Breathing life into dead web sites

RECENT reports quantify the Internet at more than two billion pages, but few web sites stand out from the crowd, according to Scribe Consulting principal Tim North.

Mr North said most important factors to the success of a web site were good content, easy navigation, compatibility and speed.

“Good content is clear, useful and regularly updated, and there is a simple test to check whether a site measures up,” Mr North said.

“Ask: ‘Why would people visit my site a second time?’ ‘Is there anything that might make them visit every week?’.”

Mr North said a practical way to test the navigation of a company’s web site was to sit someone down in front of it and ask them to find a particular piece of information.

“Watch and see if they take more than three or four clicks to find the information,” he said.

“Studies show that if users can’t find what they want quickly, they’ll head to another web site.”

He said that, despite what Microsoft might want users to believe, Netscape was alive and kicking.

“Around one in five users still use a Netscape web browser, so you must design your site to look good under both Internet Explorer and Netscape,” he said.

“Remember also that screen resolutions vary considerably.

“Some users may have a screen that is only 640x480 dots – others have higher resolution at 1,600x1,200.

“Check to see if your site looks good on a variety of screen sizes.”

As the ‘world wide wait’ tag for the Internet implies, users are impatient for web sites to load.

“Studies show that users will give up waiting after 10 to 15 seconds and head elsewhere,” he said.

“Large graphics are the usual culprit. You’ll need to walk a fine line between a visually appealing site and a speedy one.

“Modern software can compress images to a fraction of their normal size, though, so armed with the right tools you can usually get the best of both worlds.

“The Internet is getting crowded – very crowded – and customers will no longer settle for mediocre design.”

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