Re: The Speed of the sound of webwork

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From: Kragen Sitaker (
Date: Wed May 17 2000 - 10:58:05 PDT

Tom Whore writes:
> What i need from you folks is any papers or the like that you have come
> across or written that breaks down WEb DEv into logical components, sets
> the roles of the designer and the programmer down...inshort a blue print
> to show idjiots and that has names other than mione on it.
> Ive treid to sell them on webdav, on a slew of brass tack approcahes, but
> its all about he hype here. We got one "web designer" who is selling them
> on the "design" is everything approach so much so that he thinks he cna
> know do code..whcih he can, so long as he is stealing it from my pages and
> not crediting me..ugh...he even copied a page i left with mistakes on
> it...and another with the authors real name in comments.. is good. If you can force them to read
certain bits of it, they will come to the conclusion that your "web
designer" is a moron. The fact that Philip is the CEO of a
privately-held web design company that makes tens of millions of
dollars per year may help to convince them that he's not full of shit.

        It's Hard to Mess Up a Simple Page

        People with limited time, money, and experience usually build
        fairly usable Web sites. However, there is no publishing
        concept so simple that money, knowledge of HTML arcana, and
        graphic design can't make slow, confusing, and painful for
        users. After you've tarted up your site with frames, graphics,
        and color, check the server log to see how much traffic has
        fallen. Then ask yourself whether you shouldn't have thought
        about user interface stability.

        CD-ROMs are faster, cheaper, more reliable, and a more engaging
        audio/visual experience than the Web. Why then do they sit on
        the shelf while users greedily surf the slow, unreliable,
        expensive Web? Stability of user interface.

        There are many things wrong with HTML. It is primitive as a
        formatting language and it is almost worthless for defining
        document structure. Nonetheless, the original Web/HTML model
        has one big advantage: All Web pages look and work more or less
        the same. You see something black, you read it. You see
        something gray, that's the background. You see something blue
        (or underlined), you click on it.

        When you use a set of traditional Web sites, you don't have to
        learn anything new. Every CD-ROM, on the other hand, has a sui
        generis user interface. Somebody thought it would be cute to
        put a little navigation cube at the bottom right of the
        screen. Somebody else thought it would be neat if you clicked
        on the righthand page of an open book to take you to the next
        page. Meanwhile, you sit there for 15 seconds feeling
        frustrated, with no clue that you are supposed to do anything
        with that book graphic on the screen. The CD-ROM goes back on
        the shelf. The beauty of Netscape 2.0 and more recent browsers
        is that they allow the graphic designers behind Web sites to
        make their sites just as opaque and hard to use as CD-ROMs.
        Graphic designers are not user interface designers. If you read
        a book like the Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines (Apple
        Computer, Inc.; Addison-Wesley, 1993), you will appreciate what
        kind of thought goes into a well-designed user interface. Most
        of it has nothing to do with graphics and appearance. Pull-down
        menus are not better than pop-up menus because they look
        prettier; they are better because you always know exactly where
        to find the Print command.

. . .

        Maybe you have infinite money and can buy the book plus a raft
        of multimedia authors. It still might be worth remembering what
        brought users to the Web in the first place: control and depth.
        Software like Java and Shockwave enables you to lead users
        around by the nose. Flash them a graphic here, play them a
        sound there, roll the credits, and so on. But is that really
        why they came to your site? If they want to be passive, how
        come they aren't watching TV or going to a lecture?

And from

        You're building a database. You're modelling data from the real
        world. You're going to have to write computer programs in a
        formal language. You have to design a user interface for that
        computer program. If you had an MBA then your natural first
        step would be . . . hire a graphic designer. After all, this
        computer stuff is confusing. Databases frighten you. What you
        really need is something that will look good at your next
        meeting. Graphic designers make pages that look good. You can
        always hire a programmer later to actually make the forms

        The server logs of these MBAs would be a lot fatter if graphic
        design were the same thing as user interface design. You are
        building a program. The user interface happens to be Web pages.
        The links among the pages are part of the user interface.
        Whoever puts in those links has to understand whether the
        server can actually answer the query and, if so, how much
        crunching will be required.

> Which clashes with other things in my life, like being engaged as of
> friday to be married.


<>       Kragen Sitaker     <>
The Internet stock bubble didn't burst on 1999-11-08.  Hurrah!
The power didn't go out on 2000-01-01 either.  :)

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