A Tale of Two Sites
John Nemo Welcomes You
When I decided to create my own Internet domain, http://www.JohnNemo.com, I vowed to make my site the easiest on the entire web to use and navigate. You can determine if I succeeded next time you are browsing.
My goal was to have a photo, so e-pals could see what I looked like, plus links for the My Mac Magazine site and the archives of my monthly columns. I created a custom email address, which auto-forwards to my personal address, and I provided another address for my webmaster, who happens to be in Switzerland!
That’s it. No Java, no Shockwave, no animated GIFs, none of it. When you set up your own website, go ahead and add all those fancy features, but I won’t be one of your enthusiastic visitors. For me the web means CONTENT, SPEED, and EASY TO NAVIGATE. End of lecture. Which sites are your personal favorites, and why?
Edward and Me
I have an sporadic client, Edward, who needs my tutorial help every month or two. He has much more experience with Macintosh and the Internet than I do, most of it disastrous. As his confidence grows, he becomes more ambitious, and we are getting involved in some fascinating problems, with occasional solutions.
Our recent sessions have concentrated on the website http://www.bigcharts.com, a free investment charting service. Edward is retired, and his goal is to keep track of his company’s stock, comparing it to several benchmark indices over various time frames. The theory is complicated, and I am not qualified to explain it, but this site provides exactly what Edward needs.
When I saw all the powerful features and interactive buttons built into Big Charts, I was intimidated, and, more important, thought we were headed for Crash City. Wow, was I wrong. Edward and I explored the site, first becoming acquainted with its robust potential, then working on the first stage of his research project.
Big Charts is sponsored by advertisers, and doesn’t require a subscription or any user information. The last time I browsed through recommended investment-related URLs, most of them needed to know something about me, and many demanded some $$$ in order to subscribe. I was not interested. I decided that whenever I really needed to have access to proprietary investment material, I could go to the public library, or hope that a new and totally free website would become available to peasants such as myself.
Whether or not you care about moving averages or historical quotes, take a patient peek at Big Charts, and let me know how it fits your criteria for excellent, full-featured websites.
Encyclopedia, Of Course
Three weeks ago I was reading a biweekly snail subscription newsletter called Bottom Line http://www.boardroom.com. I am a paid subscriber to this excellent digest of “news I can use.” Bottom Line has, finally, started mentioning recommended websites for its readers.
I was intrigued by the mention of the online edition of Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia, which I knew from my childhood years. Now, at http://www.funkandwagnalls.com, everyone who registers for free (and accepts a few cookies) has access to the entire encyclopedia, plus a handy supply of related reference material. I know there are a bunch of other encyclopedia URLs, but this was the first time I used one for “hard” information. Which competing sites are your favorites?
I am currently teaching a short course on the major musicians of the Baroque era (Vivaldi, Telemann, Handel, and Bach), and I needed concise definitions for my class: Baroque, Concerto, Oratorio, Thirty Years War, several biographies, and a few more topics. Funk and Wagnalls has precisely the right amount of information for my classroom use, and everything I was looking for was listed.
Printing from the web
Most people print webpages as-is, complete with ads, headers, and footers. I find that in my quest for CONTENT, much less than 100 percent of the webpage contains the textual material I want to print.
Unless I need an entire page for some documentary reason, I either Select All the page, then Copy and Paste it into a new ClarisWorks (or better, Tex-Edit Plus) word processing document, then edit, format, and print it off my hard disk. When only a portion of the text is worth printing, I often Highlight, Copy, and Paste it, making the process more efficient.
Philippe, my talented webmaster, agrees:
Regarding printing from the web, I use Tex-Edit Plus exactly like you for archiving almost everything I read on the web. I find it crucial though to add the source URL and the date to every page I save. I automated the whole process using KeyQuencer, although there are other utilities you can use for the same purpose (OneClick, QuicKeys, or Speed Doubler).
Can you recommend superior methods? I am trying to avoid special software for this purpose, because my text-only needs are so modest.
A Demand for the Best
Aside from my personal webpage, I enthusiastically tell people about Big Charts and Funk and Wagnalls, because I use them myself, and am consistently impressed. If they add more features, I may take my browser business elsewhere, because they might cause crashes or delays, with no additional benefit.
The Webby Awards for 1999 have just been announced, at http://www.webbyawards.com. At this URL you will find links to all the current and previous years’ winners. Many of these sites are familiar to me, and to you, and most represent large, successful, commercial enterprises (with a few genuine surprises).
What are these webmasters and designers doing that makes judges consider their sites to be superior? For me, and the URLs I visit from the lists, the answer is (hold your breath) CONTENT, SPEED, and EASY TO NAVIGATE. Sure, there can be extra goodies for webheads who like the thrill of the latest and greatest technologies, but most of these winners are rather conservative in design, even when their scope is gigantic.
On With the Show?
The Internet, and the WWW in particular, is a work in progress. Each of us, in our own way, is both a current participant and shaper of future directions. I encourage you to write to webmasters of the URLs you prefer and the ones you hate, explaining patiently why their sites affect you so strongly. They care, and they appreciate your contact.
Don’t shoot the messenger. Treat these professional and amateur websters with respect, and the online community will be better for your participation.
Keep me informed along the way, and I will print your messages in a future column. Until then, here’s a quick tip: turn off your Images if you have a need for speed and are on a slower modem connection, then load the images on an as-needed basis.
Until next month.