contact search site map
link: Homelink: Portfoliolink: Serviceslink: About S&Alink: Contactlink: Library
S&A Resource Library

(Web Info Newsletter for The Rest of Us!)

CONZZ_ARCHIVES Volume 1, Number 3 -- Oct. 16, 2001

        PLEASE NOTE: The Scoundrels Amongst Us!
        FEATURED ARTICLE: Usability... The good, the bad, and the ugly
        OUTWARD BOUND: Links of Interest



This newsletter is an attempt to familiarize the non-techies amongst us with Web design, Web development, and Web-based informaition deployment. We hope you will find it useful and infused with digestible terminology.

Your feedback is always welcome and encouraged. Please, send any questions or ideas for future articles to:

We'll do our best to address your questions and concerns in future editions.

Previous editions of CONZZ_ARCHIVES can be found at:

If you know of someone, a friend, associate, or fellow employee that you would like to add to the newsletter mailing list, or if you would prefer not to receive this newsletter, please use the contact info at the end of this text.

Thank you and we hope you find this newsletter informative, or at least, entertaining.

Connie Seidel, Editor & Sr. Web Developer, Seidel & Associates

Back to top

PLEASE NOTE: The Scoundrels Amongst Us!

"I'll take the spam, bacon and sausage without the spam, please!!!"
As if wretchedness was in short supply these days, there are new lows being set in the spammer circles.

Please beware that some loathesome people are sending email solicitations for causes allegedly designed to help those victims of the September 11 tragedies.

No organization, REPEAT: NO ORGANIZATION! that provides assistance or relief to any worthy cause will ever solicit donations via email!!! If you receive such a solicitation, please ignore it. Instead, call 800/HELP NOW or visit if you are interested in contributing toward the various funds related to the WTC disaster.

You may also receive solicitations for products to "show your support" for America -- t-shirts bearing the image of the American flag, for instance. Individuals hawking these ares are just as interested in using tragedies to line their pockets as are the aforementioned scoundrels. Ignore these offers as well.

Please consider your local charities and causes as well. Many charitable organizations right at home that do incredible work and are staffed by heros as well will be needing your donations and volunteerism even more in the coming months.

Back to top

FEATURED ARTICLE: Usability... The good, the bad, and the ugly

Even though the common assumption amongst readers of this newsletter may be, "We'll let the Web designer worry about the details," we all need to have some common sense understanding of what constitutes the "good" vs. the "bad" in site design. After all, you will be either driving the site design/development project or at the effect of your designer's whims.

First, however, we need to establish what "good vs. bad" really means. Let's simplify this and say that, for purpurses of this discussion, we're defining "good" as successful and revisited repeatedly. By that I mean the site has proven itself to be a popular site within it's genre over a substantial period of time and their target audience keeps coming back.

For example: a site gets a boat-load of hits one day because of an interview during a national morning news program with the company's Executive Director. Let's say this is a new online book seller and that the interview focuses on the company's Web site. Immediately, the site's servers are slammed with huge numbers of visitors. But after that initial wave, the "visit-o-meter" declines rapidly., meanwhile, continues to be extremely popular and successful site, week after week, month after month. And their measurements of new and return visitors continue to grow.

"Why The Distinct Difference?"
The first site (we'll call it touts in depth author interviews, book reviews by literary giants, beautiful graphics, a cool animated entry page with a movie showing their book distribution methods as being the best and fastest, etc., etc.

Amazon seems graphically flat by comparison, has no movies, only short reviews by readers like yourself, a very brief description of the book's content, some images of the cover and other pages, and packs in hordes of other non-book related products.

BookWorm has a lengthy personal profile form to fill out in order to become a member which allows you to see even more detailed textual analysis of the author's skill, reader ratings of the books, and to have very precise recommendations provided based on your complicated profile.

Amazon makes additional book recommendations based on your book selections, doesn't take personal information until you decide to order (and then it's brief), and has a fast and powerful search engine that deciphers whether you're searching by author or book title, and even if you misspell something, it seems to know what you're looking for.

BookWorm takes a long time to return searches, and if you don't remember the title accurately and have no idea who the author is, you'll never find the book.

Amazon remembers your name and makes a few reading recommendations as soon as you revisit after purchasing a book from them.

In case you didn't notice, I didn't buy from BookWorm, but I did from Amazon! And I returned!!! Why? Usability and/or User Experience. I, like so many others, appreciated the friendliness of the site, the quickness, the ease of use, the lack of encumbrances.

"But I'm Not a Purveyor of Literature 'n Stuff"
Doesn't matter. The point I'm making here is that it's the usability factor, the user's experience, that determines the real success of a Web site. All of the latest and greatest features don't entice us to return if they're not accessible, friendly, fast and to the point.

The common mistake made by most small business, nonprofit, agency or community sites is, having been seduced by bells and whistles or the latest design trends, they forget what the real purpose of their site is and spend too much time and money chasing "cool" features and graphics.

Hey, it doesn't make me happy to tell you this. After all, I'm a designer at heart and by trade and I love visual display, animations, snappy effects, et al. But that doesn't make a "good" Web site and it doesn't bring your target user audience back to your site... unless you're all about way cool effects 'n stuff... er... I mean, unless that's your business.

"Just the Basics, Ma'am"
I'll spare you the details here on usability as it pertains to our little bookseller scenario. After all, one of the main points is that very few (like in extremely hardly any!) people visit a Web site to read in depth interviews or reviews (and you're not even likely to read this newsletter if it goes on much longer). Suffice to say there is ample material available on usability, user experience, and user interface design. If you're building or redesigning your site, you need to consider this aspect strongly, and you'll want a Web designer who is versed in this area.

Here are some of the subjects that must be considered in the design process to insure a site's success:

  • lack of control over what hardware and software the visitor
  • proliferation of multiple versions of different browsers
  • visitor's expectations
  • creativity vs. usability
  • visual Web standards
  • coding standards and browser performance
  • information architecture

This is where the difference between professional design and development services and amateur site building really show up. Hmmm... late night local jewelry store ads on tv just came to mind.

On a final note, information architecture goes hand in hand with usability. Poor architecture or layout of your site's information and navigation is like a building with a lousy foundation and infrastructure. C'mon now, are you really going to walk up two flights of stairs to get to the elevator?

But that's another subject.

Back to top

OUTWARD BOUND: Links of Interest

Related to Today's Article
If your Web designer isn't proficient in the areas of usability and information architecture, I'll leave you with some links that may help:

Browser Statistics
A set of tables showing fairly up-to-date statistics on browser, display, and operating system usage. This should be viewed as a generalized set of stats as your own Web site logs might show somethinga little different. For example, my own logs show that most of my visitors of on a Macintosh using Netscape, which is much different than what these stats will say is "average."
Ease of Use/Design Basics (from IBM)
An article presenting design principles that combine traditional wisdom with extensions to address the evolution of future interfaces. A "must read" for anyone truly involved in Web design.
Building Web Sites With Depth (Jakob Neilson)
By the father of user interface studies comes this article presenting a user-centric approach to building Web interfaces.
Jakob Nielsen's Site (Usable Information Technology)
Considered by most as the defacto home to Web usability and user-centric methodologies. A "must bookmark."
General Interest
The AFU & Urgan Legends Archive
Help stamp out the proliferation of rumor, misinformation, and lies so common if forwarded emails. Bookmark this site and learn to use it. An incredible amount of research goes here into verifying or debunking the stories in our mail boxes.
Urban Legends and Folklore
Another very informative site worth a bookmark.
Urban Legendes Reference Pages
Don't dismiss this site because of the clip art. It's actually very good and very accurate. With the adition of this bookmark, you're armed to go out and fight ignorance on the Internet!
New S&A sites
CommunityCare Foundation, Inc.
A redevelopment and completely revised design laying this community foundation's public information out in a much friendlier environment. A good example of what we call "a clean, well lighted place."
YWCA in Santa Clara Valley's new site by S&A
The YWCA in Santa Clara VAlley (San Jose and South Bay area of San Francisco Bay Area) has a newly architected and designed web site. As of August 2001, the "Y" can now take credit card donations online, post class schedules and present their programs, events and message to their community and supporters in a clean, well-lighted place.

Back to top

To subscribe to CONZZ_ARCHIVES, send an email to:

To unsubscribe to this newsletter, simply send an email to: with "unsubscribe" in the Subject field.

Address all comments and/or questions to:

For more information on Web site design and development for "the rest of us," visit:


Back to top   |   Back to previous page
© Copyright 2002 all rights reserved
Connie Seidel, Seidel & Assoc., and