* Effective Web Site Design, Development, and Graphics Since 1996 *

Planning For Your Web Site In the Year Ahead

Shirley Kaiser, Editor
January, 2001
Volume 2, No. 1

Copyright © 2001. Shirley E. Kaiser, M.A. All rights reserved.

Welcome to all the new subscribers! This is an opt-in only newsletter, so if you're receiving this, it's because you subscribed through the SKDesigns Web site or by email. If you do wish to unsubscribe, you can unsubscribe via email or via our site.

I value and welcome your input. Send me topic suggestions, questions, comments, whatever is on your mind regarding this newsletter. Please contact me at any time.

Latest News at SKDesigns and WebsiteTips.com

I hope this newsletter finds each of you enjoying the beginning of 2001 and that your year ahead is the greatest ever. It seemed like 2000 flew by amazingly fast!

First, some good news....

There are exciting new additions at SKDesigns and WebsiteTips.com. Brainstorms & Raves and Tips & Tidbits debuted in December, 2000, both by yours truly, and are already receiving lots of positive feedback.

Brainstorms & Raves at http://brainstormsandraves.com, is an almost daily column covering the Web, music, and other brainstorms and thoughts. Tips & Tidbits at http://brainstormsandraves.com/tidbits/ covers the latest tidbits, software news, tips for your Web site, Web site design, development, highlights of latest additions, and more. Check them both out and stop by often for the latest.

I hope both of these new additions can provide some helpful and interesting updates and information for you all. I welcome your feedback!

On to this issue's newsletter....

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Introduction

The beginning of the new year often finds people reflecting on the past year and making plans for the year ahead, so I thought I'd make this first newsletter of the year about planning ahead for your existing or new Web site during the coming year.

In previous issues we've covered reciprocal links, promoting your new Web site, and keeping your Web site's content fresh. This time I'll go through items to ask yourself or your company where you'd like to see your Web site head during the coming year.

What if you want to build your site now but you know you'll need to add some new sections in a few months or next year?

When you visit a new site, how long does it take you to decide if you'll stay or not? If the site is slow-loading, do you move on before it finishes loading? What if there's a Flash introduction splash page? Do you wait while it loads to watch it? If the site's content looks dull, do you close the window and go elsewhere? What grabs your attention?

A few years ago studies showed that typical visitors decided within 8 seconds if they'd stay or leave a site. That's not very long, is it?! Most recently, however, that time frame has been cut in half to 4 seconds. Either way, that's not much time!

Your site must grab immediate attention for visitors to decide to stay, and then there must also be solid reasons for them to return, to bookmark your site, and to tell their friends and colleagues about your site.

So let's explore what all this means for your own site.

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Web Site Cobwebs

While many Web sites keep their content fresh and alive, updating links and content, many do not. This month would be a great time to carefully evaluate your site's content, run maintenance programs to check for broken links (with a plan to do this regularly), and overall consider how your Web site comes across to new visitors.

Does your site appear fresh, or does it need some updating? Sometimes bringing your site more current is as simple as adding some fresh content and archiving the old, while other times you may be getting due for a redesign or complete overhaul.

Have some friends or colleagues look at your site for you and ask them for honest critiques. Sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees, so to speak, so asking others to take a look can bring a different, fresh perspective. Ask them if your site is easy to navigate, if they find any dead links, if the content is helpful and interesting, and if they have any ideas that might improve your site.

A great discussion list (digest format) for this is I-Helpdesk and Webreview. You can gain so much fabulous information or ask for a critique of your site if you wish.

More discussion lists and newsletters are listed at WebsiteTips.com.

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Continued Cross-Browser, Cross-Platform Issues

New browsers continue to come out. Make sure your code is up to date and that it continues to work fine in the latest browsers and platforms.

Your usage logs can usually tell you the browsers, platforms, and versions used by your visitors. Generally speaking, your site probably needs to work fine from at least versions 4 and up of the two major browsers, Netscape and Internet Explorer, for both Macs and PCs.

Netscape 6 recently came out, and there may be some surprises with how your site works. So it's important to check it out and make sure your site renders OK in it, too.

And don't forget AOL! AOL has some of the largest percentages of users, depending on your site (my sites average 60-70% from AOL viewers, while others may be only 30%, for example). AOL's browser, while using Internet Explorer, nonetheless has some customization, so it's good to make sure your site works well in that, too. I've found certain JavaScript code, especially with forms and pop-up windows, can work differently (or not at all) in several versions of AOL's browsers. (I haven't tested the new AOL 6 yet.)

Accessibility needs to always be considered, too, of course. There are plenty of people who browse the web with images turned off, who use voice readers, use Lynx (especially from libraries, for example), or browse the web with cell phones and other similar readers. It's important to allow for these possibilities. Government-related sites require it, for example.

Each site has different statistics, so the above relevance depends on your particular site.

Not sure how to access your usage logs? Your ISP typically has information about how to do this. If they don't happen to offer this, there are free stats logs available, too, such as the Counter.

Interested in learning more? WebsiteTips.com has a section with dozens of great annotated resources on cross-browser, cross-platform issues and accessibility:
Accessibility, Cross-Platform, Cross-Browser Design.

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Setting Goals

Some things to consider for the coming year:

  • Where would you like to see your Web site by the end of the year?
  • Learn what needs to be done to accomplish the above.
  • Set up realistic time frames to accomplish your goals.
  • Follow through.

Things to Do:

  • Keep your content fresh and alive.
  • Make sure your site works with the latest browsers.
  • Promote your site online and off.

WebsiteTips.com has over 1,500 annotated, categorized links to help you find the best information out there for your Web site. If you're looking for something that you don't find there, let me know, as I add new sections and information regularly, largely based on the feedback I receive.

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That's all for this edition. I hope you've found this information helpful. If you have questions, let me know. I'd also be happy to address them in future issues! I invite and encourage your feedback.

Best wishes,

Shirley Kaiser
Owner, SKDesigns
and WebsiteTips.com

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