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Five Fingers of WebDesign
"A Handy Guide -- Part III"

When you set about the task of determining both the percentage of "dynamic" or "changeable content", and also the "change cycle" for the content in a website, please tell yourself the truth. What truth? The truth about how much time you have as well as when you have that time available. If you are a weekend webmaster, admit to that truth and set yourself an update schedule that is either weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Don't pretend you are going to make daily updates on a site when you know you can't get to it until Saturday.

You may want to closely consider how you label content. For example, if you are not going to be updating your news very often, you might avoid putting dates on the news articles, or in similar fashion, omit other tags that point a huge finger toward the stale nature of the site's content.

Frankly there are many forms of content which only improve with age. A website devoted to the geometry of a triangle does not get old. The equations are not changing next week. Emerging news about the NASDAQ does not alter the formula for the area of a triangle. For this type of site, most if not all the content can survive very well as "static" content.

How to get folks coming back week after week? Do you need them coming back week after week? Development of a "sticky" website, or a website with high repeat visits, may not be necessary for your particular offering.

This brings us back to a question we should have asked in the beginning: "What problem is your website a solution to?" Define the problem. This is the engineer's way. Let's say, for example, that the problem for which your website is a solution is the creation of a globally available reference on the geometry of triangles. Your intention being to satisfy that odd twitch for extensive knowledge into the mysteries of the triangle. You don't need to worry about developing a sticky site. You don't need to worry about repeat visits. It's not required to solve that problem.

However, if you also want to have your website be a solution to the problem: "How do I make a bunch of money?" then you are in an apparent fix. For you see, if you are trying to make money, you will need an economic model which will allow your website to generate money. But more about that later.

The design of a website must take into consideration numerous things. What is possible? Can't have kerning control in a website design -- you just have to give up your retentive drive to control the spacing of letters. Heck, you can't even control the font that a browser-by will see on their own computer. Did you know that? The browser's computer installation controls the font. Even if you go to all of the trouble to label each and every paragraph so that "Yaqui Butte Handwriting" is the font of choice... what if they don't have that font? Well, their computer picks whatever it thinks is closest. Out of your control. So please don't count on your selection of font being used on any computer other than your own.

Also, have you considered the fact that just because you are viewing your website in 1024 by 768, this does not guarantee everyone else is? Some folks will be viewing in 640x480. Some folks will be viewing in 800x600 and some folks will be getting out the magnifying glasses and viewing your site in 1280x1024 or even larger. Once again, out of your control. This web-design stuff will drive standard media designers crazy. Either that, or they may conveniently forget that the font is not under their control and that the page will be wide and small depending on the user's browser.

Lest we forget yet another point -- the point brought up under the 'Content' discussion -- design must reflect function. What is the function of the site? Does the design help or hinder this function?

HTML Coding
If you are one of these pour schmucks who are making HTML coders wealthy, then you are spending tens of thousands of dollars for websites. Please, before spending thousands and thousands of dollars for a website, consider hiring a web-coding consultant. A web-coding consultant can help you address questions of structure and function without worry about lost income. They get paid for telling you how to have others do the job. Do you need a $5,000 Java applet designed to tell the time in twenty-four different time zones with leap-year corrections? The guy selling the Java applet might say "of course". Just because you can afford to spend the money is no reason to suspend judgment. Besides, what if half the browsers in the world crash when they come to your site because of this applet. That is not going to help.

Please listen. Any company or individual that pays an outside contractor to code their website must have a game plan and timeline established which will eventually bring the HTML coding function "in-house". Why? Why not continue to pay some outside vendor to update the code when needed? Well, you ideally want the HTML Coder to be infected with some of the drive and responsibility engendered by holding the baton of "Will to Be". The HTML coder needs to be someone who takes ownership for the continued success of the site. Otherwise they will not bring their attention to bear on the actual problems of the site. Also, prepare for a rude awakening here. You are not going to make the zillions of dollars that folks have told you about. Yes, there are billions being made on the web. And yes, there were billions made during the California and Alaskan gold rushes. But who made the money. Not the normal folks. Please don't spend $1,000 for a shovel which will bring in $900 in gold. It might be better to learn how to make your own shovel. Then you can have a $900 profit rather than a $100 loss.

In summation, if you consider that at some point, you, or someone in your company will be maintaining the website, it might be a good idea to K.I.S.S.

Will to Be
Don't believe that money will transfer "Will". Just because you are paying a bunch of money does not mean that the recipient will actually care about the site. I know of several websites costing mucho money that are total failures. The site will not fulfill its function. And in some cases the site was a silly idea. Not silly to do but silly to expect to become a money maker. Okay, maybe it isn't the responsibility of the HTML Coder to rain on your parade. However, I have sat in meetings as a coding-consultant where I knew that the principle coders did not believe in the project. This is okay... as long as you are aware of it. As long as you realize that just because you are paying $20,000 for a website, this does not mean you are getting $20,000 of value. Oh yes, you will be getting the billable hours. You can pay a dentist to drill on your teeth for a week. But if your teeth are rotten you may get the dentist's valuable time but you will not get value.

You are the holder of the baton "Will to Be". You will be forced to become competent in areas you don't even dream exist. Them's da breaks. If you don't take up the challenge, you will become fodder for the machine.

How do you get around on the web? How do you find out about websites? How did you get here?

I got here because a friend told me about it. Okay. How many folks have you told about your website today? If you are not telling folks about your website, who is? Make a list of all possible ways you can think of to tell others about your website. Eliminate any that are immoral or illegal. Eliminate any that are objectionable -- such as scum-sucking spam. Now what is left on the list. Make a judgment about relative effort vs. benefit.

I followed a link from another website. How do you imagine that link was put on the other website? Was the link paid for? Was it put there as an exchange -- I'll post yours if you post mine? Was it put up because the linking website wanted to for some agenda of their own? What could possess someone to add a link to your website? List all of the problems which could be solved for another if that other put a link on their site to your site. Do you know anyone with that kind of problem? Can you find a way to let them know that you have a website that would serve them to link to.

I clicked on a banner. How did that banner come to be on the other website? Was it part of a banner exchange? Was the banner paid for? More importantly, do you know what drives you to click on some banners, and not click on others? Can you use that information in the creation and placement of your banners?

I saw a news article about the site. What if anything is news worthy about your site? To whom would your site be news worthy? Can you find a means to let those folks know about your site? As an exercise consider generating a press release, on a weekly or monthly basis. In this press release express what is important and/or happenin' at your site.

These are but a few way in which folks navigate the web. Don't shortchange yourself. Make that list. What? Can't think of any other means of navigating? Silly cats. What about search engines? See there was another easy one. Now you get to work.

Continue to Part IV