Re: "Good" Web Pages

Subject: Re: "Good" Web Pages
From: Michael Andrew Uhl <uhl -at- VISLAB -dot- EPA -dot- GOV>
Date: Thu, 30 Jan 1997 08:25:03 -0800

Esteemed Colleagues:

What constitutes a "good" Web page varies greatly
depending on the intended audience. I have a few comments
about Sally Yeo's "common attributes."


Sally Yeo wrote:
>
> "Good" Web pages all contain some common attributes, in no particular
> order:
>
> They load quickly

A slow Web server, relative to the traffic it can handle, often has
more to do with download speed than either the page size or bandwidth
of the connection. Consideration of the audience's bandwidth comes
second. Mind you, I don't recommend 2-megabyte pages, but I've seen
too many people here at the EPA create text-only pages or graphics-
sparse pages because they want to increase download times. Doing this
at the expense of usability is foolish.

At EPA, our pages on the public access server, http://www.epa.gov/,
download very slowly, especially in the afternoon (Eastern) because
the server can't handle the traffic well. EPA plans to replace this
Data General junker with a DEC system. Our group was hoping they'd
get an SGI Web server, but no luck. We'll have to see how the DEC
performs.

> They do not require any horizontal scrolling (even for 640x480 displays)

This should be considered only a guideline. Exceptions include tables of
data that are more readable beyond, say, a 540-pixel width. I, for one,
do not design Web pages for 14-inch monitors. The majority of my
audience
uses larger monitors with better than VGA resolution.

Additionally, the designer I work with and I have agreed that we should
design our pages for what people *will* be using to read them rather
than
what they currently are using. For example, we begin with 24-bit (True
Color) graphics and convert them to GIFs and JPEGs. These images look
OK at a 256-color setting but look great at 16-bit or 24-bit color. Now
that memory is so cheap, video cards are more likely to support True
Color.
Using this strategy, we avoid the maintenance nightmare of trying to go
back and upgrade graphics next year. (Keep in mind, that as a scientific
visualization group, graphics are our business.)


> They have limited vertical scrolling

This depends heavily on the document and its purpose. For documents that
the customer wants to print easily, it's much better to keep it as one
long document. And, yes, they do want to *print* Web pages!


> Are written and formatted for quick scanning and location of info

Yes.

> Are written concisely so online reading is minimized

Yes.

> Have current, accurate content

We all try don't we? Unfortunately, we're creating more Web pages than
we can maintain. Link rot is rampant and stale info everywhere.


> Are interesting and hold your interest

Yes, but this often conflicts with the "no gratuitous graphics" and
it "must download quickly" attitudes prevalent among managers and
techno dweebs.


> Meet the visitor's needs (not the corporation's)

Yes, yes, yes.

> Are free from typos, spelling and grammatical errors, etc.

True, but difficult, given the often outrageous publications
schedules.

> Have a focus and are aimed at a clear target audience

Good, but one must know the audience, or at least a good sampling.
What browser are they using? What kind of monitor and video card
are they using? The need for this kind of info is why we see cookies
being used more and more.

>
> These are just the points that come to my mind as I sit here--I am sure
> others will add more!

Others includes me.
>
> Sally Yeo
> sallyyeo -at- execpc -dot- com
>
> TECHWR-L (Technical Communication) List Information: To send a message
> to 2500+ readers, e-mail to TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU -dot- Send commands
> to LISTSERV -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU (e.g. HELP or SIGNOFF TECHWR-L).
> Search the archives at http://www.documentation.com/ or search and
> browse the archives at http://listserv.okstate.edu/archives/techwr-l.html

--
Michael Andrew Uhl (919) 541-4283
Lead Technical Writer, Lockheed Martin
U.S. EPA Scientific Visualization Center &
National Environmental Supercomputing Center
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina USA

TECHWR-L (Technical Communication) List Information: To send a message
to 2500+ readers, e-mail to TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU -dot- Send commands
to LISTSERV -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU (e.g. HELP or SIGNOFF TECHWR-L).
Search the archives at http://www.documentation.com/ or search and
browse the archives at http://listserv.okstate.edu/archives/techwr-l.html


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