PR2 Newsletter : Issue 3
Welcome to the issue 3 of the PR2 Website Promotion Newsletter.
Boom! That was the sound of this newsletter's circulation smashing through the 1,500
mark. Thank you all for joining up. This newsletter is pretty long as there is a lot of
ground to cover. We're busy working through the processes required to prepare your site
for an influx of visitors.
Several people have emailed to ask how they can learn to make a website. That's beyond
the scope of this course, but there are some good resources here
that will help you get started.
The Big Question
It's time to ask the big question: WHY? Not "Why are we here?"
but a much more fundamental question: "Why am I building a site?" Here's an article that will help you get to grips with this issue.
Right, back to the business of business. I'm sure that some of you will read my
recommendations and think "Gosh, that's just too much effort" That's your
choice, I just tell it as I see it!
Before we look at how to maximise your site's potential, here's my "Top 10
DON'Ts" of site construction.
Top 10 DON'Ts of Site Construction
1. HOW BIG IS THAT GRAPHIC?
I have visited some sites that load a 150k-200k graphic on the front page. Did I wait? Do
cows fly? I was long gone before that particular graphic finished loading!
2. BAN THE BANNERS!
Some sites have 10-20 banner graphics from banner exchanges on a single page! What's the
point?! Imagine this scenario: out of every 100 visitors, only one person has the patience
to wait for all 20 banners to load. Result: 20 banner impressions. If you only had one or
two banners, everybody would probably wait and you would get 100-200 banner impressions!
3. UNPLUG THE PLUGINS!
Unless you are a household name, forget about making a site that depends on me downloading
"XYZ plugin" just to be able to see it properly. Why should I bother?
4. YOU CAN STOP THE MUSIC!
If you want to scream "Amateur! Amateur! Amateur!" at the top of your lungs,
then make sure you keep that soundtrack pumping away as each visitor lands on your site!
Professional sites don't subject their visitors to an off-key rendition of the webmaster's
favourite tune every time they come to the site -- so neither should you!
5. BEST VIEWED WITH...
Why tell your visitors they are fools for using the wrong browser? With a bit of care it's
easy to build a site that looks fine in both Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer...
so why try to impose one or the other on your visitors?
6. EXPOSING YOURSELF...
Don't your visitors. You wouldn't flash them in real
life, so why do it online?
7. AND THE BROWSER IS...
Don't try to guess what browser your visitors are using! Some sites use Java or other
tricks to decide what browser you're using, and offer you the relevant page. This DOES NOT
WORK! Every time a new version of a browser comes out you will need to update your
program, and even then some browsers "disguise" themselves as other browsers!
8. DON'T ROLL THE DRUMS TOO LONG!
Many sites require 4 or 5 clicks to get to the "real" start of the site. Why not
save your visitors the pain and take them straight there!
9. DOING THE JAVA JIVE
Do you REALLY need Java to make your site work? Different browsers run incompatible
versions of Java, and of course you are turning your back on all the people who surf with
Java turned off. Plus Java takes a long time to load, and some programs will even crash
10. THE BIG GIVE-AWAY
If your site gets a visitor about once every full moon, don't give the fact away on your
front page! Kill your counter today...
Now that we've got the pet peeves out of the way, let's delve a little deeper into how
you can improve your site.
What are Your Visitors Browsing With?
There's a great service at TheCounter.com that enables you to see the global statistics
of the close to 150,000 sites they provide counter services for. According to their latest stats (November 1998) just 78% of
people are browsing with a Generation 4 browser (Explorer 4.x or Netscape 4.x). This means
that if you use fancy stuff like DHTML or Cascading Style Sheets you will instantly lose
22% of your audience!
Equally, 19% of people are browsing at a screen resolution of 640x480 or worse... so if
you make your pages too large that's a fifth of your audience you are offending.
It's a good idea (if you want to reach the maximum audience) to design for one
generation before the latest browsers. If your site runs fine at 640x480 in Explorer 3.x
and Navigator 3.x then you'll keep more visitors coming back -- guaranteed!
Get to Grips with Graphics
One of the biggest problems you face when driving traffic to your site is persuading
people to wait while the pages load. The attention span of the average web surfer
approaches zero! Therefore, you need to keep your graphics to a minimum.
Try to keep your main page under 25KB (including graphics) and your other pages under
30KB. If necessary, break up long pages to make two short ones. Why 25KB? Because it will
take somebody with a 14.4k modem a massive 15 seconds to load your 25KB page... under
The good thing about keeping your pages small is that you can add a sponsor's banner
afterwards without pushing your load-times sky-high.
For more information on how to optimise your graphics, there's a whole article here.
Make Your Site Easy on the Eyes
Unless you work for Wired magazine, there's relatively little mileage to be gained in
making your site a mass of fluorescent colours and wild backgrounds. Remember that
non-existent attention span? Well, if people have to squint to read your text, they're
going to head for the hills!
Concrete suggestions: Do away with any background graphic that provides
"texture" for your page. Choose a background colour that is easy on the eyes.
White is by far the most popular choice of background colour, as black text on a white
background offers the most contrast. Get rid of flashing text! Choose font sizes that will
not drive people with high-resolution monitors to book an early appointment with their
optician. Get some guinea-pig friends to give you an honest opinion as to the
"viewability" of your site.
Next time, we'll look at more things you can do to prepare your site... until then,
work hard at it and prepare to reap the rewards later.
Until next time...