From Andover Net News, Thursday, March 23, 2000(

Parting Tips

Lots of Webmasters put their site search interface box in the upper right hand corner of their Web pages, usually along with other parts of their navigational array. Then they write to Web "gurus" like me and give anecdotal reports that approximately twenty percent of users enter a search phrase like this one: "" They laugh and laugh about how this demonstrates Clueless User Syndrome. But I don't agree. Let me explain why.

I have said it, Jakob Nielsen's said it, Mark Hurst has said it, but it seems to need repeating: USERS DON'T READ WEB PAGES, THEY BROWSE WEB PAGES.


What this means is that they are *trained*, like Pavlov's dogs, to expect certain things to happen when presented with certain types of visual input. Thus, your user saw that little form box of yours in your navigational array and *expected* it to be where they should enter their e-mail address to opt-in to your newsletter. What? You didn't think of that? When was the last time you took the time to observe the actions of a new user visiting your site for the first time?

If you have visited my own Web site, you'll note immediately that my internal search mechanism is usually positioned in what would be considered the "body" of the page. It's always near the bottom of the page. Why? So that my users will differentiate it from the normal navigational array. It will make them pause and ask: "'Ey? What's this now?" The surprise makes them stop to read the surrounding text. Voila! I have *never* had anyone enter an e-mail address in my search form...

ROD'S WEB-SITES-THAT-SUCK DEPARTMENT: You'll recall that the last time I did this it was Some of you didn't agree with me, but shortly after my pan of that site one Loyal Reader wrote in to let me know that announced that they were so "successful" that they had downsized forty staff members. Hmmn.

This week's candidate is a Procter & Gamble Web site that has *another Web team stuck on itself*. It's (Thanks and a tip of the hat to Christine Yu of Creative Good for this lead!) Macromedia Flash is in full effect here, Kids. If you have the Flash plug-in enjoy the intro, because that's about all you'll get to enjoy here.

After the "cool" Flash show is over, you go right into a Customer Survey in a pop-up window which is meant to help you "customize" the Web site. Please note: I said, "customize *the Web site*". Oops! Hold it!

"Isn't this site supposed to be about helping me buy products which will be delivered to my door within the week?"

Well, ehm, yeah. But you see, once again we have that old problem of a Web design team missing the connection between FORM and FUNCTION. They forgot that you and I came to this site to BUY things. They got caught up in the Marketing Department's need for our demographics and the Web team's desire to be "cool" on their resume and ---

The user gets lost in the shuffle again....

CROSS-BROWSER SOUND EMBED CODE: I mentioned the problem of getting Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 to recognize embedded sound on Web pages a couple weeks back. Thanks to Loyal Reader "SheCat" up in Massachusetts I got this line of code that should solve that problem. I've tested it and it allows for iCab, Opera, IE flavors and Netscape flavors to play your sounds, if you so desire. (I apologize for not testing this in other browsers, but there are only so many hours in a day.) So try this code next time:

<CENTER><I>MIDI = 4:13mins</I></CENTER> <CENTER><EMBED SRC="mch/music.mid" Autostart=TRUE Width=144 Height=56 Loop="true"> <BGSOUND SRC="mch/music.mid" Autostart=TRUE Width=144 Height=56 Loop="true">

YOUR LATEST PAGE DESIGN: During my time as the "Working the Web" columnist here I've also received *lots* of e-mails asking me to evaluate readers' Web sites and give them pointers. It's flattering, of course. But also time consuming. Recently, I had to look at it from another perspective, as I turned over editorial and design duties at my own Web site to someone else.

The first thing he did was send me samples of his new page designs. He wrote that he was "streamlining" my pages by eliminating "redundant" navigational elements. Those of you who've read this column for any length of time know I believe redundancy is a good thing, both in network administration and Web page design. Reason: usability and reliability.

The "redundant" elements that this person's new design stripped from my Web pages were *text links*.

I sent my successor a polite note suggesting that most Web users understood and used text links, but that --- more importantly --- the Javascript navigation tool which his pages were *entirely dependent upon* would not work for people accessing the Web site using Linux, Lynx, or the iCab browser. Further, his "streamlined" pages would be un-navigatible for people with disabilities.

You would think that someone willing to take over Web design duties from me would have read this column at least once, wouldn't you?

I'll get over it.

Thanks for coming back to "Working the Web" this week.

"Work like you don't need the money
"Dance like nobody's watching
"Love like you've never been hurt." (Attributed to varying sources.)

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