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By Jim Gerland and Mark Winer

Check out our bi-weekly Net perspective. Our goal is to make these columns useful for our readers whether they be novice or pro, while still offering a fun to read column. Feel free to let us know what Internet resources you find useful in your personal, educational, or business life - it might just end up in one of our columns!


What makes a web site "good or bad"?
July 8, 1997

It's one of those triple-H summer days: we're hot, the weather is hazy, the office is humid -- and we're tired of waiting for web pages to download. In previous columns, we've detailed qualities about the best websites that make them efficient and effective. many sites, however, don't make the grade. So, here are some of our peeves about bad web pages.

Bad programming. Go ahead and click on that link to the latest and greatest website. Oops, "Error: The site was not found. Make sure the address is correct, and try again." Bad links -- if you have a site with links to other sites, check those links often -- enough said.

Sites that make you feel stupid. No one on the 'net needs to be reminded to "Click Here" for more information. Novices to the Web have an amazingly high learning curve. It doesn't take much for someone to learn that clicking on the colored or underlined text (hyperlink) will lead to a different page or site. Dumbing down just makes the developer and owner of the site (company, agency, organization) look stupid. If your site is dedicated to the process of nuclear thermodynamics, fine - most mortals WILL feel stupid when trying to comprehend your industry.

Navigation that is non-existent or downright awful. This is akin to 'voice-mail jail' (you know, you call a company and get that annoying automated voice mail. You go through three menus only to find out there is no way to get back to the main menu). Similarly, on the Internet, you go to a site, click on a few pages, and realize you don't know where you are in the site hierarchy. Sure, you can hit the back button four times, but why isn't there a convenient graphic or text button to guide you to the home page or main section?

Large graphics. Yes, a map of the Niagara Frontier is very helpful for customers to find your business. But don't make it 500k (the size of some software applications). It takes less time to go the nearest gas station, fill up and buy a map than it will for that graphic to download on a 28.8 modem connection. The best graphics on the net are small - usually less than 30k for even a large graphic!

Graphics with too much detail and take forever to load. Why do developers feel the need to include every minute detail and incorporate every possible color in the spectrum? The standard PC display is 72 dots per inch and the resolution doesn't compare with a magazine. Working on a PC we know we are NOT going to get the highest quality visual output. We're interested in the information, not the gradient shades of a topographical map of Western New York. We want directions to your store, not an Earth Science map.

Animation's that don't have a purpose. Remember the first time you saw a spinning globe on a webpage? Pretty cool, huh? It's downright boring now. At first we were amazed not at the spinning globe; we were amazed that it could be done on a webpage at all. It's pass now. Spare us the download time and get to the point of your website. If your website is so dull that you have to rely on spinning globes (get it, the WORLD Wide Web? ha ha) you've got a problem. Which brings up the issue of....

Using 'special' effects in sites because "they're cool". Don't waste our time. We don't need to hear your jingle every time we go to your home page. And if someone wants to check out the latest in Virtual Reality (VRML) on the Web, they will go to a site like the Virtual Irish Pub (www.visunet.ie/vip/). If we want to check out the latest in hockey gloves, a virtual walk-through on the manufacturing of gloves in Moose Bladder, Manitoba isn't needed. Sure, the VRML is cool... if you have enough time to wait out the download time and don't have a life. Even hockey fans will turn to their Sega instead of waiting for this.

Quality Control. Bad spelling is embarrassing to everyone. We've all written memos and email that we wished we would have checked one more time before sending to the company President. Remember: a website can be viewed by the whole world. Can't developers take some time and get someone else to double- and triple-check the spelling and grammar on a site before the world views it? Retired fourth grade spelling teachers don't die; they send email to developers detailing ALL the grammatical errors on sites. And you thought Grandma isn't on the Information SuperHighway - ha!

Finally, our worst ("best"?) peeve: Arrogant website developers. This includes ALL of the previous peeves. Specifically, sites that don't take into account the technology differences of Internet users. Realistically, most surfers don't have fast connections to the Internet; they don't have the ability to play video or listen to audio in a reliable way; many of them can't even view graphics; VRML is a pipe dream. For these developers, we wish they would ask "why" instead of "how" when they develop pages for us mere-Internet mortals. Just get the audience the information they need: "Show me the content!"

We would love to hear your pet peeves about the Internet and the World Wide Web. Let us know your favorite (and least favorite) sites. And for those of you who want to see some really bad sites, take a look at the "Worst of the Web" (www.worstoftheweb.com/). We are sure you'll get a few laughs.

Finally, we want to continue to help you utilize the Internet in your life. Let us know what you're interested in and we'll check it out. You can email us, edge@edgeglobal.com , or fax us, (716) 853-1350 and let us know what's happening on the Internet in WNY or any computing related activities you're involved with.