California Computer Expo Presentation about the Web


Outline/Essay presented at the California Computer Expo Sunday, September 1st, 1996

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presented by:
Russell Hoffman
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.

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.


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.


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!


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.

Random Points:

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:

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.


Ace Hoffman
Owner and Chief Programmer
The Animated Software Co.

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