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European Design Criteria
Nicholas Negroponte, founder and head of MIT's New Media Lab, addressing the European IT Conference '97, recently castigated France and Germany(and, to a lesser extent, the UK) for lagging behind in providing Internet access to their populations, and in particular, their children.
Part of the reason for this is that, in most European countries, local calls are metered on a "pay-for-use" basis. And, at least in the UK and Germany, the cost of a simple local call can be relatively high.
It's reasonable to assume that, as European telecoms become more open to national and international competition, this situation will change, and that the price of Internet access will fall.
In the meantime, however, most Europeans are simply unable to afford the luxury of almost limitless surfing such as we enjoy here in the USA.
If you are attempting to reach a European audience, then this will impose significant constraints on your site design.
Given that - in the UK at least - the cost of hardware is relatively high, most Europeans are still using a 14.4kpbs modem as a standard.
This, allied with high access costs, argues for slimmed down, graphically-sparse sites which are fast to load. We would further suggest minimizing the use of frames, and, unless absolutely necessary, forgoing the use of animation and sound files.
Which are, we believe, good general guidelines for site design and architecture, but which assume much greater significance in a European context.
Indeed, anecdotal evidence from an associate based in London suggests that a common pattern of Web use is to log on, retrieve eMail, compose responses off-line and then log on again to send them. It appears that Web usage is driven by going to specified destinations.
Which seems to argue that, in order to reach a European audience, a highly-targeted eMail campaign driving your audience to a slim, fast-loading site is the strategy to adopt when selling into this market. --John Blower
We liked the San Francisco Honda website when it first came out. Its stark simplicity (apparently inspired by Piet Mondrian) was a welcome change from most automotive sites.
It's fair to say, however, that the design was starting to look a little tired, not having been substantially revised since the site launch in the autumn of 1996.
No longer. The site has a spiffy new look. It still appears unique amongst auto sites, inasmuch as it defiantly does not feature large graphic representations of common cars.
In the free wheeling spirit of San Francisco, it features a black background with small, relevant graphics throughout. Some parts of the old site have Ben dropped, but a welcome addition is a comprehensive site map, which provides an easily referable "Table of Contents".
The front end carries a number of advertisements, but not in the standard "banner" format, which is a welcome innovation.
The site works. It's intriguing, and the content, transposed to a new and different context, continues to inspire and inform - although perhaps that too is in need of a comprehensive update (next on the agenda?).
The "Webmaster" appears to be firstname.lastname@example.org, who seems to be based, according to InterNic, in Istanbul, Turkey.
Rock on, Byzantium! --John Blower
Search Engine Tune-Up
With the exception of the "pure" search engines - Alta Vista and HotBot and the original Web directory (Yahoo!), search engines appear to be morphing into hybrids which are attempting to become destinations in themselves.
One of the more apparently successful models is that followed by Excite. It has formed strategic alliances with AOL, Pointcast and WebTV. Its audience reach (according to MediaMetrix) is second only to Yahoo!. And its spiders appear to index the Web more consistently and reliably than most other engines, despite its indexing only 55 million pages of an estimated 100 million.
It appears that Excite is attaining a level of financial stability, which makes it a player over the longer term.
So what? Well, despite our belief that, over the longer term, generalized search engines will be unable to adequately index a Web of over (say) a half-billion pages, the fact remains that a major proportion of traffic to most sites is generated from the half-dozen most popular search engines. It is therefore essential that your site is listed appropriately.
You can, of course, go to each engine and submit your site URL individually. This is a time-consuming and tedious process.
A better solution could be to use a service like Submission Wizard.
Submission Wizard offers you the ability to automatically submit your site to over 650 search engines in one fell swoop. You can select from different categories and countries.
All you do is provide standard site information i.e. site name, address, description, and a few well chosen keywords. The Submission Wizard takes this information, and changes it into the format required by each different engine, then registers your web site.
You can get a free download at the Submission Wizard site.
Here are some resources we plug into on a fairly regular basis:
ClickZ provides daily updated news and info about everything webvertising, and is also available via eMail.
Channel 7 is an increasingly popular source for webvertising news, reviews, etc.
The Online Advertising Discussion List. is an active forum of more than 2700 professionals sharing practical expertise on the subjects of online advertising, public relations and publicity.
Website Promoters Resource Center. Lots 'o links and resources to help you promote your website.
Web Marketing Info Center for the Internet Impressive collection of links and articles about online marketing. The site's so big, there's even a searchable text field to help you quickly find what you're looking for.
LinkExchange gives your banner ad widespread exposure across the internet. You, in return, are expected to post other people's banners on your site.
Web Site Banner Advertising on the Internet. One of the most comprehensive collections of web ad related links we've ever seen. Plan to spend the day.
How to publicize a new web site over the internet. Grab bag of links to help you promote your site. Offers some guerrilla-style tactics you may not have heard of before.
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Site Sponsorship... Interesting page for those of you looking for people/companies to sponsor your site.
Advertising Quotes. Need some words of wisdom? This is the place to go. A list of ad quotes compiled by the advertising department at the University of Texas at Austin.
The Color of Money...
The appropriate use of color in site design is a vexing issue.
Limited as one is to 216 colors imposes its own constraints. But there is the further restriction of never quite knowing how a particular platform, monitor, browser and combination of the above will render your page.
On the whole, it's usually best to stick with fairly basic colors and color combinations. But be aware of the psychological and emotional effects of them.
Blue, for example, conveys notions of peace and tranquility, and, to a certain extent, conservatism. A pale blue as a background can work well with a range of text and link colors. With the exceptions of orange and red...
We see a lot of sites with black backgrounds. In general they simply don't work. Unless one is aiming for a self-consciously "arty" look (or, indeed, unless an "artist"oneself) using black will probably label one as pretentious.
There are also questions of legibility. "Reversed" text is difficult to read in a sustained fashion. Although, if you want to grab attention, a combination of black and yellow is unbeatable.
Green as a color invites positive and negative emotions in about equal measure. To some, it conveys fertility and "earthiness". However, the flip side is envy and reptilian attributes. Green and red are an almost impossible color combination.
We tend toward a very pale grey as a background color. It conveys a certain conservatism, but lends itself as a versatile backdrop to a range of colors. In the context of reading from a screen, it is less wearing on the eyes than stark white.
In the end, whichever combination you use, it's wise to check it out on as many combinations of platforms and browsers as you can. --John Blower
Take a look at the Archives. We've indexed all the past issues with topic pointers.
All material on this site is © 1995, 1996 by IBN (The Internet Business Network), Mill Valley, CA 94941