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Autumn 1997

web weavers wreviews

News and Reviews about products for creating, browsing and sharing web pages

Reviews in this issue:

Wrambling on

One thing I've done for a long time is stand by and watch users in their natural habitat. You can do all the theorising and usability laboratory stuff that you want, but nothing beats watching humans in the wild.

Eye candy, those lovely images, animations and detailed backgrounds slow down a site. It is a delicate balance between making the site look appealing and having the impatient surfers reach for the back button. Last night I spent two hours looking at the sites of internet/web trainers. Now you would think that that would be a good place to look for model sites, and some of them were. But some of them were models for what not to do.

I was looking for one thing, the electronic mail address of a person. I didn't want the web designer and I didn't want the sales rep. I wanted to send a message.

So here are Ali's guidelines, totally off the top of her head, but based on some directed site-hitting.

Excellent Resources Backgrounds and splash screens
WebTechs has all sorts of useful goodies and links, including a HTML validator.

Any background that is more than a few K is too big. After all, what is it for? It doesn't communicate anything does it?

Link Exchange runs a banner exchange, which gives you free advertising, if you give other people free advertising. And because they keep track of how many times advertisements appear, they can tell you how many visitors you have had, without your using a counter. If you join, be sure to get the le digest.

Free Stats provides you with statistics on the pages where their ad appears.

Netmind enables users to register their interest in individual files. When the file is changes, the users receive an e-mail message.

I haven't quite mastered their system, sometimes the messages are okay, sometimes they look like annoying junk mail.

What about that big glamourous graphic? Okay it may look sexy, but how many people are willing to wait for it to download? If you do have something larger that's downloading, think about having something else, like text, to keep the audience occupied and interested.

Animations are self-gratifying, yes, cool, sometimes (lots aren't), and they run quickly offline, but how many are worth the download wait? Realistically, how thrilling is a rotating corporate logo to your customers? And remember, web surfers may not be paying, but they are customers.

And a big, big, message here, when you offer an enigmatic opening screen, what do you expect people to do? Hunt around, clicking on random images until something happens? Or leave?

Take a look at some of the big, high-traffic sites. How many have lowered the graphic content of their front pages in the last twelve months? Lots. Despite what Windows programmers will tell you, people can read and recognise words faster than they can work out what that twiddly little man in the corner is supposed to represent.

Give people obvious, clear directions. Hypertext requires some careful thought to be worthwhile, otherwise it's just a jumble.

Contact points
Ali's Theory of Web Sites
  1. If you build it, they will come.
  2. If you advertise it, they will know where to come.
  3. If you have good content, they will stay.
  4. If you keep renewing it, they will come back.
  5. If you don't know who they are, how can you know what your site should contain?

It is hard to get surfers to talk to you, feedback is rare and usually thin. Especially if you are running a business, you should make it quick and easy to contact you. Put mailto: links all over the place, make the bold, you'd be surprised the people who claim they can't find an e-mail point on Festivale.

by Ali Kayn

October, 1997

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ISSN 1328-8008
Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Filed: 1-Oct-1997 : Last updated:
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