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E-Business Secrets

'Homepage Usability' provides data on successful sites
More tips on making your Web site a winner

By  Brian Livingston June 25, 2002  

This week, I continue my summary of "Homepage Usability," by Internet consultants Jakob Nielsen and Marie Tahir, which dissects the home pages of 50 of the Web's most popular destinations.


1. NAVIGATION. The book's study found that 30 percent of the top sites use a left-hand navigation column to help visitors find relevant pages, while an equal 30 percent use tabs across the top of the home page. Other interfaces include links across the top and categories in the middle. The only style that the authors don't recommend is pull-down menus "because they hide the choices most of the time."

2. SITE MAP. Only 48 percent of the sites provided a site map. If you use one, the authors recommend extensively testing it with real users to make sure it actually provides a workable interface for your visitors.

3. SIGN IN. Slightly more than half the sites studied offered registered users a way to log in on the home page. Significantly, none of the sites required registration before visitors could gain access to basic features. It's important to clearly separate the way new users register from the way existing customers log in.

4. ABOUT US. An "About Us" link (or "About Firm-Name") was a feature of 84 percent of the sites. The authors highly recommend having this, because it is "one of the most trust-enhancing features you can add."

5. CONTACT INFO. Almost every major site provides a way to find a mailing address or customer service telephone number for the business. This information was provided through a separate Contact Us link on the home page or as part of the About Us page 82 percent of the time.

6. PRIVACY POLICY. A total of 86 percent of the sites included a link to the company's privacy policy. The book's authors also recommend that a privacy statement accompany every spot where you ask for information (when requesting an e-mail address, for instance).

7. JOB OPENINGS. An explicit link for job seekers was provided on 74 percent of the home pages, with another 8 percent of sites offering this on their About Us page. Visiting a company's Web site to find ways to apply for employment seems common enough that a specific link for this function seems called for.

I'll continue my summary of the book's most important conclusions in my next issue.

"HOMEPAGE USABILITY" RATES THE GOOD AND THE BAD: http://www.amazon.com http://bri.li/?073571102X

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E-Business Secrets will not be published or e-mailed next week due to the Fourth of July holiday. The next issue will be sent to you on July 11.

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Danny Sullivan writes in his Search Engine Watch newsletter that hand-to-mouth Web sites may still be able to submit themselves to Yahoo.com without paying Yahoo's new $299 annual listing fee.

Joe Petrow, the operator of a personal Web site that bears his name, says his free submission tool works on Yahoo's business-oriented pages where only the $299 option is shown. Petrow's method submits the URL of your choice directly to Yahoo, as is possible on other, less-commercial Yahoo pages.

The downside is that unpaid submissions may never be listed or even acknowledged by Yahoo. But several sites have achieved Yahoo listings through Petrow's site. If your site is a serious business, I say pay the $299. But if you're broke and in no hurry, a free submission may help.

JOE PETROW'S FREE SUBMISSION TOOL FOR YAHOO LISTINGS: http://www.joepetrow.com http://bri.li/?7571

DANNY SULLIVAN'S SEARCH ENGINE WATCH WEB SITE: http://www.searchenginewatch.com http://bri.li/?88f9

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1. NPR raises hackles by demanding permission for links

http://www.wired.com http://bri.li/?429

2. New law allows FBI to get library records and more

http://www.sfgate.com http://bri.li/?811

3. Expert says PC-identification proposal hurts the Web

http://www.iht.com http://bri.li/?bf9

4. Free Census data, down to the county, city, or block

http://www.freep.com http://bri.li/?fe1

5. Hot band uses Net, not radio, to climb the charts

http://www.wired.com http://bri.li/?13c9

6. New $99 board plays MPEG-4 videos well on older PCs

http://www6.tomshardware.com http://bri.li/?17b1

7. Web professionals show how to make cool effects

http://www.webmasterbase.com http://bri.li/?1b99

8. Get "Blind Golf," just 237 lines of JavaScript code

http://webdeveloper.earthweb.com http://bri.li/?1f81

9. CSS tips: The best code for 2- to 4-column layouts

http://www.glish.com http://bri.li/?2369

10. Intelligent-robot test disrupted when one sneaks off

http://www.theage.com.au http://bri.li/?2751

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It's nice to know that someone has finally put together a terrific source for the latest in evil death rays and doomsday devices: VillainSupply.com.

Various pages of this new site offer Superweapons, Small & Medium Arms, and Henchperson Gear (supplying fashions for all your jack-booted thugs and femmes fatales).

No e-commerce site would be complete without banner ads, and VillainSupply is loaded with them. Links include EvilRealtor.com (listing lairs, hide-outs, secret bases, and fortresses) and the World Domination Fund (where you can actually contribute via Amazon.com's Honor System). As the pitch says, "Remember, the more you donate now, the less severe your oppression will be when our cabal consolidates its hold over your PUNY PLANET EARTH."

It took me quite a while to figure out who was really behind this hilarious put-on. But I finally tracked it down to the people at GamerJargon.com -- a video-game fan site -- especially its chief mad scientist, Erik David Even of Chatsworth, Calif. This you've got to see.

VILLAINSUPPLY.COM PROVIDES HARD-TO-FIND TOOLS OF EVIL http://www.villainsupply.com http://bri.li/?c391

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E-BUSINESS SECRETS: Our mission is to bring you such useful and thought-provoking information about the Web that you actually look forward to reading your e-mail.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: E-Business Secrets is written by InfoWorld contributing editor Brian Livingston (http://SecretsPro.com). Research director is Vickie Stevens. Brian has published 10 books, including:

Windows Me Secrets: http://www.amazon.com http://bri.li/?0764534939

Windows 2000 Secrets: http://www.amazon.com http://bri.li/?0764534130

Win a gift certificate good for a book, CD, or DVD of your choice if you're the first to send a tip Brian prints. Mail to: Brian@SecretsPro.com.

Brian Livingston is publisher of BriansBuzz.com. Send tips to him at brian@briansbuzz.com.

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