I have talked a lot over the last few weeks about methods that you
can employ to attract visitors to you web site. You need to consider
of course, what you are going to show them when they visit. 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. In IMS Web Engine and IMS Web Spinner you can do
that by moving the text Object 'To Back' in the Arrange Menu or
Align Bar. Conversely, leave you 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 can not expect your visitors to return
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.