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HOME - Time to fix the product website

Posted by malcolmdavis on January 9, 2006 at 10:45 AM PST

Valid HTML

I received a link to a company that does website development and marketing. I went to kick the tires by first running an HTML validator across the site. It was interesting the massive number of HTML errors, missing tags, etc. Additionally, the site also looked different in multiple browsers. A disappointing website, but not uncommon.

There is no reason for a website to have HTML validation problems. Multiple free and commercial tools exist to validate HTML. W3.orgs (http://validator.w3.org/) provides a free validation service that checks HTML conformance to W3C Recommendations. If you are responsible for a big site that undergoes a great deal of change, you may require something like http://www.netmechanic.com/.

There are also plugins for your favorite IDE. However, products like Netmechanic goes way beyond the simple HTML schema check by providing estimated download performance, browser capability checks, broken links, spelling, and can be automated to send reports on website status.

HOME page name

It is remarkable the number of sites that contain 'Home' as part of the title, and sometimes just the word 'Home'. A much better name than 'MyCoolTool Home' would be 'MyCoolTool - Java XYZ Service'. Another nice feature is to distinguish the title of each website page, example 'MyCoolTool - Downloads'.

Description and Keyword meta-tags

The meta-tags description and keywords help with search engines optimization, and when the user bookmarks the website. Search engine's can use the additional meta-tag data to help index, as well as provide additional information about pages. NOTE: In an effort to get a higher website ratings, some people try to be sneaky and spam keywords. Search engines have caught on to the practice, going as far as removing the offending "keyword spam" site from the search engine index.

Generally all you see is the webpage title when bookmarking a site. However, the page property in FireFox also stores the description and keyword. In FireFox, the description will show up when managing pages.

You can look at the HTML source of Java.net to see an example of 'description' and 'keyword' meta-tag usage. I wish Java.net filled in the description and keyword meta-tags for blogs. :-)

Favorite Icon

Favicon gives a web site identity. Favicon is a small image displayed by a browser in the address box, the bookmark menu, and on FireFox's bookmark toolbar. You should see a small 'j.n' image for Java.net.

My bookmarks on Firefox toolbar use the favicons rather than the names. By using the icon, I can save space and get more on the toolbar. Favicon creation and usage is simple, instructions on how to make a favicon can be found at http://www.rw-designer.com/favicon

Layout

There are multiple sites, articles, and books on the topic of engineering the "user experience". My favorite UI book is Alan Cooper's "About Face". The most basic concept of UI design:

  • The user simply wants to be productive.
  • No matter how cool your interface is, less of it would be better.

NOTE: The UI concepts can also be applied to API design.

  • Developers just want to be productive.
  • No matter how cool your API is, less of it would be better

Summary

Visitors appreciate valid HTML, good website titles, and a productive layout. Using a Favicon, a site is more likely to show up on someone's bookmark toolbar.

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