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August 13th, 1996
The Good, the Bad and the Leading Edge in Web Sites

08/13/96 RMIUG Meeting Minutes - The Good, the Bad and the Leading Edge in Web Sites

The August 13th meeting of the Rocky Mountain Internet Group started at 7:00 with Dan Murray as the emcee. He announced that the September meeting, on the 10th, would be all about ISDN, with speakers from US West, an ISP and a user. Dan mentioned the RMIUG mailing lists and Carroll Blend mentioned the RMIUG libraries presence.

Dan surveyed the audience to find that, in rough numbers:

50% were attending an RMIUG for the first time.
50% were from around Boulder
30% were from around Denver
20% were from elsewhere
99% were "on the internet"
50% had personal home pages
70% of the companies had web sites
......and there was a smattering of diversity in using web data bases data formats, VRLM, security, etc.

When Dan opened the floor for announcements there were two:

Bill Moninger, moninger@fsl.noaa.gov, announced a CU Continuing Education class to be held on Tuesday Evenings this fall called "Computer Technology and Human Values". Bill later provided that "This course is for people interested in humanities, social science, engineering, and computer science. Students will be encouraged to draw on their unique backgrounds to develop a new appreciation of how social and ethical values are shaping, and being shaped by advanced technology." More information can be found on the web at http://stripe.Colorado.EDU/~moninger/Announcement96.html.

Terry Freeman, tfreeman@rmii.com, announced the Internet Chamber August Meeting would be "RETAILING ON THE INTERNET" on Wednesday, the 28th. It will be a panel discussion on Retailing on the Internet by representatives from 3 businesses that are conducting sales on the Internet. They will share their insight into what is working and what is not. This should offer excellent insight into creating a successful Internet presence. The meeting is preceded at 6:00 p.m. with a Food Buffet and begins at 7:00. It will be held at the Colorado State University - Denver Center in Downtown Denver at 110 16th Street, Suite 605, the corner of Broadway & 16th St. Mall. It is $15 for non-members and free for members. You can register by phone (303) 691-0404, or email register@icc.org or check the web-site at http://www.icc.org.

Dan Murray next introduced the evenings speakers, William Horton, william@horton.com, to talk on "The Good, the Bad and the Leading Edge in Web Sites". Horton, a MIT graduate and registered engineer, is a web consultant and author in Boulder.

Using sets of examples, William went through some key points about web design, layout and content. He started out by pointing out that "the parents are coming home" -- the companies are beginning to ask what are they getting out of their investments in their web sites. Is it meeting goals of either making money, saving money, or being viewed as "way cool" by 16 year olds? To address this, Horton listed the following key points:

  • "avoid siteosis vacuosis" by putting in content, make the information up-to-date and have lots of detail.

  • "Paper is not dead, but publishing is..." where as a client reader you choose what you want to know, rather than be given what the information provider wants to tell you. Some illustrations here were Bad (Netscape's home page - all ads and FedEx - hid the important stuff) and Good (UPS - not pretty by obvious content)

  • "A web page is not a paper page" so don't design it for paper. Horton noted that the evolving metaphor for a "page" is a control panel, making things horizontal rather than vertical with a consistent layout.

  • "Suffer not from Photoshop envy" by keeping the layout simple, using "Shaker design". "Whisper, don't shout." Horton showed examples of poor designs which included lots of "web awards" and noted that the eye is distracted by lots of irregular shapes and colors.

  • "Waste not thy Bandwidth" and avoid excessive graphics and large multimedia objects. William showed an example of a "large talking head" QuickTime video which wasted bandwidth and contributed little. He also cautioned about the use of 256 colors when smaller palettes will suffice.

  • "Build a two way street" and solicit something back from the users. "Send us, contact us, subscribe now" is a way to get the people involved. He noted that if you set up a web discussion group, it is best to have it moderated.

  • "Use HTML only as a last resort" by providing, where appropriate, the source documents. He explained that for some technical documents within an intranet, providing the source documents in their "native" format is often easier and more cost effective than converting them to HTML. He also advocated using plug-ins for delivering CAD graphic objects.

  • "Predictability is next to godliness." Things that look like a button should be a button. Things that look like an image map should be an image map. He also suggested repeating the navigational buttons on the content pages.

  • "Minimize clicks between questions and answers" by limiting it to no more the 3 or 4. He noted that people stop after a while and give up. Again, he suggested you use graphics to show where you are in a information web. Horton suggested that a site should have a table of contents, an alphabetic index and a home pointer. He noted that while a search engine is valuable, you can only find "what you know", which sometimes hinders those using English as a second language.

Responding to questions, Horton noted that the purpose of a home page is to get someone off it -- and onto the appropriate page containing the information.

On the subject of frames, he suggested using caution now since many browsers cannot support it, but that many are moving towards supporting them. Similarly, with plug-ins, will a user download and install a plug-in to view one document? Probably not, though as disk space is becoming cheaper than filing space, there will probably be a movement to using more of them.

After audience applause, Dan Murray awarded William and his wife, Kit, an official RMIUG tee-shirt, then closed the meeting.

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