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Slow loading pages are site killers. Splash screens as well. Most ... appear to know such things. And most know ... to demand the download of some plug in to view their site. Still, many

Slow loading pages are site killers. Splash screens as well.
Most webmasters appear to know such things. And most know better
than to demand the download of some plug in to view their site.
Still, many are breaking other rules as if unaware even of their
existence. The cost in doing so is incalculable, as it amounts
to what visitors might have bought had they lingered for a time.

I find the following rules broken routinely. And it
continues to puzzle me. It is difficult to believe anybody
who has put together a website is unaware of these rules.
If they are aware of them, and break them, this makes even
less sense. Whatever the case, here they are.

What's In This For Me?

When a visitor hits your site, there is no thought of you,
your site, or how hard you worked to put it all together. All
that matters is the above question. And you have only a few
seconds in which to answer it to your visitor's satisfaction.

So what's with the giant logo up top that fills half the
first screen? Or that blinding, bright red slogan sprawled
across the width of the page? What's with that blue and purple
thing to the right whirling like crazy?

Such things to do not answer your visitor's question.
In fact they send the mouse cursor scurrying to hover over
the Back button.

About Table Width

One that's becoming a favorite of mine is ...

This site is best viewed with your browser
window adjusted to 800 x 600 pixels.

Hey, if I've got a horizontal scroll bar, I know this is so.
Why waste valuable space belaboring the obvious? And if you
think I'm going to readjust my window dimensions to accommodate
you, you're out of your mind.

And what about those WebTV viewers? 12 million, maybe. What
are they supposed to adjust? And of those 24 million AOL members
who use the AOL browser, what magic button do they press to
increase the maximum of 585 pixels to your "desired" setting?

As recently as January, 2001, TheCounter.Com reported 7% of
surfers are still using 640 pixel monitors. Do you expect these
people to try a hammer or something?

Your site is not about you or what you want. It's all about
your visitors and what they want. Provided you want to sell,
that is.

A Fast, Easy Read Is What It's All About

While other factors of your website matter a great deal,
nothing matters more that providing pages that are quick and easy
to read. Picture a fellow standing in a crowded subway car,
bumped and joggled this way and that, trying to read the evening
paper. How much patience does he have with copy difficult to

The same is true of your visitors. Can you draw them past
your headline? Do your sub-headings grab attention? Will one
of them slow your visitor long enough to start reading that
body copy you so laboriously crafted?

If they do, they won't stay long with line lengths greater
than 65 characters. Give me five bucks for every site I've seen
bust this rule, and I can afford to take the next couple of years

New Happenings Don't Change Old Rules

Sure, the Web is new. But some things don't change. Parents
and teachers have been searching frantically for over a hundred
years for better ways to teach kids how to read. Why? Because
the better kids read, the better they do in school. Drop the
accumulated research into the lake of your choice and watch the
water level rise ominously.

Long before the Web was dreamt of, we knew the maximum line
length for easy reading was 65 characters. Violate this rule
as you please, but the existence of the Web does not change it.

Grab a couple of novels off your book shelf and start
counting characters. If you find a line with more than 65
characters, it's got a lot of narrow ones in it. Publishers are
keenly aware of this rule. Many webmasters either are not, or
choose to ignore it. Either way, say bye-bye to those visitors
who expect and demand a fast, easy read.

If Line Length Didn't Run Them Off, Try New Times Roman!

Look, this isn't a debatable point. That New Time Roman,
or a close cousin, is the favored font in the print world, means
nothing on a computer monitor. Not one darned thing. In print,
it's those serifs that make Times Roman so easy to read; they
accent the character for quicker identification.

But those same serifs slow reading on a monitor by over 20%.
Why? Simple. It's a matter of pixels.

If you display 80 characters in Courier on one line in a 600
pixel window, this means you have roughly 7 pixels in width for
each character. Draw an array of dots to represent pixels 7 wide
and 9 tall. Maybe duplicate the pattern several times with an
editor, then print it. Now try drawing some characters.

It won't take long to discover that there aren't many dots
that can be used to draw lines at an angle. That's why italic
is so faint and hard to read on a monitor.

If that's not a sufficient challenge, try drawing some
circles by connecting dots. The kind of circles used to create
the serifs in Times Roman. Little tiny circles. You'll make a
mess of it, I guarantee, just as your monitor does.

The Better Choices

Since reading is about 25% slower on a monitor compared to
printed material, you need to make a special effort to produce
copy quick and easy to read. Holding line lengths under 65
characters helps.

Use Arial or Verdana. The latter is best for there is more
space between characters, which helps avoid the big black
globbiness of large blocks of text.

Forget the screen sized logos and company slogans. Answer
that question: What's in it for me? And at all cost make it easy
to read your page and copy. Provided you do want sales, that is.

Forget animation, flash, and such. It only interrupts the
reader. Picture that all important line at the bottom of your
presentation: Click To Order. Then a half inch below it, a
multi-colored whirling gizmo.

Will the reader's attention remain focused on the link and
the action you want taken? Or will attention be distracted by
the whirling gizmo? If it is, will it ever return to your link?
MaybeFind Article, but I won't bet on it.

Article Tags: Times Roman

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Bob McElwain
Want to build a winning site? Improve one you already
have? Fix one that's busted? Get ANSWERS. Subscribe
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Web marketing and consulting since 1993
Phone: 209-742-6349

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