Use lists efficiently
How to avoid acne-vision
Communicate clearly and efficiently
Apply a way with words to sculpt a viewing experience
Use different styles for different effect
Be nice to your readers
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What do you think of the choice of graphics on my home page? It advertises my dads boatyard. Mark, Kent
You have tried to make this interesting by adding some graphics, but really need now to rethink the logical structure of your pages. You might also benefit from a bit of brainstorming when it comes to the psychology of turning WWW visitors into boatyard visitors.
While your opening graphic is not an actual trademark it is like the sign hanging outside the shop. It needs to be instantly recognisable, DESCRIPTIVE of the trade, describable in one or two words and only as a bonus distinctive. The big boys have spent millions of dollars on getting the public to associate some graphic with a product or a company. You can't hope to compete on the same level, so limit yourself to the equivalent of a pub sign that tells people what you do.
Your trademark needs to be bold so that it is RECOGNISABLE. If you want a guide to what is instantly recognisable then consider:
For a boatyard, a few flags might be colourful enough to stand out and give enough nautical flavour to the page. Your choice of a coxswain at the helm of a boat has the personal touch to recommend it and is difficult to improve upon.
Instead of using 256, colours try reducing the number of colours to 16. This halves the number of bytes required per image, or doubles the size of image for the same wait while downloading. Be considerate to your viewers.
I was not impressed. It is one of the great benefits of civilisation that we have given up playing the game "my acne is better than yours". Unfortunately your page is covered by acne-vision. Pointless graphics everywhere look like a pizza that has seen better days. Neither do I want to wait for ever for boring pictures or recycled copies of record companies marketing.
I suggest you think of your page as a carnival float.
Remember that visitors want entertainment or information. Try and give both and you won't go far wrong.
Every picture should convey an image to the viewer. Be particular about
that image. As they say in Tillingham: "Donkeys aren't stupid, just easily led".
Use the cat-kitten test: Ask yourself is this a photograph of a cat or a kitten. The two are entirely different creatures - one frisky and naughty, the other wary and crafty. Thats what cats and kittens are about. The same applies to people. Is this a party animal or an athletic champion? To tell we need more than a mug shot. If you haven't got the material then you can't publish it - so go out and collect some.
We have all seen acne-vision WWW pages, and not all are private home pages either! A 'cool site' shouts 'go faster stripes and wide wheels'. Is that a recommendation or a fair pointer to self important graphics making up for lack of content? As they say in Dengie at lambing time, "Pretty face, poor price"
What makes a graphic stick in the mind? The answer doesn't lie in factuality but
Look at the split between text and pictures in newspapers and magazines.
What do you think of my first attempt. Jill, Cornwall
Dear Jill, You have at least had a go and put a sort of domestic business card on the WWW. If you were really advertising then this level of plainness might be ideal. It is basically factual but any reader can tell you have a 'green' outlook. A local councillor might use exactly this sort of "I'm 45 and here's what's important to me" in an election leaflet.
But is that really what you want to convey? Surely you want to put a personality into your page. Think of your page as your front garden. What does it say, or what would you like it to say, about you? Neat and tidy. Garden gnomes? Pretty borders and well mulched roses? Lively bird table or tarmac? How are you going to get across those important but subtle personality traits?
By the use of imaginative design and what I call Radio Voices. The opening paragraphs to this document are an example of RV. I'm painting a picture with words and I'm speaking to you.
Here's how you make up your own:-
THE VOICE OF REASON 1) Aren't men bastards (a link) 2) Fascist council vandalises park (a link) 3) etc..Well, you get the idea. Punchy points. This style might apply perhaps to a sales brochure. (If you were selling your house and wanted to "set out the facts")
You might find that a mix of these styles is needed to balance your pages. Certainly for a personal home page, a single style shouts lack of imagination and hints at poor presentation of whatever is 'inside'. This is a turn-off no matter how worthy the content.
My company, a brewery, has asked me to look at having a WWW page. Where do I start. I would also like to know how many people will see it. Sarah, Norfolk
Initially look upon this as an experiment. Putting together something is not difficult, but the 90-90 rule applies (The first 90% of the job takes 90% of the time and the remaining 10% takes the other 90% of the time.) You can throw something together, but as people look at it you'll want to improve it and show the world a presentation with smooth edges and nice design.
Consider your WWW page as a sort of advertisement in the yellow pages. How would you go about getting one of those organised? Almost certainly you'll want your company logo present so, as a practical matter, think about getting artwork scanned and touched up.
OK so you want to do more than tell the world that you exist. Well what do you want to tell the world then? List your objectives on a piece of paper. Let us assume that your objectives, in a nutshell, are: "Presenting our company name, products and friendly face." The first bit is just the yellow pages exercise in colour. The second bit is like a brochure. Colour pictures are a great asset. The third bit, in your case I suspect that the family firm aspect is one you want to promote, is news slanted towards gossip. Big corporations like to put press releases in here - gosh how interesting!
Don't normally put press releases on your WWW pages. The format is so corny that all it shows is that ABC corp. thinks that the man on the Clapham surfboard wants to spend their time being spoon fed this unreadable bumf. A press release is designed for editing before reading. The marketing book formula is designed for rapid processing through an editorial office. Thrill to the excitement of quotes for quotes sake. Vice president Hiram G. Clueless said "This third quarter result is a boost to our stockholders" As they say on Osea island: "Big tides move a lot of mud."
Consider paying me to advise. A long term helping hand with strategy won't cost you much.
As for counting visitors, you can easily put a counter on your page. This is more like embedding another URL of a site that specialises in doing this in your page and is fairly painless. However that is a technical matter and only tells you the number of times your page was accessed. It doesn't tell you either how many people will visit, or what they did then. If you want to sell product through your page, or encourage people to book visits, the tangible success is measured not in the 10's or 1000's that visited but those who reacted with money or e-mail.
Treat this as you would an advertisement on the side of a bus:
There are no laws. There is a compromise between having single units and avoiding lengthy and unnecessary downloads.
If the subsidiary components are maintained independently from the core pages then it makes your life much easier if you keep these as separate pages. You'll be able to change one without having to update the whole thing.
The standard structure is:
You might sketch out a few possibilities for sub-dividing your pages. One way of deciding if you have got it 'right' is to think about the titles (or better little logos, they add to the visual interest of the page and can be a good shorthand for jumps) for links. The simpler these are the more likely you have hit on the right structure.
Your home page is now nice and smart without being too formal. Simple wasn't it.
Ahem, you omit to say in one paragraph what your boatyard does. Do you build or repair boats? Are you agents for engines or suppliers of yacht varnish? Do you have a crane? and so on. You have assumed that your readers know all this! You don't really give a very good idea of where the yard actually is, how about a map?
Now here is another reason for a brief statement of what you're about. Catalogues to the web are built up by robots that automatically scan the first part of the page and index the words found. So if you say "Agents for Chug-Chug engines" there is a fair chance that someone who needs a gasket for a Chug-Chug engine will be able to find you through such a search. (You might be tempted to just put an image of the Chug-Chug Company trade mark on the page - if you do then the indexing robots will not pick it up.)
I know you would like people to keep visiting your page as the advertisements for boats change. The fact that something has changed might not be exciting enough on its own to tempt people to reload you page each week just to see if something has changed. If readers know that there will be some significant change each month then they will be more likely to visit once a month just for catching up with this months news, cartoon, events diary or whatever.
If your page is updated regularly, then set a date eg "1st of each month" and let readers know. This saves fruitless visits which are turn-offs.
In your case I can think of at least two monthly items:
Sailor Sam's tips for salty sailors" a chat about anything. The style is up to you. You might want to promote anti-fouling paint - "
Now is a good time to get your boat lifted and get those barnacles off..." or dress up the news and forthcoming events in outrageous nautical claptrap just for the fun of it. "
I was hove-to by Customs House Quay on May 6th morning when I was passed by a family with no life jackets in a tiny cruiser whose main preoccupation seemed to be hoisting a signal asking for yellow fever to be brought by diver as their anchor was dragging. Later that night all four had to be winched off by helicopter. It turned out the man had just bought the boat and was playing with a radar that all the townies like to have while not even having checked the fuel. It stranded on the Big Gorge Bank and they were all too shook up as the tide made to help themselves. They were very lucky and very stupid. They came from Slough."
This answer is representative of catalogue listings. Don't worry if specific pub references don't mean much to you. Locating, presenting concise details and maintaining accuracy are issues for all lists.
There should be a proper introduction explaining the purpose, how it is run and what to look out for. Perhaps how to use it. I found the instructions for using the browser's find facility poor a) because there was no sign to say 'Handy hint' and b) because it was immediately followed by the A-Z letters which drew my attention.
Instead try a more compact format without nesting details
CONTENTS Find a pub by name (25K Updated 2/2/96 150 Pubs) Brewers (10K Updated 2/3/96 10 Brewers) Brewers products etc Brewers pubs etc Pub chains etc...You can perhaps use the
<DL>construct to put the DT element as the anchor and section title with the DD element being a sentence of text describing it.
Find a pub by name Alphabetical listings of 145 pubs Brewers National, regional and micro. Quick reference to many other sites.
The contents should be compact, informative, contain good signposting information and if possible give a good idea of the underlying structure of the site.
Adnams(Gravity),GK Mild(Keg), GK IPA(Swan neck)
< PRE > ... < /PRE >listing makes reading easier.
COUNTY TOWN NAME RUN OWNER BEERS Essex Maldon Red Cow Man Trust Hse Adnams Essex Stisted Sealion Ten Ridleys IPA,Mild Kent Ivy Hatch Patchwell Ownr Free Varies
On the other hand it is often free form information that is most
interesting and can be much better at 'hooking' a reader. eg.
Garden is ideal on summer evenings If you're trying
to interest people you must have 'colour'. This essential ingredient
is very difficult to get out of people to write into their lists.
Simply threaten to put "none" in the 'features' column
it your information supplier won't deliver. Readers will take one look,
get bored, say "so what?" and never visit the page again.
Tables can be useful so long as you remember that not all browsers support them. Also consider that complicated tables are not easy for a tired or unmotivated person to construct and maintain. If you have fixed data then spend the time on a table, but lots of variable data might be too complicated. Tables need testing after even the slightest alteration.
Do you want your page to look like a bus timetable? Probably not if you can help it.
How can you help it? By breaking it up into sections (on the same page if you want
readers to use the
Find. . . facility on their browser) and adding
images or blurb. With a paper version of a bus timetable you have a physical
reminder where you are in the list as you leaf through. This sense of position
can easily be lost in a long web page. Try to combat this with either an obvious
(eg alphabetical) order or some other mileposts.
I suggest a completely different approach. All lists, whether pubs or 78rpm records have sub-classifications and interesting distinguishing features of the specialised subject. For 78rpm records what does everyone want to know about? Scratches and how to minimise their effect. OK so write an article on the subject which calls on items in the list as examples. For pubs try:
If you want to get in touch with the Guru of the marshes send an e-mail.
Commercial arrangements apply for commercial sites
1 Get in touch first and we'll see if your ideas are suited to the medium.
2 I'll try to get you organised. (I've been consulting for a long time!)
3 Then we'll craft a design.
Mail the following three items: 1: Your name and organisation 2: Your URL if it already exists 3: Your question