Friday, 15 December 2000

Newsletter Issue 16, December 2000

Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 16, December 2000
Hi guys,
Well, here's the second instalment of web building. This time we are continuing  with the design aspects of your site. We look at where you can learn about HTML code, some tips, and some pitfalls with design. Check out Weaving Your Web below.
TLAs for SMEs        Short & Hot Keys        Hot Linx
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Weaving Your Web

Remember that putting together a Web site is not hard; you just need to do your homework first. 

You particularly need to pay attention to the look and feel of the pages that you develop. They should reflect your organisation's branding and tie in with your other published materials to ADD to your brand image, not erode it.

Use the same fonts, layouts and colours as you use on your invoices, business cards, signage and communications stationery. If it is time for a revamp of your whole image, plan and define ALL your new branding together to provide one consistent image and roll it out as you need new items. Look to Coca Cola and Shell for guidance. These brands are immensely strong because they have shown tremendous consistency in presentation. 

So, now that you have clarified your brand image, we will move on to the actual design process of your site. Decide if you're going to DIY, hire someone to do it for you, or DIY what you can and get an expert to look it over before publication. If you decide on the latter, contact your expert BEFORE you start work, so that you can get some pointers that may save you a lot of heartache and money later!

If you decide to DIY, I would recommend MS FrontPage as an HTML editor of choice - and you can get a free 45 day trial here. In the next issue (17) we will be looking at other freeware, shareware and trialware html building software.

Know nothing about HTML? If you would like to learn to code by hand in Notepad you'll find many excellent resources online that will teach you raw HTML code such as;

However, before you touch one key on your keyboard you need to do some research. 

Go to your favourite search engine and do a search for sites in your industry and go take a look at them. If you want to look internationally, try google if you don't have a favourite - it's great. For Enzed, go to SearchNZ.

Research is time well spent for several reasons;

  • It gives you an idea what your competitors are doing
  • You will determine what you like and don't like. Do you want buttons or just text links? Frames or no frames? What colour schemes do you like? What will best show off your branding? Do you like simple sites or overblown artsy sites? Ads or no? Does the download time annoy you? Do graphics annoy you?
  • It gives you a feel for what other possibilities there are - either things that you had not thought of or repositioning your business to take advantage of a missed opportunity

Take a good look at the content they are including such as company profile, testimonials, mission statement, personnel pages, etc. Decide which of these (if any) you want to include. You can start getting together a list of the information that you will need to compile for your site. 

While surfing, make sure you write down any sites that would complement your own for a possible reciprocal link arrangement later. When your masterpiece is completed you can contact these sites by email and ask them if they'd be interested in swapping links with you. 

The big thing with webpages is links... and getting reciprocal links to your site from other sites. If you are a member of any professional organisation, notify them that you are on the net so that they can post links to your page. Hopefully there will be links to my site from the CPANZ webpage, Commerce Nelson and NZIM for starters (as I am a member of all these organisations). Reciprocal linking is a great way to build traffic to your site, but that's whole new topic for another article later on!

Think from the customer's POV: 

It is important to think about your site from the point of view of the customer - your target audience. Hopefully you have all considered these questions;

  • What section of your client base will want to go online? Will your web be targeted at existing clients? Or new clients? 
  • Where are your clients from? Offshore? North Island? Blenheim? Will client location make a difference to the information that you need to put on your pages? 
  •  What age are your clients? How PC savvy are they?
  • Why would your clients want to use your website? What will they want to do there?
  • Will your online clients want to complete their sale then & there? Do you have Visa & Mastercard facilities? Do you need encryption?

It is VERY important to be clear about what you need to create before you get down to building. Don't get carried away with the techno-toys until you have organised the basics.

And here's some good advice on content: 

For a list of site no-nos check out The Web Developers Journal. And all of you should take in the bit about having email links and prices on your site. 

Unlike TV viewers, surfers are in "alert" mode. Most are actively looking for information, not entertainment, and their critical faculties are very much in play. Surfers are a pretty cynical lot, with a low tolerance for hype and "marketese". So you would not expect surfers en masse to believe a company that states baldly on the website "We are the leaders in our industry".

Standing apart from the crowd, being distinctive - yes. Being cute, obscure or mysterious for the sake of it - no. There are obviously places for novelty and surprise. But more often than not, the funky toys are simply pointless. Check out examples at 

"Forget about the pictures. Focus on the words." This is the advice of Jakob Nielsen, well-known web usability engineer, has to offer anyone designing a website. Mr Nielsen certainly practices what he preaches. His website is reminiscent of the early days of the web, when it was mainly the province of academics and researchers: plenty of text, but rather lack lustre graphics-wise. Check it out at

This is the website of a scientist, an intellectual, and its target audience likewise will be looking for substance, not glitz and entertainment value. This minimalist web design may be right for Mr Nielsen's target audience, but surely-not for a commercial website which wants to attract a less intellectual audience? 

Well, maybe it is. At least this is the suggestion of a recent study by Stanford University and the Poynter Institute in the US. See it at  

This study tracked online surfers' eye movements when viewing news websites to see where they looked first. The results of the study were surprising. When scanning a web page, surfers look first at text, and only then at graphics. In many cases, they would read a whole article before even looking at a graphic. 

This is in direct contrast to the way print publications are read, where the graphics are the first focus of attention. Whatever the reasons for these results, one conclusion clearly stands out: The quality of writing on a website is vitally important, and not just for sites which target an intellectual audience. 

The implications of this study will probably take a while to sink in, though. Witness the multitude of commercial webs with wonderful graphics and technical how'syourfathers - but lacking even the most basic elements of good communication. Like spelling.  And punctuation. And complete sentences (!).

Along with the fact that surfers ignored graphics and toys, another significant fact to emerge from the study was that surfers like their writing direct and straightforward; with correct spelling, and clearly worded links. 

So while we surfers may be looking for interesting and surprising information, we definitely want our web navigation to be straightforward. And clear.

Points to remember.

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs for you;

  • DHTML, Dynamic Hypertext Markup Language. More or less the swanked up version of HTML...
  • SGML, Standard Generalised Markup Language.  This is a document standard that concentrates on documents retaining their format no matter what computer they are used on, the operating system or the application program used to view them. HTML is based on SGML
  • XML, Extensible Markup Language. A subset of SGML aimed at Web Site developers. Gives more flexibility than the original standards in HTML
  • MIME Encoding, Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions Encoding. MIME is a standard method for organising different file formats for internet (usually email) software retrieval. When your software picks up a file from the internet server, the server provides the MIME type of the file, so that the file is decoded correctly on your machine.
  • PING, Packet Internet Gopher. This is the simplest way to test or time the response of an Internet connection. A PING sends a request to an Internet host and waits for a reply called (yep, you guessed it), a PONG. When you PING an address, you get a response telling you the number of seconds it took to make the connection. PING clients exist for a number of platforms, or you can use a UNIX or Windows 95 prompt to issue a PING command directly

Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Short+Hot Keys... and now tips
This is the how-to-guide to MS Word function keys shortcuts;

  • Word "Help"  F1 
  • Word "Move Text"  F2  
  • Word "Auto Text"  F3  
  • Word "Redo or Repeat"  F4 
  • Word "Go To"  F5  
  • Word "Other Pane"  F6  
  • Word "Proofing"  F7 
  • Word "Extend Selection"  F8  
  • Word "Update Fields" F9 
  • Word "Menu Mode" F10  
  • Word "Next Field"  F11  
  • Word "Save As"  F12 
Hot Linx
Pulitzer Prize awards stretch from journalists to novel, drama, history, biography and autobiography authors. Find out who won what and what they wrote at 

It can be dark, bitter, white or milk. It comes in bars, mousses and cakes. It's chocolate and it's found at 

Want more information on who controls the internet? Check out Andy Starling's ideas at 

If you want some information about shareware, freeware, trialware etc, you can subscribe to and get daily email notification of what is available

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here