February, 2001 Newsletter

Website Usability

*** Quick Clicks

"Does Your Home Page Help or Hinder Sales" - Simple and to the point:
Click Z

Jacob Nielsen published a book - "Designing Web Usability – The Practice of Simplicity."  Internet World UK (March 2000) reviewed the book with this comment: "if the Web design company you are employing hasn't got a copy of this book on its shelves, you'll know to go somewhere else"

*** The 4specs Perspective

As I was starting to write this newsletter, I talked with a 4specs advertiser. He asked me to comment on his newly redesigned website. Here are my comments to him. While these comments were directed to one website, they may be applicable for your website also:

 "Your home page looks clean, but has too many junk graphics - graphics that do not help the usability of the website. Each image takes time and slows down the display of your website. We recommend a maximum page size including images of 35-40k. That is 15 seconds on a 28.8 connection. I saved your home page - the html alone is 26,000 bytes and there are 45 images with a total size of 63,000 bytes - for a total of 89,000 bytes, or 32 seconds on a 28.8 connection. One consolation is that all of your images are sized (height and width) so the page can be displayed before the images are completely downloaded."

As a commercial example, recently "The New York Times" deleted all of their junk graphics and now uses text for links. Not as pretty, and no one complains when the pages load faster. By replacing unnecessary graphic images with text and text links, you're also making your page more "search engine friendly." This should be an important consideration for any Web site, as search engines are an important way that Web users locate sites. Look at the Johns Manville website for an example of a simple home page:
[Website modified]

In addition, replacing images with text saves "The New York Times" bandwidth and server capacity. Think about what will happen when your user traffic increases ten fold. User traffic is going to increase, and you need to plan to provide for that growth in users. Could your web server handle ten times your current traffic? By keeping the graphics small, you can handle increased traffic with the same equipment and connection.

Most web designers and IT departments have no experience in selling construction products to design professionals. They may follow consumer web design guidelines and techniques, forgetting that your website needs to be targeted to a working construction professional. I have provided a sample website to show one way to get your information to the architect. Ask your web designers for comments and see if some of the ideas can be incorporated into your website.

I wrote a paper titled WebFormat™ (™ - 4specs, Inc.) originally published by the Construction Sciences Research Foundation (CSRF). WebFormat™ is my recommended web layout for manufacturers of construction products.

Think of WebFormat™ as the logical web extension of the specification recommendations found in PageFormat and SectionFormat (tm by CSI) and the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) SpecData program (tm CSI, now published  by CMD). The WebFormat pages are simple and fast. Every architect who has seen it liked it. One past president of CSI asked "How can we get every manufacturer to adopt the concept?"

The WebFormat™ demo home page lets you quickly know what the company makes and how to contact them. The user knows how to get to the specs and other design data.

WebFormat recommends that the user is able to immediately know what data is available on the website. Links lead to other pages with that data - specs, photos, installation instructions, etc. This page provides an overview of all the available information. Your website will not use every category, so select the ones appropriate for your products.

WebFormat provides a summary of the data that should be on your website. You will probably need to provide a matrix to access the data - data info by product type, product info by data type (cad, specs, etc.) You will probably have 3-part CSI-formatted specifications online. I recommend they be provided in  Word or RTF (Rich Text Format) files.

WebFormat is free and we recommend you consider incorporating the ideas and recommendations into your website.

Comments and feedback always appreciated.


Colin Gilboy
Publisher - 4specs
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[page updated 10/2015]