Friday, June 12, 2009
Dear Websites, Please Follow These 10 Rules.
Dear websites! Here are some general rules I’d like you to follow. Please, just to make me happy. It’s not that hard!
- Open pop-unders. Pop-ups were those additional advice windows containing helpful information or contests allowing you to grab music players for free. Since a while, evil browser vendors hide them from my view. (Firefox does not want you to have a free iPhone.) However, clever programmers out there found a technology that still gets me the information I want when I want it: pop-unders that are triggered on click. Use them!
- Come on, bundle it with a little extra! You know those boring programs you can download that don’t exceed your expectations? They just do what you believed them to do. One word: boring. When I download an app, I want it to come with a bonus that shows customer’s king and all. Programs like Java, which by default comes spiced up with the really helpful and neat Yahoo Toolbar, are reasonable distribution patterns your app should follow too.
- Long click paths help us relax. Don’t let me get to your product or offering too fast – make it a multi-part route. Have you ever heard of mandalas? That’s the ancient art of sandpainting that helps us humans get into trance. Well, if you put your download or order form right on that first page where I’m looking for it, how do you think I’m going to reach the next spiritual level? It’s like producing a mandala using a laser color printer: fast, yeah. Trance, meditation, finding the meanings of life – no!
- Use smallish, protected images when we zoom in. We all hate to click on a thumbnail of a product, or a pic on some blog, only to discover there’s a really hi-res photo of that pic opening on us. Why? Because most of the time, that squelches our imagination and disillusions us. Instead, as a webmaster, ensure you’re opening a picture that’s basically the size of the thumbnail plus around 6 - 8 pixels. Extra tip: Put a fat watermark over the zoomed pic, and when we right-click it, show the message “Don’t steal this pic, ’cause if you do it will be gone and no one else can look at it.” (And sheesh, if by any chance you have a Creative Commons license on any of your content, get rid of it... that stuff is worse than communism.)
- Make that Captcha harder. When you solve a picture to submit a form, you’re expecting a riddle worth your attention. No patronizing please, we can handle it. Rule of thumb for captchas: If you can read it, it’s probably too easy. Websites in the last years made great progress in this area – follow their lead.
- Spread the article across several pages. Have you ever come across a news article or blog post that had all of its content on a lengthy, scroll-intensive, single web page? That sucks, for obvious reasons: the mouse scroll wheel hurts our fingers; the page takes longer to load; we only get exposed to one blinking banner. So, rule number 6: please put your article on around 5 - 7 pages, depending on length. You’ll probably wanna shoot for around 2 paragraphs per page. (Note the loading time between the individual pages should give people time to reflect on what they just read... around 10 - 15 seconds should be fine.)
- Inform me via email! When you have a website, please email me about it – even if I didn’t opt in to that. After all, how should I have opted in at your site? I didn’t even know it existed! As a general guideline, people are most interested in steel abs, buying cialis, replica design watches, and dubious business offers from other countries, so if your website is about any of those, bring it on.
- Use PDF files. HTML is a lousy format to transmit information. It does not properly fix the layout on the receiving end, allowing us to mess it up in all the wrong ways. Instead of freezing the browser for a bit it loads too quickly, ruining all excitement. It contains ugly brackets, like this one > and this one <. The PDF format solves all these problems, so please, use it wisely, i.e. wherever you can.
- Be the mystery guy. This one is for all the blogs out there who have their Contact and About info just a click away from every page: please. Stop it. No one cares about you, and by revealing who you are, you’ll spoil the mystery. Have you ever read a Sherlock Holmes book that would start by showing us who’s behind the killings? Have you ever watched a Columbo episode that starts by revealing who the murderer is?
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