evaluating Web sites

Subject: evaluating Web sites
From: William Swallow <WSWALLOW -at- commsoft -dot- net>
To: "'TECHWR-L'" <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1999 09:54:20 -0400

I'll start by saying that I am not an authority on this subject... if you
want a 100% informed response, I suggest you try getting in touch with Jared
Spool.

My suggestion for evaluating Web sites:
* Check for the usual grammar mistakes in the text.
* Consider the tone as well. Most Web sites are informal and casual
(defined by the nature of the Web, but also consider your subject matter in
the development of tone).
* Links. Do they work? Are they intuitively obvious as to where
they're going? Is there an easy return without using the BACK button?
* How is the site structured? Logical structure is key to any
information system, whether it be the Web, online Help or a printed manual.
* Graphics. Ahh, the conundrum... Be smart about graphics use.
Download time is a major consideration, as is visual appeal. Don't go
overboard. Don't use graphical links where text would do just fine.
Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words... and hopefully they are the
right words.
* document length. Keep each file short and sweet if possible. Most
people hate to scroll a ways to find info on a page.
* Consistent "headers and footers"... a mast head is a good thing, and
consistent links to main topics of interest should always be available from
the top and bottom of your page (how you arrange them is entirely up to
you... I like all navigation to the top left in a vertical column and text
links at the bottom, personally.
* <meta> tags are very important. Each page should have unique tags
specific to the content of the page.
* markup - remember, you have a dozen or more browsers out there
handling everything from HTML 2 to 4, CSS and all sorts of fun stuff. Be as
universal in your markup use as possible. The W3C started out defining the
standards, but is now trying to consider a norm now that browser development
is leaving them in their wake.
* font choice and such - I prefer a sans-serif font (particularly
Verdana) for online but whatever fits your overall design. Serif fonts tend
to be a bit hard to read at times. Also consider font size... Times at size
1 is extremely hard to read, where Verdana at size 1 is very readable,
especially when bold.
* Consider the audience, always. you'll have people running all sorts
of display resolutions, from WebTV's tiny pigeonhole view to well over
1600x1200 (I'm guessing, but its up there). 640x480 used to be the norm,
though now I think it's grown to 800x600.

I hope this helps. I could write for days on this stuff (as design is my
major interest in documentation), so if you need specifics, shoot me an
e-mail and I'll pontificate some more. ;-)

Bill Swallow
Technical Writer
Aptis Inc.
a subsidiary of Billing Concepts
phone: 518.433.7698
fax: 518.433.7680
<mailto:william -dot- swallow -at- aptissoftware -dot- com>
<http://www.aptissoftware.com>





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