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I have often discussed methods that you can employ to attract visitors to your web site. When visitors do arrive at your web site, what are you going to show them? Just how important is it to have a nifty looking web site? What else do you need to consider?

Questions like these are of course difficult to quantify since it depends mostly on what product, service or information you are offering. If you are displaying a service or support page for a product, your visitors are likely to hang around for quite awhile while your nifty page
loads although they may be fuming by the time it has completed. If you are trying to entice visitors to buy a book, displaying a dramatic opening that requires two minutes to load is probably not a good idea. Your visitors will have probably left before it has completed. (Unless it is a book on Internet Animation.)

When I started developing Internet Applications several years ago, the general rule of thumb was not to have "ANYTHING" more than a few hundred K in size since no one would wait to download it. Although load times are still critical elements to consider in your design, hard and fast rules should always be taken with a grain of salt. We do not like to wait but we will if we believe it is appropriate or necessary. It is not uncommon for people to download 2, 3, 10 or more Megabyte programs over their 28.8 baud modem because it means they can get the very latest program version "tonight" without having to go out.

Here is a trick I often use. With CSS (remember that?) you can position text anywhere on the screen. The first thing a user will see however, is the text that the Browser first reads. Place your most informative text immediately following the BODY tag. That way a visitor can start reading
whatever you have to say while the page is still loading. Conversely, leave your largest downloads for last so that your visitor can be exploring your page while it finishes loading.

My architectural background tells me that a design can be both functional and pleasing to the eye. This should certainly be your objective when designing a web site. Strive for fast downloads, easy navigation and informative content while providing an entertaining and pleasing experience. Just what is the experience? Do you hope to get your visitor to return? If so, what new information are you going to offer? If you post a News Report but don't change
the content for 12 months you cannot expect your visitors to return often.

So what constitutes attractive content? I am told it is a light peach background with a shaded yellow border and 8pt
Verdana black text. But then, no one around here was ever accused of having too much taste. I will talk more on site design issues in future News Letters.

"IMS Web Tips" ISSN 1488-7088
© Copyright 2000 Virtual Mechanics

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