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Five Common World Wide Web Site Failings

by Greg Roberts

As Technical Co-ordinator for Sources and Editor of Parliamentary Names & Numbers I devote a large amount of time to researching on the World Wide Web. Here are five common mistakes I see on WWW sites and what you can do to avoid them.

  1. Too Many/Large Images. Think of the end users. Many are using 14.4 or 28.8 modems. A page with large or many graphic images can take forever to download. That's okay for an online art gallery, but for an information site it's the kiss of death. Keep images to a minimum, or provide a high-graphics and low-graphics version.
    I suggest keeping heavy graphics off the main page altogether. A well-designed Web page will have a text equivalent of each graphic. This is particularly useful for the increasing number of serious Web users navigating the Web with the images turned off .
  2. Frames. I don't like them and never will. They often mess up the navigating with the forward and back buttons. A site with frames results in a small main window where I can barely see the information. And information is why I'm visiting the site. A well-designed site should have a menu bar on the top or sides, indicated by colour or shading so it stands out. Some people like frames, but if they're used on your site provide a no-frame version as well.
  3. Bad Structure. I visit many sites where the only way to get from a particular section to another desired section, is to back up to the main page and then select the desired section. This is bad structural design, and is unfortunately very common. You should be able to navigate easily around a site. From any page on your site, make it possible to select any other section, or the main page, as well as the information in that specific section.
  4. Browser-Specific Sites. A disturbing trend in sites recently is designing specifically for either Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Explorer, the two main Web browsers. Sites that are designed for one browser's specific capabilities can look very strange when viewed with the other browser. A few very inhospitable sites don't even allow to you visit them if you aren't browsing with Explorer. Give your site a common design, or provide two versions of the site, one for Netscape Navigator and another for Microsoft Explorer.
  5. Uninspired Design.Too many sites I visit while researching Parliamentary Names & Numbers are, to me, boring. Use interesting backgrounds, menu bars, and colours. Nevertheless, I'll take boring and fast to load over beautiful but glacially slow any time. But speed and grace can be combined.

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