California Computer Expo Presentation about the Web
Outline/Essay presented at the California Computer Expo Sunday, September 1st, 1996
Upcoming Lecture Schedule
Owner and Chief Programmer
The Animated Software Co.
How to Organize Your Web Site for Maximum Information Distribution
The WWW is a vast array of information, but getting at that
information is one of the most difficult aspects of the Web. This
lecture is designed to help you learn
how to design your own web site to maximize your user's ability to
get at the information you present. How to organize material so that
the user can find what they need. Learn numerous tips for making
your web site fast.
Following is the original outline form for the presentation, with some modifications.
The WWW is a vast array of information. We will be discussing the design goals you can consider to maximize your visitor's chances of finding everything they need at your Web site.
This will not be a technical seminar. It will not be about how to hook up a database to a Web site. Nor will it be about how to build frames.
This is going to be general, and philosophical, and hopefully you'll find it far more useful in the long run than technical details that won't be appropriate 5 years hence, perhaps not even five months hence.
What this seminar is going to be about:
- 1) Going over what the goals of a typical Web site might be
- 2) What kind of information you might want to place there to accomplish those goals
- 3) How to present that information to your visitors so that the first item--the overall goals--are achieved.
The ultimate goal of any Web site is at least one of the following:
- 1) Save your company money
- a) Provide online and faxback services based on Web pages
- b) Provide free marketing material to anyone, anywhere. This is a remarkable new situation. But what will get people to visit your site to get this free information? INFORMATION.
- i) Your competition will get it too--so what? They get it anyway! I'm sure that GM has every schematic diagram that FORD ever published and alot they never published as well.
- c) Distribute all software products either as Web pages or as downloadable code
- 2) Increase company exposure
- a) Announcements, press releases, etc.
- b) Search engines have to be able to find you. Learn how to do keywords! Use registration tools even if you have to pay for them
- c) Don't do anything sleazy. Email users can just put you in a file of people they don't want to deal with--and computers can have very long memories!
- d) Check often to see how one would find yourself on the Web. Fix as necessary
- 3) Increase customer satisfaction:
- a) Provide online help including full schematic diagrams, tutorials, everything. Toaster manufacturers should place their schematics online. Sony should put ALL of their VCR directions online so that no matter where in the world you are, you can access the manual through the Internet. Some day, the device will access the manual automatically that way.
- b) Offer additional tools--both yours and other company's--even the competition! If you're sure you're the best, then you can go ahead and add links to the other guys saying confidently: "Here's a product that competes with us, here's why we're better. See for yourself." The idea is--get information into the hands of your customers. (But be concise.)
- c) Give information about upgrades/new developments/new products
- d) Give ancillary information
- 4) Make money.
- a) The ideal is of course to simply sell automated Web services directly. Let's look at that for a moment:
- i)You don't need to deal with customers directly (this is the ideal world we're talking about)
- ii) You don't need to print anything.
- iii) You don't need to ship anything.
- iiii) You don't do anything but develop and electronically distribute something.
- But we can't all live in an ideal world.
- b) Sell goods and services via the Web. As yet this isn't working, because of two very good reasons:
- i) People like to touch things. Imagine selling lettuce online.
- ii) People are wary of online transactions, but this will be fixed.
The Web will be the major marketing tool of the world, surpassing everything else combined.
Remember this mantra: "I don't know how people will make money on the Web, but I do know that some day soon people will be making vast quantities of money through the Web. And when that happens, I know that the ones that WILL make money on the Web will be the one's with CONTENT. And the one's with content, will be the ones who started developing it NOW."
Just repeat that as needed whenever you wonder whether it's worth it to make a Web site for your company.
- 1) Content almost always means depth.
- 2) You need to get your information up on the Web
- 3) The Web can be your #1 tool of business
- 4) Start doing that right away
- a) Learn how to get your content to your customers, your future customers, and even your visitors whom you will never make a dime off of, but who you still need to please for the value of your company's good name.
Information is the key.
- 1) Not flash, not gimmicks, not sweepstakes.
- 2) Not even selling things cheaper if people buy them online, which is certainly a reasonable thing to do since those sales don't cost you anything if you develop your Web site right.
- 3) New paradigm in marketing.
Every time I sell a pump tutorial through the Web (which isn't nearly as often as I'd like, I admit) it is a totally free sale. If 1,000 or 100,000 files are downloaded from my site each month (actual was 30,669 last month) it doesn't matter to me one cent. If you have six good reasons to develop a Web site anyway, then marketing can be virtually free and certainly free on a per viewer basis.
- 1) Nothing works for all situations and all people.
- 2) No support document and no ad material is perfect.
- a) The perfect sales document for one person may be a total failure for another. I've had support documents which people have recommended changes to, which I then changed, which people then recommended I changed--to what I had before! You really can't please everybody with one document.
- 3) Address this issue in your Web marketing program.
- a) You can't just aim for the lowest common denominator, since many people won't fall for that anymore.
- b) Actually you can, but the Web gives you the ability to go for the niche purchaser as well.
Food manufacturers should put their ingredients lists not just on the side of the jar, but if they want to sell via the Web, why not put a picture of the product, and a text containing the nutritional information and ingredients? This information would represent the company's own internal database on the information as well as serve as a marketing tool to finicky eaters like me.
If you get a request in the mail or fax for the nutritional information, send out a copy of the appropriate Web page--this will get some of the customers to go directly to the Web next time. And everything on the Web is basically free marketing--since the company often has to keep and present the information in some form or other anyway!
- 1) It's all about INFORMATION
- a) Since it's all about information, remember that the 'flash' currently wastes enormous amounts of user time.
- i) EXAMPLE Microsoft's 2-meg advertisement file demoed at a recent lecture. Even they admit they can't really use that yet. But they sure want to!
- ii) Define your images sizes--do whatever it takes so the browser will get the text up first!
- b) Waiting for a download that turns out to be nothing more than a rotating animated GIF that say's "NEW" can be pretty frustrating to your users. So don't do it.
- 2) The key to the Internet: SYNERGY
- a) LINK unto others as you would have them link unto you. Links are the key to all business on the Web.
- b) INTERCONNECT like thoughts throughout your own Web site. For example if you talk about mechanical things like pitch, diameters and lengths, and you sell widgets in Metric and English measurements, you can link to a chart that converts them. If they click on the chart you can sell a plastic version of the chart! Link!
- c) If you sell darts, be sure to comarket with a company that sells dart boards.
- d) If you sell cars, link to independent as well as dealer service stations.
- a) The customer has to view your Web site as being THE SOURCE for honest information.
- b) You can't be THE SOURCE without providing information about things outside your company.
- 3) Indexes, Tables of Contents, Glossaries, and Keyword Searches
Our statistics tutorial will have about 100 chapters from the original dozen in the book written by my father. It will have a T.O.C. separating the contents into about a dozen groups much like the original book, and it will also have a T.O.C. for the 100 new chapters, it will have an Index, and a Glossary. It will have problems and each problem will index back to the appropriate chapters, and the chapters will link to the problems. It will allow a keyword search across the whole tutorial.
That's five different ways students will get at the information without ever simply running through it from start to finish in an organized fashion, which will actually be the ultimate design goal of the product--to provide a complete education for those that wish to go that route. And we haven't even mentioned the Meta Tags which will allow people to come in to the tutorial from outside, read only the page they are specifically interested in, and then leave.
So that's about 1000 links built up within 150 web pages of information.
Brownies--lowfat. People coming in on lowfat should find your lowfat brownies and other lowfat products you make, and people coming in on brownies should find your highfat ones and your lowfat ones.
I once designed an interactive lesson tool for college professors where every one of some 1,000 scanned pages of information could be individually accessed in exactly two mouse clicks. This is the type of ultimate design goal. Figure out what information each user is likely to want, and then figure out how to get it to them.
- 4) Complicated tree structures are a pain.
- I've seen Web sites with less than a couple of dozen pages altogether, but to get at any of the pages with any real information requires going through at least four other pages of relative junk. This is absurd.
- In an age when it's been mathematically proven that the probability is that any one of us can contact, through friends and friends of friends alone, any other one of us in an average of less than four contacts, it is absurd that a Web site should require you to go through 4 pages to find any one of all of two dozen pages of information!
- Key pages, like the T.O.C. or the Index, should be complete and have lots of links. Not 5 links to 5 subpages each with 3 more links it in, it should have all 15 (5X3) links right on the Index page or the T.O.C.. This is, of course, just an example.
- 5) Save the User's Time. It's the most valuable thing he owns.
- It takes time to get additional pages, it takes time to click on a little box--it takes time to get information off the Web at all!
- Your job as a Web designer is to reduce the amount of time it takes for your visitors to find what they need. Ideally, they should be able to find everything at your web site that is of interest to them, and nothing else.
- Don't expect people to stay for 20 minutes, and click through 6 pages, and look at 10 useless different animated logos, just to find out that the price of your product is way out of their price range, or that your great new energy efficient electric motorcycle starter motor that the first Web page describes as "fits most models" turns out to only work with most models of Indian brand motorcycles.
- Help people to get the information they need to make an informed decision, and you not only can cover your butt from a legal point of view, you also generate warmth and good will from your visitors and customers.
- Your site can become a major thoroughfare in your field of interest on the Web.
My interview with Phil Zimmermann connects to my Jim Warren interview connects to rest of the Interviews connects to articles connects to heart tutorial connects to P11 connects to FTP--how did we get here from there? Connections! If I can find any friend of a friend of a friend is just about anyone at all, surely with a little creative thinking I can connect every web page at my site to every other web page at my site, or to the rest of the universe of web pages, for that matter!
Steal the job of Web Site Administrator! Right now, your boss probably hasn't really learned the value of a web site. So he'll hand you a job that will eventually be a department--or a division.
So before anyone's looking, take control of it. Offer to do the work. Learn HTML and get it going. Then, five years from now when just about everyone is doing just about everything on the web, you'll already effectively 'own' the web and get the BIG BUCKS!
MAGAZINES' web sites might have:
- Some articles from current issue
- Some past issue's articles
- Some stuff not in the magazine
- All archival stuff including indexing capabilities.
- Every advertiser that ever ran an ad gets a link if they have one, forever. THIS CAN COST YOU NOTHING TO SET UP and really looks like a perk--and is a perk! Your advertisers will love it!
Make your own web site for you personally! You'll come to think of it as your exterior persona, your alter-ego, your super-self, but it will really just be your presentation of the important things in your life. I hope that 50 years from now, some 58 year-olds have scanned in every school award they ever won, documented every exciting thing that's happened, linked to everything they think is interesting. It would be supremely fascinating to be able to read 5,000,000,000 autobiographies.
Learn HTML. It's not hard. Copy mine. I copied someone else's when I started.
No man is an island. This is especially true on the Web. I believe there is merit to the idea that when newspaper columnists write articles (which will in 10 or 20 or 50 years be solely published on the Web) they should be stored, linked to, etc. at the columnist's own home page, NOT at the newspaper's Web site. Food for thought.
Plan to keep things you put on the web. Keeping permanent addresses is important if you want outside links to your stuff.
Owner and Chief Programmer
The Animated Software Co.
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The Animated Software Company
Last modified March 27th, 1997.
Webwiz: Russell D. Hoffman
Copyright (c) Russell D. Hoffman