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(Web Info Newsletter for The Rest of Us!)

CONZZ_ARCHIVES Volume 1, Number 1 -- Aug. 16, 2001

        FEATURED ARTICLE: To Dot Or Not To Dot... Is That The Question?
        OUTWARD BOUND: Links of Interest


This is the first in a continuing series of newsletters directed toward clients and associates, presenting articles written in down-to-earth terms and covering topics related to Internet and Web site technologies.

Your feedback is always welcome and encouraged. Send comments and questions to:

If you would like to add a friend, associate or fellow employee to the CONZZ_ARCHIVES newsletter mailing list, or if you would prefer not to receive this newsletter in the future, please use the contact info at the end of this text.

Thank you and we hope you find CONZZ_ARCHIVES informative.

Connie Seidel, Editor & Sr. Web Developer, Seidel & Associates

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FEATURED ARTICLE: To Dot Or Not To Dot... Is That The Question?
If you're a small to medium sized organization, more than likely you're not itching to spend a lot of cash getting your Web attraction put on the great information highway. Maybe you've already spent beyond your pain threshold and aren't too keen on redecorating that attraction either.

With Internet technologies and Web design companies hitting the skids, you may find your organization even more skittish about the viability of your current or future Web site project(s). If you've been following the news, or even if you've just been chatting with friends and neighbors, you've heard everything from "I knew this would happen," to "the sky is falling."

Well, here's the deal: the Internet is here to stay! That's right. And, truth be told, what looks like "lights out" on the Internet is just a badly needed (and possibly overdue) correction. It's this author's opinion that what we will see emerge is more stability, more functionality and more sanity in Internet technology.

While this really is a good time to get serious about building or re-developing your Web site, it's an even better time to step back and take a cold hard look at how best to approach such a project.

"It's Design, Silly"
What's the first thing we all think about when we consider a Web site design? How it looks? How it feels? The cool factor? Colors? Pictures? Movies? Sound? Video clips...?

Get your staff, your mom, and a Web designer in a meeting room to kick off a Web site project and you may hear something like this:

    BOSS: "OK folks, we have a 'go-ahead' for our new Web site, so let's get going. Frannie here will be our Web designer. She's a friend of my mom and has a greeting card usiness. Since she's a designer, I'm sure she'll know how to build our site."
    SALES: "Oh, isn't this is great! I was thinking that we could put our pictures on the staff page..."
    OFFICE MGR: "Hey, nobody's putting my picture on the Web. I don't want some predator stalking..."
    MOM: "I was surfing last night and found this really great site that had pictures of animals and when you clicked on them you could hear the sounds they make. I just thought that was so clever."
    BOSS: "I don't see how animal pictures and sounds have anything to do with our business model."
    SALES: "How about one of those Flashy things where you see a little movie at the beginning of the site? I think that'd be really cool. Seems like they're everywhere now and it'd sure impress the heck outta my cold calls."
    DESIGNER: "I want to talk about the color scheme. Black screen backgrounds look really cool, and this would be a good time to change your logo colors to fuchsia and azure."
    MOM: "Oh, I don't like dark things. Why don't you put a really nice background of puppies shredding paper. That'd let everybody know you're in the paper shredding business."
    SALES: "Oh, oh, oh, right... and we could have this little animated paper shredder thing eating up documents and spitting them out as confetti or..."
    DESIGNER: "How does everybody feel about teal?"
    RECEPTIONIST: "My son-in-law is a Web designer. I think we should hire him to do the site. He's just so bright..."
    [ fade to white ]

"Let's Get Real"
While that may be an initial scenario for many organizations new to the Web space, let's take a look at what a "user" first considers when hitting a web site. Tests have shown time and again that people put graphics at the bottom of the list when asked what they liked about a Web site. Instead, their comments tend to focus on how well they could navigate, comprehend, go fetch, and get out.

Site designers and site owners fret about "how cool" or "how beautiful" the thing is while users just want what they came to get. Time and money gets spent developing "clever" instead of "good."

We're all as much surfer (probably more so) as we are Web site owner or designer. So think about the last time you tried to find an airline ticket price online, or wanted to get an article on picking the best HMO plan for your family, or better yet, find the cost of an HMO plan. What was your experience?

I'll bet you were far less concerned, if at all, about the color, background and pictures. And, if there was one of those "Flashy things" you probably hit the "Skip Intro" button at the first onset of annoyance (like, say immediately -- or certainly upon the second viewing). Typically, users just want to get into the site and get to the holy grail.

As you are remembering your experience, I'll bet what you're thinking about was whether you felt frustrated and confused or found the information you were looking for quickly and successfully. If it was the latter, you'll probably go back to that site. But, if your experience involved much of the former, it's doubtful you'll ever return.

"Getting Started"
Two important factors will determine how successful your Web site project will be:

  1. a commitment to developing an intuitive architecture of your organization's mission, information, value(s) and product(s), and
  2. working with a proven professional developer and designer.

The Web as a medium of information and design deployment is unique. It requires specific experience in the development of text, typographic, and graphic content. There are also the pitfalls of browser and operating system incompatibilities that need to be considered, along with monitor resolutions, code standards, plugins, yadda, yadda, yadda... And, unless your site is designed with empathy and an understanding of your target user base, the budget you're about to invest could be better used for employee bonuses.

Much has been levied by sales and marketing folks in regard to the capabilities of WYSIWYG code generators and "Save as HTML" features of various programs. "Our program makes being a Web Designer easy as pie!"

All too often, a significant portion of your target user audience will get left out in the cold when these generators are used because their computer or their browser can't interpret your Web pages. Currently, there is no one single program that can effectively generate code that can render your design on all platforms and all browsers. That's just a fact.

What do you suppose your major donor or Board Chair will think when the site you just spent 3 months and too many dollars on displays a blank screen on their daughter's iMac and Netscape4.5 browser when they try to view it at home?

A professional Web developer or designer should know how to overcome the deficiencies of these programs and build Web pages that will look the same everywhere and to everybody. After all, that's what the "dream" of the Web is supposed to be about.

All in all, the Web is still a fantastic and cost effective way to distribute your organization's core business value to your clients, your stakeholders, your community, and the world. However, as business executives, managers, and owners, you must use the same good sense in establishing your Web site design/development criteria and direction as you would when considering any other organizational aspect.

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OUTWARD BOUND: Links of Interest

General Interest (the next Hunger Site?)
Bad news... the Hunger Site went the way of dot com dust! One of the most powerful examples of "viral" marketing and ways of doing good on the Internet has suffered the demise of so many other e-coms and e-philanthropy sites (so long Charitableway, GreaterGood, and others). works the same way as the Hunger Site and offers even more areas to "click 'n donate."
New S&A sites
YWCA in Santa Clara Valley's new site by S&A
The YWCA in Santa Clara VAlley (San Jose and South Bay area of San Francisco Bay Area) has a newly architected and designed web site. As of August 2001, the "Y" can now take credit card donations online, post class schedules and present their programs, events and message to their community and supporters in a clean, well-lighted place.
Technically inclined
Developing Content Models That Stick
Getting your content to work for you is a difficult proposition. Fortunately, Tim Barkow has some ideas on creating content models that work.

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Connie Seidel, Seidel & Assoc., and