Computers in Libraries
Vol. 20, No. 1 • January 2000
In Search of Better Sites
by Kathy Miller

I don’t know why we didn’t think of this month’s theme years ago. “Designing and managing your Web site” is a topic that nearly all of our readers have had to deal with in the recent past. And by now it’s something that many of you have already done. So you think you don’t have to read this issue, then, right? Think again.

If you’ve already got a site that you think is good, give it a checkup! Ole Vind’s article on page 40 will tell you what to look for and how to improve your site’s performance. There are very few Web pages out there that couldn’t use a little doctoring up. And if you’re just getting into designing—or redesigning—a site, then check Kim Guenther’s article on page 34.

Of course, our columnists are commenting too. Michael Schuyler talks about his own trials and tribulations with design and redesign on page 50. And Scott Brandt’s rant on good and bad code (page 60) is sure to entertain.

We’ve all seen plenty of bad Web sites. But what makes them bad? My first impression usually comes from the speed (or lack thereof) of the download. Webmasters want to impress us with moving graphics, and they might be fun for casual surfers. But when you’re looking for serious information and you have limited time, waiting for a whole page to download just so you can click on the next link is a real drag.

My next impression is made as I search for the next link that I need to find. I’m looking for a heading that bears a resemblance to the sort of information I’m seeking (i.e., Products, About the Company, etc.). My personal pet peeve here is this: Often, I need to look at a Web site to find a company’s address or phone number. Many "e-companies” try to be cool by being super-cyber. They figure if they’re on the Web, there’s no need for them to exist in reality. Well, in my reality, I need an address and phone number. If I need to confirm information when a press release hasn’t given me a phone number or city, I can’t afford to e-mail the Webmaster and wait a week for a response when I’m on deadline. This is a small matter, but an important one.

My point here is, no matter how good you think your site is, someone can find aspects that could be better. So use the testing tools mentioned in this issue. Or ask a pal to take a tour and give you an honest opinion. Just do something. Because in our business, being cool on the Web is not about animation and music. It’s about people being able to navigate your site and find what they need as quickly and easily as possible. That’s what you’ll truly be judged on.

Kathy Miller, Managing Editor

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