Web page. If the site delivers leads, Rizzo's next step will be to interact with customers on-line by hosting electronic-mail focus groups about emerging products.

Rizzo expects the extra research time to pay off. "Lots of companies establish a Web site and then pull the plug, because they didn't anticipate how to do it well, and the costs and time demands got out of hand," she says.