Web design and usability
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The Semantic Web | Is XML killing the web? | The Web mapped | Standards conformance on the web | Information quality on the web | Web engineering | Web usability | Flash and (non-)usability | "Compendium of HTML Elements" | "Semiotic" web design | Webmaster organisations | Designing successful web site conference proceedings | Jakob Nielsen - web usability column | Web Review - usability column | "The Yale Web Style Guide" | Designing for the web | Importance of content | Flow | Human effects of the Internet | Usability issues in web site design | Navigation in web applications | Identifying and describing web resources | On-line Library of Information Visualisation Environments (OLIVE) | Metadata | Graphics and the web | Typography and fonts | Colour and the web | Languages on the Internet | Further sources | Flash developer resources | Guide to domain name buying | How big is the web really? X * 500? | WWW9 multimedia workshop | Emotional email | Web browsing and Linux | Browsing screen resolution increases | Internet Explorer most popular | Looking for old browsers? | URL alternatives | Free web graphic tutorials | Affiliate programmes assessed | Web authoring software discussion lists | Web application development | Web sites and gender | Web tools resources | Citing on-line sources | Links for web developers | Setting up a web site | Public domain images resources | Developing an e-journal/e-zine | Commercial and academic website design | Web user surveys | Web search engines compared | Info. access on the web limited and unequal | Web advertising | Web Accessibility
A report on the European Commission sponsored Workshop on the Semantic Web has been published on the Diffuse project web site. 12/01/01
A controversial posting to the XML developers list by John Dvorak claiming that "XML is killing the Web" by introducing many divergent standards, brought many strong reactions, both for and against the sentiments expressed.
Leigh Dodds on XML.com has covered the debate in his XML-Deviant column, "XML Reduced", which questions whether the incessant multiplication of XML standards is leading to confusion, and what is the real minimum a developer needs to know about XML in order to do useful work. See also the XML section on El.pub, for more detail concerning XML. 17/10/00
Scientists from IBM Research, Compaq Corporate Research Laboratories and AltaVista have completed a comprehensive "map" of the World Wide Web, and uncovered divisive boundaries between regions of the Internet that can make navigation difficult or, in some cases, impossible.
The study, based on analysis of more than 600 million unique pages, found that the World Wide Web is fundamentally divided into four large regions, each containing approximately the same number of pages. The image of the Web that emerged through the research was that of a bowtie.
Four distinct regions make up approximately 90% of the Web (the bow tie), with approximately 10% of the Web completely isolated from the entire bow tie. The "strongly-connected core" (the knot of the bow tie) contains almost one-third of all Web sites.
The authors hope that by using their "Bow Tie Theory", and its new explanation of the structure of Internet, the scientific and business communities will be able to:
- Design more effective Web crawling strategies.
- Increase the effectiveness of e-commerce.
- Analyze the behaviour of Web algorithms that make use of link information.
- Predict and capitalize upon the continued evolution of the Web.
- Create mathematical models for the Web.
The researchers are expecting to update the study on a regular basis. The initial findings were presented simultaneously at the 9th International World Wide Web Conference, Amsterdam (May 15-19, 2000) and at the ACM PODS 2000 Conference, Dallas (May 14-19, 2000). The "Web Map/Bow Tie Theory" conference paper is should be posted after May 14 at the URL below. 19/05/00
URL: conference paper (follow the links) http://www9.org/
The Open Group and the Web Standards Project (WSP) run a number of collaborative activities aimed at conformance testing implementations on the web. These include:
- Public availability of an unrestricted access test suite to evaluate web browsers against the W3C's HTML 3.2 recommendation. The WSP plan to use the test suite to check web browsers for conformance to standards, and to publicize the results of this testing.
- The development of tests for the W3C's HTML 4.0 recommendation and Cascading Style Sheets (issue 1) specification.
- The launch of a formal effort within The Open Group to work with web content providers, determining their requirements for the evolution of browser support for standards.
URL: browser conformance test suite http://www.opengroup.org/browsertest
URL: The Open Group http://www.opengroup.org
URL: Web Standards Project http://www.webstandards.org
One of the effects of the change from SIGHYPER to SIGWEB is the growth in working groups on different aspects of web architecture and design. Web Engineering (WebE) is concerned with establishment and use of sound scientific, engineering and management principles and disciplined and systematic approaches to the successful development, deployment and maintenance of high quality web-based systems and applications. (Sounds like a sub-set of Information Engineering?)
WebE has a web site and some useful recent resource links on topics like web site testing and quality factors. 24/03/00
URL: web engineering home http://fistserv.macarthur.uws.edu.au/san/WebEhome/
URL: paper on web testing http://www.soft.com/Products/Web/Technology/website.testing.html
URL: paper on web qualtiy http://www.soft.com/Products/Web/Technology/website.quality.html
US-based, Modalis Research Technologies has released the findings from an international study examining the 130 "most visited" web sites in the US, Germany, France, Sweden and the UK. Results indicate that site usability ratings are more important than speed or other technical performance measures in generating overall appeal.
The study examined sites by evaluating the user's experience according to seven recognized industry standards (usability components): intuitive navigation, functional design, efficiency in dealing with different levels of user expertise, minimalist design, robust error management, help and documentation functions, and accurate system feedback to the visitor. Each site's technical performance was also evaluated using measurements of download times, browser compatibility, number of broken links, and number of HTML errors.
Further information about the study is available from the company's web site. 19/12/00
URL: Modalis http://www.modalis.com/
Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox for October 29, 2000 contends that although multimedia has its role on the web, current Flash technology tends to discourage usability for three reasons: it makes bad design more likely, it breaks with the web's fundamental interaction style, it consumes resources that would be better spent enhancing a site's core value.
Flash available to 96% of users
An interesting snippet of information included in a Macromedia announcement (dated Ocotober 2000) promoting a number of new extensions to the Dreamweaver web page editor - that the Flash Player is now installed on 96 percent of web desktops. The figure is based on a Macromedia study carried out by NPD Online Research, the parent company of Media Metrix.
As a possible response to concerns expressed by experts as to the usability of Flash on the web, Macromedia has launched a "usability initiative". A new usability area on the Macromedia web site contains usability suggestions, accessibility information, examples, articles and white papers aimed at developers using Flash "to deliver better user experiences".
A Flash Accessibility Kit to assist developers in making their content accessible to people with disabilities is also available, offering publishing templates for Flash authoring as well as strategies to provide alternative text and aid navigation within Macromedia Flash content. 12/12/00
URL: Usability Initiative http://www.macromedia.com/go/usability/
URL: Accessibility Kit http://www.macromedia.com/software/flash/productinfo/accessibility/
The latest release of the "Compendium of HTML Elements" (Revision 8.1) examines 160 HTML tags, 264 attributes, 271 arguments and an extensive listing of HTML scripting events.
The information is presented in several ways: "from 6 browser manufacturer's documentation (by version); from reader's testing 28 different browsers/versions on 11 operating systems; and, from our own experiments and coding notes". 08/08/00
Academics from Luton University and Herts University (plus industrial partners) have formed a new mailbase discussion list. The focus is the design of E-commerce sites and other HCI components from a "semiotic" viewpoint. This view is encapsulated in "SMDF" (Shared Meanings Design Framework) - a new methodology which aims to help design sites which are culturally neutral, which only transmit intended meanings of trust and security.
The partners believe that it offers an alternative perspective to that of Jakob Nielsen (see web link below) as semiotics views an interface as a complex "sign system" which is interpreted differentially according to , for example, culture. The group do not believe, for example, that one can simply validate a trans-national e-commerce site using just five users (as Nielsen suggests), and feel that cross cultural issues require a more rigorous treatment. Contributions to the discussions are being welcomed.
Semiotics is defined in the dictionary as: "the study of signs and symbols, especially the relations between written or spoken signs and their referents in the physical world or the world of ideas". 31/03/00
URL: discussion list http://www.mailbase.ac.uk/lists/smdf/
URL: SMDF outline http://www.luton.ac.uk/science/computing/research/smdf.htm
URL: Nielsen link http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20000319.html
URL: paper explaining the subject http://www.cs.herts.ac.uk/~comqsmp/publications/semiotics4ecommerce.PDF
A second edition of the "Internet Detective" web tutorial has been released. Produced with funding from the European Union through the DESIRE project, Internet Detective is a free, self-paced, interactive tutorial on the WWW which provides an introduction to the issues of information quality on the Internet and teaches the skills required to evaluate critically the quality of an Internet resource.
Written by staff at the Institute for Learning and Research Technology at the University of Bristol, UK it uses tutorial software developed at the University of Newcastle, UK, which saves your scores and your place so that you can re-visit the course and take up where you left off. The tutorial takes a couple of hours to complete. The new version builds on material in the original but has some new features:
- new quizzes, to increase the interactivity, offering users the chance to try their hand at Internet detective work;
- teaching materials, to support teachers, lecturers and trainers who use the tutorial with their students;
- an exercise that covers the Web-hoax - to highlight the fact that on the Internet, things are not always what they seem.
According to the authors, the tutorial has been positively received in a variety of sectors, with over 16,000 people registering at the "detective agency" in the first nine months. The Internet Detective can be accessed from the homepage of the DESIRE site or directly from the URL below.
URL: Internet Detective http://www.sosig.ac.uk/desire/internet-detective.html
URL: DESIRE http://www.desire.org/
Internetwriter have removed the password protection on their site, offering interested users access to the 1000 plus web sites listed. Aimed at writers, the developers of the site note that "the choice (of links) may be quirky; and some comments are opinionated". The site is aimed at promoting the publication: "The Internet: A Writer's Guide". 17/10/00
The editors of ArticleCentral apparently, "work virtually around the clock monitoring hundreds of web development related sites and listing newest resources in an easy to use categorized catalogue". The articles listed (with links to the originals) are aimed at webmasters and the wider web developer community.
The National Organization of Webmasters (NOW)and the World Organization of Webmasters (WOW) are doing some interesting work on definitions of webmaster job responsibilities as guidelines for human resource departments of organizations; and are also investigating issues surrounding webmaster certification. Many of the principles identified in the US are likely to apply to European organisations.
URL: NOW http://www.naw.org/
URL: WOW http://www.world-webmasters.org/
A meeting organised by IESERV (the authors of this site) for the European Commission's Information Engineering Sector
The agenda of the meeting is on the web use page, where possible we have added links to the speakers' slide presentations or notes. These can be viewed on the web now, and or can be downloaded as PC zipped Powerpoint files for viewing in Powerpoint.
Jakob Nielsen, the usability guru, produces a monthly column on web design that is definitely worth a visit. Recently he has taken the view that not sufficient emphasis is given to ensuring speedy display - it is no use having fancy graphics if the viewer clicks off to another site before the graphics have time to appear.
Web Review publishes a series of articles on web usability by consultant Keith Instone, who applies usability engineering practices to the web. The series aims to raise awareness of usability by considering the users, the tasks they are trying to accomplish, and the context of their usage. Keith also has a web site usableweb.com a collection of 384 links and accompanying information about human factors, user interface issues, and usable design specific to the World Wide web.
URL: usability articles http://webreview.com/97/05/30/usability/index.html
URL: Web Review http://webreview.com
URL: usableweb.com http://usableweb.com/
Web Review features a number of articles based on information emanating from the Web '99: Design and Development show held in San Francisco. The articles include details of the winners of the Web Tools Awards; discussion of online branding; whether affiliate programs increase traffic at e-commerce sites; assessment of the conference keynote which focused on web usability. There are also some RealAudio interviews with some of the speakers.
"The Yale C/AIM Web Style Guide" is available to download, in addition the site provides an excellent summary of web design issues, providing solutions with numerous high quality resources, under the following headings:
- Interface Design (incl. information access, navigation, linking)
- Site Design (incl. structure, site elements, intranet design factors
- Page Design
- Web Graphics
- Web Multimedia and Animation
Additional papers and appendices have been brought together in consideration of the"Evolving interface for multimedia".
Web page design for designers is a site aimed at "people who are already involved with design and typography for conventional print and want to explore the possibilities of this new electronic medium". The site has an extensive resources link page which combines subjects related to the aesthetics of design such as typography and colour and those relating to the technology, for example DHTML and XML.
URL: link page http://www.wpdfd.com/wpdres.htm
In an Adobe Web Centre interview, designer Val Casey said "I think that usability is dead. That's really extreme to say, but I don't think my users are dumb. Even the most novice user has some sort of consciousness about the way a computer works, even from watching television. The same sorts of styles are shared, so now we've got a visual language that crosses over and people are getting used to it."
Her web site tells a slightly different story in the section on 'Notes on web design', which includes many links to sites illustrating her ideas. 17/11/00
URL: Notes on web design http://www.valcasey.com/webdesign/index.html
URL: Interview http://www.adobe.com/web/gallery/valcasey/main.html
"Ask Dr. Web" is a comprehensive "how-to" description of everything about web site design and maintenance with many links, and covers topics such as cascading style sheets.
URL: Ask Dr. Web http://www.zeldman.com/abtgraph.html
The iSyndicate Express Community Site, claims to connect small and growing web sites with fresh sources of content and design tips from leading web designers. Plans for the site also include providing details of web authoring tools and tips on "how to build traffic, community and context for e-commerce applications".
It is as if the importance of content to publishing was forgotten in rush for companies to get web sites on-line. Increasing coverage of the role content has to play on the web, should help in someway to redress the current imbalance - of highly articulated web sites which in many cases have little "to say".
In it's Back to Basics series, the on-line magazine "Web Review" champions the importance of content on the web in an article entitled: "The New Web Strategy: Content is the Cornerstone". The article provides a check list, if one were needed, of key requirements when defining the purpose of a web site and planning the content to reflect these. The article is written by Amy Gahran the publisher of "Contentious", an interesting web-zine about content development for online media.
URL: The New Web Strategy http://webreview.com/wr/pub/98/08/28/content/index.html
URL: Contentious http://www.contentious.com
Hoffman and Novak define flow as: "the state occurring during network navigation which is:1) characterized by a seamless sequence of responses facilitated by machine interactivity, 2) intrinsically enjoyable, 3) accompanied by a loss of self-consciousness, and 4) self-reinforcing." To experience flow while engaged in an activity, consumers must perceive a balance between their skills and the challenges of the activity, and both their skills and challenges must be above a critical threshold. Their paper "Modeling the Structure of the Flow Experience Among web Users" is available at the University of Vanderbilt web site.
HomeNet, a Carnegie Mellon research project studying what people do with the Internet and how it affects their lives has published a report which poses the question: "Internet paradox: A social technology that reduces social involvement and psychological well-being?"
The research examined the social and psychological impact of the Internet on 169 people in 73 households during their first one to two years on-line. It showed that, greater use of the Internet was associated with declines in participants communication with family members in the household, declines in the size of their social circle, and increases in their depression and loneliness. Such findings could have implications for research, for public policy, and for the design of technology. A full list of research reports, including this one are published on the web.
A paper written by Nigel Bevan from NPL which looks at both site design and usability. The paper provides a good proforma on which to base usability assessments of web sites. Information on general web usability issues at the Web-HCI site.
URL: Web-HCI http://www.acm.org/sighci/webhci/
"Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine" published an article entitled: "Usable?...Or Not?...Factors Affecting the Usability of Web Sites", based on a study carried out at the Centre for Information Environments Research, Brunel University, UK. A test site was created and was used to investigate issues affecting the usability of web sites.
The emergence of the web as a new application delivery platform through the development of sophisticated web-based Java applets, has significant impact on the page-based navigation currently used on the web. As sites become more interactive navigating between applet views will become increasingly commonplace. A paper entitled: "Navigation in web Applications" provides a view on how to reduce user confusion in such environments.
"Identifying and describing web resources", considers current approaches to describing and linking to web resources and their potential utility as the web develops. It provides a useful aide memoire to the the most widely applied methods and the interested parties that are driving their adoption - ranging from user communities and standards bodies to commercial implementors.
Hard copies of the report are available on request, alternatively it can be downloaded in Word, .pdf, or zip formats.
The On-line Library of Information Visualisation Environments (OLIVE) website covers eight categories of information visualisation environments differentiated by data types: 1-D, 2-D, 3-D, multi-dimensional, temporal, tree, network and workspaces. It provides a wealth of information sources based on these categories and is based on a "Taxonomy of Information Visualisation User-Interfaces" which is published on the site. There are a number of related US academic sites which cover the topic of Human-Computer Interaction:
URL: OLIVE http://otal.umd.edu/Olive/
URL: Main site of Univ. of Maryland HCI Laboratory http://www.cs.umd.edu/projects/hcil
URL: Technical reports from Univ. of Maryland HCI Laboratory http://www.cs.umd.edu/projects/hcil/Research/tech-report-list.html
URL: Students HCI on-line research experiments http://otal.umd.edu/SHORE
There is a very large body of knowledge on the subject of metadata, much of which pre-dates the development of information webs. Metadata is essentially data about data, an example being the card index catalogue in a library; where the information on that card is metadata about a particular publication. The application of solutions based on metadata may solve many of the problems associated with content identification and delivery on information webs. It is from the standpoint of: "metadata being used by anyone to make their material more accessible", that much of the relevant research is based.
Further information on Metadata theory is available on the Metadata topic page.
The free e-zine WebPromote Monthly looks at the issue of web site promotion and in the July 1997 issue considers the effectiveness of meta tags in improving web pages' "relevancy ranking" when indexed by search engines. It includes tips on how to write metacontent tailored for spider-based search engines. Further information on meta tags and their relevance to site promotion is also available in the January, May, and June 1997 issues.
Creating graphics for the web is a site that both demonstrates and explains different aspects of graphic design for web sites. It is oriented to Mac users but should be of interest to PC creators as well.
The Internet Gallery of GIF animation offers ready-made animated GIF files, whilst Xoom's website claims to be the largest collection of web animations, graphics and sounds available on the web.
URL: Internet Gallery http://members.aol.com/royalef/galframe.htm
URL: Xoom http://www.xoom.com
Digital Media Works runs a free Internet-based graphics development site. Targeted at graphics artists (ranging from amateurs to professionals), the developers claim that the site will: "offer free graphics editing and rendering tools". A tech room for graphics artists to share ideas, graphics, and to promote their services is also planned.
Until the arrival of dynamic fonts, web page designers have been limited to using a few common fonts simply because typefaces in web documents cannot be viewed unless the same typefaces are installed on the end-user's system.
This font fidelity problem can be solved by making the fonts in HTML documents portable, as has been achieved by Bitstream's TrueDoc. The company claim TrueDoc supports all font formats (including existing TrueType and PostScript Type 1 formats), all Unicode standards, as well as non-Latin typefaces such as Arabic, Chinese, Japanese (Kanji), and Korean. Several leading web software developers and tools vendors support this example of dynamic font technology, including Netscape's Communicator client and Microsoft's Internet Explorer along with product releases from SoftQuad and Corel.
Web typography and font information
EyeWire has announced it has added more than 900 new typefaces, from two font foundries P22 and Elsner+Flake, to its collection. EyeWire now has one of the largest typeface collections in the world with over 5,000 fonts available for purchase. Typefaces can be purchased online at EyeWire's web site. Additionally, the fonts can be tested using the EyeWire Type Viewer, an online software tool allowing sample text, in the font and size of your choice, to be viewed before purchase.
URL: Type Viewer http://www.eyewire.com/type/viewer
Myfonts has a number of online tools for identifying type faces, both by browsing font styles and by uploading a sample and finding the nearest match. They sell fonts for download from a number of foundries. 22/08/00
Victor Engel's Home Page, has some of the best explanations and demonstrations of the Netscape colour palette and how it influences the look of colour on the web.
In a bid to untangle the mess surrounding colour palettes and the web, Pantone has developed a system, which if implemented could see the extension of its colour matching system to the online world. The Pantone system is widely accepted and has been utilised by designers and printers in the print media since 1963.
The Pantone Internet Color System (a module in its ColorDrive web Tools for Windows) includes a library, of 216 "Internet -safe" colours, that the company claim, "appear exactly as specified across computer platforms, regardless of monitor resolution". The ICC profiles are embedded within JPEG and TIFF graphic files, whilst a browser plug-in for Netscape Navigator and Microsoft's Internet Explorer, (available free-of-charge from Pantone's web site), enables anyone browsing the web to automatically display these images, regardless of platform, colour-corrected for each individual's monitor.
ColorDrive supports many leading design applications, including CorelDRAW!, Adobe Photoshop, PageMaker and Illustrator, QuarkXPress, Macromedia FreeHand, Fractal Design Painter, Deneba Canvas and Micrografx Designer. Details concerning the system and copies of the browser plug-ins are available from the Pantone web site.
There is a site dedicated to colour managment site for ColorSync 2 under MacOS.
The web colour test site shows text in one colour on a background of another - all standard web colours can be easily viewed in this form.
URL: Victor Engel http://the-light.com/index.html
URL: Pantone http://www.pantone.com
URL: ColorSync 2 http://colorsync.apple.com/
URL: web colour testing http://www.xs4all.nl/~brouwer/websafe/Data/Start.html
The e-letter, Web Review, has published a few articles which consider the problems associated with rendering colour images via the web on a variety of monitors, platforms and browsers.
Most people know that pictures developed on a Mac look darker on a PC and vice versa. This type of problem is a worry for games publishers and, increasingly, for e-commerce sites. One of the leading producers of tools to overcome colour matching problems is Sonnetech who have a variety of tools for different applications. Many games producers are incorporating 3deep software into their products. The web site has a lots of technical info on colour problems and links to other colour sites.
The Babel team (a joint initiative from Alis Technologies and the Internet Society) have published a study of the actual distribution of languages on the Internet. There are plans to update the study twice a year.
According to an advert from Lernout & Hauspie, they are offering a free white paper: "Preparing web sites for easy translation". Further details from the web site below.
Transparent Language, has launched TraduccionGratis.com, the Spanish version of FreeTranslation.com, a free web site designed to translate text and foreign-language web pages from English to Spanish, French, German, Italian and Portuguese as well as to English from Spanish, French and German.
The Macromedia Exchange for Flash, is a web site aimed at the Flash developer community, and at which, developers can freely share Flash extensions such as Smart Clips, ActionScript samples, templates and source files. The site is run on behalf of developers by Macromedia, and requires registration. 06/12/00
Domain name buyers guide is a new service that looks at various aspects of domain name registration. The guide ranks registrars on a number of factors including their acceptable use policy.
European registrars do well. The legal differences in the contracts are quite surprising and illustrate the importance of knowing what you are buying. 30/08/00
BrightPlanet claims in a new white paper "The Deep Web: Surfacing Hidden Value" that the web is 500 times larger than usual estimates. They claim to have discovered the "deep web", that consists largely of publicly available searchable databases that are not covered by other search engines. They estimate the deep web contains 7,500 terabytes of information, compared to 19 terabytes of information in the surface Web, and nearly 550 billion individual documents compared to the 1 billion of the surface Web. The company also sells a search engine, LexiBot, that can access the deep web. The engine can be downloaded free for a 30-day trial. 15/08/00
The multimedia workshop at WWW9 has produced a report and copies of the papers given at the workshop. The areas covered were integration of timing into XML documents, the relation between MPEG and W3C work, and adaptation. 25/07/00
Ever wondered how to add emotion to your email? A new web site, EmoticonUniverse.com, specialises in the documentation of emoticons, Internet slang, and acronyms used in email. An emoticon is a short sequence of keyboard letters and symbols used to convey emotion, gestures, or expressions which could not otherwise be derived from mere text, and is also referred to as a "smiley".
The need for expediency in email and chat communication, as well as the difficulty in conveying subtle nuances in conversation, has prompted an explosion of thousands of these symbols and shortcuts, and EmoticonUniverse provides "a comprehensive guide for newbies and experts alike". There is also a mailing list providing information on new additions and submissions to the site. 08/02/00
Web Review includes a feature entitled: "Web Browsing on Linux" which takes a look at the relative strengths of five Linux browsers. You can also subscribe to a weekly e-zine which keeps you informed of articles published on the site.
URL: article http://webreview.com/pub/2000/01/14/feature/index2.html?wwwrrr_20000114.txt
URL: Web Review http://webreview.com/
WebSideStory's StatMarket has reported that there seems to be a steady migration to higher screen resolutions by Internet users. The finding has important implications for web site designers who currently tend to design for the, "lowest common denominator", 640x480 pixel resolution.
This information, available at StatMarket.com, is based on data gathered in real time from more than 34,000,000 daily visitors to web sites using WebSideStory's HitBOX web traffic analysis technology. The numbers published to substantiate the claim reveal that:
- Surfers with monitors set to 640x480 pixels fell from 17.83 percent on January 17, 1999 to 13.75 percent on October 12, 1999, representing a drop of 28.6 percent.
- During the same period, users of 1024x768 resolution jumped from 20.48 percent to 25.87 percent, an increase of 26.3 percent.
- Web users with monitors set to the most common resolution of 800x600 pixels have maintained an approximate 54 percent share throughout this period as have users with 1280x1024 resolution, at approximately 2 percent.
URL: StatMarket.com http://www.statmarket.com/
URL: WebSideStory http://www.websidestory.com/
A "featured statistic" from WebSideStorys StatMarket service shows that "86.08% of Internet surfers worldwide use Microsoft Internet Explorer". According to StatMarket, usage of Internet Explorer has climbed steadily in the past 18 months, from 64.60% on February 8, 1999. Netscape usage share, meanwhile, has continued to fall, from 33.43% on February 9, 1999, to 13.90% on June 18, 2000. 11/07/00
As browser software has been upgraded, it is often easy to loose track of previous version. A site which features over 80 different browsers, is available for the curious.
RealNames Corp. has launched a service to enable web sites to use 'real names' instead of URLs. The service will cross-reference names chosen by subscribers to web pages and users will be able to enter the name in their browser or search engine instead of the URL. Some search engines already allow keywords instead of URLs and RealNames has signed an agreement with Microsoft for the system to be incorporated in IE5 in the future. Users can also download a software patch to enable the names to be used with their existing browsers. It costs $100 per year to register a name, but the terms and conditions are rather strong, for example RealNames only undertakes to accept 2500 name connections a month before additional charging comes into force.
Navworks, "the ultimate interface resource", has a web site full of interfaces, buttons, tricks and tutorials for Photoshop, Flash, Java. Some are free, others are not. Members pay for a year's worth of access.
An article on Jakob Neilsen's Alertbox site, considers the concept of "affiliates programmes" - where sites refer business to other sites and are paid a fee for doing so. The article includes a sidebar which outlines the strengths and weaknesses of affiliates programmes, and their future.
A number of discussion lists focusing on web authoring software have been brought to our attention. Each of them are styled as venues for sharing tips, techniques and user-to-user support for each of the products listed, providing the latest information pertaining to product itself and companion products. Lists are available for:
- Adobe's GoLive, the web site authoring software product;
- Macromedia's Dreamweaver web site authoring software product;
- Adobe's forthcoming InDesign page layout software product.
Macromedia Exchange for Dreamweaver has been designed as a web destination for the Macromedia Dreamweaver developer community. The site offers over 100 free downloadable extensions created by developers and third-parties that add helpful new features such as page reformatting, rich media integration, and e-commerce functionality to the Dreamweaver web editing software. It also offers information and discussions relating to the use of the package. 03/05/00
URL: Macromedia Exchange for Dreamweaver http://exchange.macromedia.com/
URL: Macromedia http://www.macromedia.com/
An IDC study of web developers and how they work is available on the web. The study set out to answer the question: "What is the state of Web application development today?" IDC e-mailed invitations to roughly 14,000 people who were thought to be web developers to fill in a web based survey questionnaire. 800 visited the site and 519 filled in the questionnaire. The report considers why businesses are moving to the web, what applications are being developed and what the developers want.
URL: report http://www.allaire.com/documents/reports/IDCReport.html
URL: IDC http://www.idcresearch.com/
A recently launched web site, targeting girls between 5 and 10 years of age, claims that pre-launch research highlighted girls not as "techno phobes" but as "content critics". The developers believe that whilst there are "literally hundreds of web sites overflowing with "zap" and "action" for boys, there is very little going on specifically for girls, especially when it comes to interactivity".
The site, MY LEGO SCALA PLANET, claims it focuses on "girls' most important values - story telling, strong characters and creative expression". This news item highlights a valid concern over the effects of digital technology on children's development, and in particular the role that gender plays in the receptiveness of individuals to particular styles of multimedia.
Cisco Systems has developed a new online resource, aimed at business managers, to "provide information and industry intelligence...in order to leverage the Net's potential". 06/12/00
IBM's developerWorks site is a potential goldmine of information, freeware and resources aimed at the web developer interested in using IBM-based software to build applications. Much of the software has been ported to Linux, in-line with IBM's corporate move towards supporting the operating system.
A recent addition is the new e-mail-based newsletter which gives the latest news, and links to resources (including Java, XML, Linux, Web architecture) that have been published on the site. The site itself has been enhanced with four expert-hosted discussion groups, and includes several new tutorials. Sign-up via the URL below. 06/12/00
Web Building is a section of the Netscape NetCentre site that focuses on building and maintaining web sites and web-based applications.
The June 17, 1999 issue (Vol. 3, No. 6) of View Source, the e-zine for web developers published by Netscape, includes articles entitled:
View Source is available on the web, where you can also sign-up for a free email alerter service.
The SiteExperts Community is a web site which provides discussion fora and resources focussing on web development.
The Web Developer's Virtual Library (WDVL) provides a wealth of resources for web developers. The site provides articles, tutorials and advice on web development technologies, their application and use. Users can also subscribe to a weekly email newsletter which updates subscribers with details of the latest information added to the site.
The site provides news and reviews on web development tools, techniques and trends.
A number of web sites have information on correctly citing Internet and other on-line articles and resources:
Zuberlinks is styled as "The Guide to Links for Webmasters, Web Designers, and Web Producers". Providing a particularly good aide memoire for web managers, the links are divided into sections on domain registration and hosting; tools; policies and legal information; design - including fonts and type, stock photography; developments and programming; e-business; and organisations.
Poor Richard's web site provides useful information on setting up a web site, such as tips for choosing a host service. It is run by Peter Kent, author of a best selling book on setting up low-cost web sites. There is a free newsletter that you can subscribe to from the site.
An article, "Locating public domain images", published in the online publication, College and Research Societies News, provides commentary and links on locating public domain images for web use. The web site also provides some excellent links pages (accessible from the main e-zine page), such as one focussing on GIS, featured in the news item below.
URL: Locating public domain images http://www.ala.org/acrl/resjan98.html
URL: main e-zine page http://www.ala.org/acrl/c&rlnew2.html
Corbis, a privately owned US company, has a collection of over 25 million photographic and fine art images. Around one and half million of these are available online, with a selection available royalty-free. The Corbis web site includes a thesaurus-based search engine and on-line ordering system.
The site entitled: "Guidelines for Publishing and Promoting an Email Newsletter" provides useful tips including: suggested content; characteristics of "good" newsletters; announcing and registering newsletters. The section on "other ways to promote your newsletter" provides a list of links to sites that can be used to promote online information services.
A Directory of Electronic Journals and Newsletters is complied by the Association of Research Libraries in the US, and currently contains over 1700 entries - which gives an idea of how fast this type of electronic publishing is growing.
The Internet Scout Project sponsored by the US National Science Foundation to: "provide timely information to the education community about valuable Internet resources". Electronic newsletters can be registered at the site for inclusion in Scout Reports.
A survey entitled, "STM online journals 1990-95 the calm before the storm" has been compiled by the multimedia research group at Southampton University in the UK.
EzineUniversity is a web site offering advice, articles, free training courses, and ready-made e-zines to help publishers create their own online publications. EzineUniversity's reference section lists advertisers and promotions, content providers, writers, discussion lists, forums, list managers and dozens of other resources related to online publishing.
The original "EZU Tutor" guides publishers through the process of creating an e-zine from start to finish, based on selected subject matter. The EZU Course Catalog offers seven levels of e-zine education, beginning with the basics in "What is an E-zine? The History of E-mail Marketing", and going through "Use Affiliate Programs to Create Your Additional Revenue Streams from Your E-Zine".
The December 1999 issue (Volume 5, Issue 2) of the Journal of Electronic Publishing, published by the University of Michigan Press includes: "Five Years and Counting ", (by the editor of the E-ZINE LIST, a record of online magazines), which explains how e-zines are becoming big business.
The backlist of the Journals from the past two years, with links to the articles published in them, are also accessible from the site.
Research carried out at the University of Applied Sciences, Wiesbaden, Germany under the Empirical Web Analysis (EWA) project has investigated the discrepancies between commercial and academic websites. The project confirmed striking differences between the approaches of the two sectors to web design. A summary of the report has been published in English whilst the full version is published in German.
In-line with the common perception that academic sites play a leading role in communication, the researchers found that the educational sites embedded far higher numbers of mail and ftp addresses in their pages than did commercial sites. A number of reports, in German, written by the head of the EWA research effort, Volker Turau are also published on the web.
URL: English summary http://www.informatik.fh-wiesbaden.de/~turau/reports/design.html
URL: German full report http://www.informatik.fh-wiesbaden.de/~turau/reports/ewa.html
URL: EWA research http://www.informatik.fh-wiesbaden.de/~turau/reports/techreports.html
A weekly update on many of the surveys carried out concerning web and Internet demographics and use is carried out by NUA. A free weekly news service can be subscribed to at the site.
A site of interest if you are trying to find information about the Internet (or indeed anything else) is published in the information directory.
The Graphic, Visualization, & Usability Center's (GVU) 9th WWW User Survey was carried out from April 10, 1998 through May 15, 1998 with the endorsement of the World Wide web Consortium (W3C) and INRIA. Over 10,000 web users participated and were questioned in the following areas:
electronic commerce, general demographics, technology demographics, data privacy, web and Internet usage, Software Filters and Content Rating, Internet shopping, Internet banking, Beliefs About Society, cultural issues and webmasters.
Key survey results showed: a continuing growth of female Internet users; browser switching with a growth in Microsoft market share; only 4% of users connect with 14.4Kbs modems or slower.
URL: GVU http://www.gvu.gatech.edu/
URL: survey http://www.gvu.gatech.edu/user_surveys/
Zona Research has released its final browser study, which tracks browsers used in the US corporate environment. When Zona's browser study was first conducted in January 1996, there were nine companies fighting for a market estimated at the time as being worth US$ 200 million dollars. Now, almost four years later, two have emerged as the dominant players for what Zona term "a zero dollar market".
In their final browser study Zona reports that Microsoft's Internet Explorer was the primary browser choice for 64% of the responding organisations while 36% of the respondents indicated Netscape's Navigator.
Forty-two percent of the top-ranked web sites either took longer than five days to reply to customer e-mail enquiries, never replied, or were not accessible by e-mail according to a report issued today by Jupiter Communications.
The report, from Jupiter's Strategic Planning Services (SPS) clients, focused on 125 sites in five categories: content, consumer brands, travel, retail, and financial services. Most retail shopping sites performed the best, with 54 percent responding in less than one day. However, in some segments there is ample room for improvement. For example, 19 percent of the travel sites tested took at least three days or never responded to Jupiter's enquiries.
In order to respond in a timely manner the report recommends that sites develop or utilise some form of "auto-acknowledge" feature that responds to all incoming requests stating that the question was received and estimates a time frame for how long it will take to respond to the question. The report also recommends that sites continue to focus on building ongoing communication with users. Reassuring customers that a transaction is proceeding as planned and giving users multiple opportunities to access context-sensitive support options will help to eliminate user demand for support.
URL: report http://www.jup.com/jupiter/press/releases/1998/1109a.html
URL: Jupiter http://www.jup.com/
SearchEngineWatch provides reviews and resources on web search engines, publishing the e-zine, Search Engine Report. Of particular interest are the notes concerning how different commercial web search engines index web pages - giving suggestions as to how best to design websites to take advantage. For a comprehensive list of commercial search software, see the Products page on this site.
An interesting comparison of web search engines has been published. It makes the assertion that all of the well-known web search engines other than Lycos use word proximity matching.
The edition dated November 3, 2000 focusses on the subject of paid listings which are changing the search engine landscape "rapidly". A particular form is called "paid inclusion", apparently now in place at Ask Jeeves, LookSmart and Inktomi, and which is highly likely to improve a sites visibility. The articles differentiate between terms such as "inclusion" and "placement", providing excellent tips as to how these latest developments in the commercialisation of the web are likely to impact the "visibility" of sites via the most popular indexes. 14/11/00
URL: subscribe http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/
Adobe are offering a search engine which provides "more than a million summaries of Portable Document Format (PDF) files on the web". The search results show document summaries, allowing users to decide before downloading the original PDF file. The company note that the service is currently for demonstration only. 13/06/00
The Search Engine Report of July 6, 1999 ran a brief article entitled: "The Invisible Web Revealed" which highlights how to search for resources on the web that are currently "locked away" in databases. Such information is usually invisible to search engines and the article explains how such resources may be made more "visible" and hence accessible. The article gives links to some initial "catalogues" of such databases.
URL: SearchEngineWatch http://www.searchenginewatch.com
URL: comparison http://www.netstrider.com/search/features.html
Searchpower.com is a directory providing links to, and classifications of, around 1,700 search engines available worldwide.
The Pandia Search Central, claims to be "a site dedicated to productive Internet searching". The Pandia Search Central has been established to help people use the several advanced search services from engines such as Alta Vista and HotBot and directories such as Yahoo and Snaps, via a single point. The site also provides:
- a short and easy search tutorial;
- a page with links to, and search forms for, important search engines and directories;
- a page dedicated to searching for news, a Newsreport with the headlines of the day, as well as a special resource page, which covers other search-oriented sites and tutorials.
Pandia.com is not a "dot com"-company as such. It is owned, designed, written and edited by a couple from Norway: Per and Susanne Koch. The author's like to think that this "proves that 'ordinary citizens' can develop professional sites that benefit the whole net community". 25/02/00
The Spire project is dedicated to improving research on the web. It covers how to find many different types of information from statistics to books, and patents to libraries. There is a section on the differences between search engines and what type of searches they are suited to best. The information is also available zipped for download and use offline. 26/04/00
Declan Butler, the European Correspondent of Nature thought readers of El.pub might be interested in a news and features article entitled, "Souped-up search engines" he has published in Nature recently.
For scientists, finding the information they want on the World Wide Web is a hit-and-miss affair. But, as the author reports, more sophisticated and specialised search technologies are promising to change all that. The article is freely accessible at the URL below. 16/05/00
An NEC Research Institute study analyses the accessibility and distribution of information on the web. The study, which appeared in the July 8, 1999 issue of the journal Nature, concluded that search engines do not index sites equally, may not index new pages for months, and no engine indexes more than about 16% of the web. The study findings indicate:
- Low coverage - search engine coverage has decreased substantially since December 1997, with no engine indexing more than about 16% of the web.
- Unequal access - search engines are more likely to index sites that have more links to them (more "popular" sites). They are also typically more likely to index US sites than non-US sites, and more likely to index commercial sites than educational sites.
- Out-of-date - indexing of new or modified pages by just one of the major search engines can take months.
- Amount of information - the publicly indexable web contains about 800 million pages encompassing about 15 terabytes of data (about 6 terabytes of textual content after removing HTML tags, comments, and extra whitespace); it also contains about 180 million images.
- Type of information - 83% of sites contain commercial content and 6% contain scientific/educational content. Only 1.5% of sites contain pornographic content.
The report goes on to comment that the web is transforming society, and that search engines are an important part of the process. Consumers use search engines daily to locate and buy goods or to research many decisions (such as choosing a vacation destination, medical treatment or election vote). As the web becomes a major communications medium, the data on it must be made more accessible.
Search engine indexing and ranking may have economic, social, political, and scientific effects. For example, indexing and ranking of online stores can substantially effect economic viability; delayed indexing of scientific research can lead to the duplication of work; and delayed or biased indexing may affect social or political decisions. One of the great promises of the web is to equalize access to information.
With the web fast becoming the major communications medium, attention should be paid to the accessibility of information on the web, in order to minimise unequal access to information, and maximise the benefits of the web for society. For more information on this NEC Research Institute study, contact Dr. Steve Lawrence at the email below.
Search Engine Showdown is a well constructed site that reviews the features and search capabilities of search engines. It provides statistics used for comparisons of performance, and gives suggestions for how to search the web and when to use which tool. It provides an overview of searchable databases of Usenet news postings and their specialised searchable Internet resources including directories of email lists. There are also links to other search engine resources.
The Web Site Journal, a free e-zine concentrating on matters relating to running web sites, provided some statistics concerning the top referring protocols of visitors to their site: Web Page (links) 49.52%; Search Engine 4.95%; Web Mail (eg. Netscape Webmail, Hotmail) 0.12%; Email Client (eg. Outlook, Lotus Notes) 0.11%; News Group 0.04%; Unknown 45.26%.
No details were given concerning the parameters of the research and so the results can only be viewed as circumstantial - but the figures were used to challenge the often held view of the importance of web search engines in driving visits to web sites.
There are a number of commercial products which automate placing and maintaining banner ads on websites. More recent software claims to enable targeted advertising based on the notion of "understanding" a visitor's requirements (for a selection of these see the section on website advertising on the products page on this site).
There are also many programs providing web log analysis from which web masters hope to glean an appreciation of their visitors requirements. However most of the methods employed by these products have been developed independently and from a potential advertisers perspective can seem to be unregulated/unverifiable. The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) runs a website which publishes independent audits of the activity on the websites of its members. ABC circulation figures are one of the quantitative measures used by purchasers of advertising in the print media to assess the suitability of periodicals' readership for the advertising message.
The ABC wish to extend their quantitative approach to online media. For details of the the ABC Interactive's role and methodology see their website. There are also commercial companies offering similar services, see the website analysis section on the products page.
The Streaming Media Advertising Advisory Council (SMAAC), a group of advertising professionals determining the landscape of streaming media advertising. SMAAC is concerned with establishing a framework that considers both online and offline advertising practices, setting standards for advertising principles such as ad buying/selling, audience measurement, ad deployment and tracking.
URL: SMAAC http://www.smaac.net/
We were sent a press release, advertising Adbin from a company called Paw-Print Software. According to the publicity, Adbin integrates with Microsofts Internet Explorer to remove advertising from web pages as they are downloaded.
Paw-Print note that as a shareware product it should be distributed via shareware websites, but as many of these are supported through advertising they have understandably declined to distribute it. You could see for yourself how effective the software is, by downloading it from the Paw-Print website. 03/03/00
URL: Adbin download http://paw-print.com/ab/distrib/abinst.exe
URL: Paw-Print http://paw-print.com/
An article published at the Web Developer's Virtual Library considers the use of web server log files to develop a strategy for building traffic on a web site and to measure it's effectiveness.
europemedia.com is a free weekly news report covering developments in European online markets. It published a news item: "What do online publishers offer advertisers?" reporting on a number of German media associations - BDZV (newspapers), DMMV (multimedia producers), VDZ (magazines) and VPRT (private broadcasters) - who have defined a standard for ad-reporting. They are, however, still debating a number of criteria relevant to measuring the effect of dynamic advertisements.
URL: BDZV: http://www.bdzv.de
URL: DMMV: http://www.dmmv.de
URL: VDZ: http://www.vdz.de
URL: VPRT: http://www.vprt.de
adXML.org is an international consortium of commercial companies which is aiming to define an advertising XML schema for both on-line and off-line media.
The site includes details of the adXML formats being developed, and a resources page includes links to standards and XML-based activities in related sectors. 03/03/00
The "Music for New Media" monthly e-zine for March, reports on an article entitled, "Ads Take Aim at Online Music" by Christopher Jones, published in Wired News, concerning the embedding of advertisments into audio streams. An example given is of New York-based EcerAd which is apparently planning to test the concept with a new technology that embeds banner ads in the free music tracks listeners download to a PC. When the track is played, a revolving series of ads comes up regardless of whether a user is online or offline, and stays in the forefront of the screen during the duration of the song. 07/03/00
URL: article http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,34653,00.html
URL: "Music for New Media" web archive http://www.emf.org/guidetotheworld/resources/mnm
Tetranet Software has changed its name to Watchfire, and has launched a new web site which focuses on "e-business quality analysis ('e-quality') solutions". The company is currently expanding its web site testing and analysis software and on-line service solutions aimed at organisations "to ensure that their sites provide uninterrupted and high quality service".
The W3C-LA (Leveraging Action), is one of the European Commission's "Leveraging Actions for Software Technologies", sponsored by the Esprit programme, the goal of which is to promote W3C results throughout Europe using demonstrators which address issues such as:
- performance, and the necessary evolution of HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) to impact the performance of the web for the service provider and end-user
- content design, including the use of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and features of HTML (HyperText Markup Language) to achieve best practice for the content provider
- trust, to utilise PICS (Platform for Internet Content Selection) to label, rate and filter material on the Internet and for workflow within an Intranet
- Europeanisation, to enable the development of multilingual information services
- synchronisation and vector graphics, to synchronise information in different media and to optimise performance for schematic and vector graphics
W3C-LA is run by INRIA (the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control) in partnership with the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils-Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK.
IBM developerWorks Newsletter reports on a few potentially interesting news items for El.pub readers:
IBM provides a web site with information about systems for users with special needs. At present it features IBM's new talking web browser, and WYNN for dyslexic users. The site also has links to other special needs sites.
URL: US http://www.austin.ibm.com/sns/
URL: France http://www.fr.ibm.com/france/enfrance/social/cisph.htm
URL: Germany http://www.weirich.deu.net/
The Web Accessibility Initiative has as a mission: "the W3C's commitment to lead the web to its full potential includes promoting a high degree of usability for people with disabilities". The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), in coordination with organisations around the world, is pursuing accessibility of the web through five primary areas of work: technology, guidelines, tools, education and outreach, and research & development. WAI have recently published a number of guidelines for web publishers including page author guidelines and a quicktips page.
The "Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0" have W3C Recommendation status. Each guideline has associated "checkpoints" explaining how these accessibility principles apply to specific features of sites. Specifics on how to implement the checkpoints with the latest versions of mark-up or presentation languages such as HTML, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), or SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language) are described in a parallel "Techniques" document, to be updated periodically.
URL: WAI http://www.w3.org/WAI/
URL: QuickTips page http://www.w3.org/WAI/References/QuickTips
The W3C has released the "Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines 1.0" (ATAG 1.0) specification, as a Recommendation. The specification provides guidance as to how developers of authoring tools, such as HTML editors and site management tools, can encourage and assist in the production of accessible web content through prompts, alerts, checking, repair functions, and help files in their tools.
In addition to their value to accessibility, many of the principles addressed in the specification, such as the importance of producing and preserving valid markup, promote interoperability of the web in general. According to the W3C, ATAG 1.0 addresses a broad range of tools, including WYSIWYG editors, "save-as-HTML" conversion tools, tools that dynamically generate content from databases, formatting tools, image editors, and site management tools. 08/02/00
Bobby is a web-based tool that analyses web pages for their accessibility to people with disabilities. Bobby's analysis of accessibility is based on the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Web pages can be checked online or the complete system downloaded for free. Bobby was created by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), a not-for-profit organisation whose mission is to expand opportunities for people with disabilities through innovative uses of computer technology. Other resources on their site include the text of the book, "Learning to Read in the Computer Age".
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