Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Feedback from Website Redesign


Dear Forum

Thanks to everyone who helped with feedback on my website - it has improved greatly as a result of the suggestions. I promised a summary of the most useful ideas:

- Don't use random quotes. Sooner or later everyone will find a quote that annoys them, and you don't want to annoy your visitors. Use a product tagline instead - repetition is good good good!

- Use http://www.colorschemer.com/online.html to choose colour patterns. This generates optically related colo[u]rs that are better than ones chosen by eye. Use business-like colo[u]rs such as blue, grey etc for commercial sites. Don't use purple like I did.

- If you do screenshots, use an up-to-date version of Windows. If you use Windows ME people assume it won't work under Windows XP, even if you say it does.

- Screenshots must be in small files (<20k) so they download quickly. Screenshots must also be large 800 x 600 (or greater) resolution images or people will assume your application only works in 320 x 200 4-color mode (see above). To reconcile these, make low-res screenshots clickable to view larger screenshots.

- Navbars. Use plain <a>...</a> links, not 'web-artiste' rollovers or fancy graphics or javascript. Plain links make the home page load quickly, and that gives a good first impression. And they allow google to index the rest of your site. Use CSS if you want links that look like buttons.

- Write compliant HTML and check it using http://validator.w3.org - it takes minimal effort to make your HTML v4.01 compliant. 95% of the problems I had related to missing alt="..." attributes, incorrect casing in tags, and bad nesting (<b><i>...</b></i> instead of <b><i>...</i></b>). After fixing these add a 'Valid HTML' link to show you're a member of the illuminati.

- Mail links. To avoid spammers havesting your email address, you don't want it on any pages, either in plain format or as the result of evaluated javascript. Use forms so people can email you. (I realize I haven't done this yet, and the javascript claim is arguable).

- Test under different browsers. I thought I was clever using an early and late browser (Netscape 4.6 and IE 5.5) and by validating my HTML. I wasn't clever enough - viewers had problems using Opera. Test with as many browsers as possible. HTML has a near-infinite ability to cause strange compatibility problems.

- Single-product sites are different from other websites (thanks to Brad Wilson for this). The home page is really important - it has to describe what problems are solved by your product, and what type of person uses your product. The page has to look professional, download quickly and ideally fit in a window without scrolling. As Brad put it, the home page must allow the visitor to 'qualify' themselves (ie decide whether they are a potential user of your product) in maybe 30 seconds.

That's it. These are all things I wish I'd known a few months ago. Feel free to use them however you want. My improved Lingo page is at http://www.lingolanguage.com if anyone wants to see the beautiful and amazing result!

Bill Rayer
Monday, September 08, 2003

What does Lingo do?

Pls forgive my ignorance - I could not quite grasp the benefits of Lingo - although it looks very interesting.

Ram Dass
Monday, September 08, 2003


It's a HLL (high level language) for programming Windows. This forum gave me a lot of help to fix up the website, and I wanted to summarize the most useful ideas.

Bill Rayer
Monday, September 08, 2003

Bill,

Your screenshot thumbnails look terrible!  I don't know what software / options you used to downsize those graphics but it does not do a good job.  You should be able to find software to do a nice bicubic resize that will result in much smoother looking images.

Almost Anonymous
Monday, September 08, 2003

Try saving the screenshots in either .gif or .png format, even if you have to reduce the color count to get the same percent of compression that .jpg gets you.

This way, you'll avoid the blurry, dithered look.

d0od
Monday, September 08, 2003

I keep getting a "ERROR 504 Timeout connecting to remote site"
I'm trying to connect from New Zealand if thats any help ... other sites work fine for me.

cheers,
Peter

Peter McKenzie
Monday, September 08, 2003

Hi,

I hope you won't mind if I offer my belated two cents...

First, if you're offering screenshots, I'd recommend that you do it on a totally "clean" install of Windows -- using the default Windows look-and-feel, and without any extra visual clutter.  From your screenshots, I can see that (1) you have a "stuff to do" list on your desktop, (2) you're using Paint to capture or edit the images, and (3) you have a rather cluttered tray menu (or whatever it's called) to the right of the Start menu.  Those are all distractions from what you're trying to sell -- the program itself.

(One of my pet peeves -- which you're not doing -- is people who take screenshots while running a version of Windows that's using modified colors or some theming app.)

Second, your software interface itself seems a bit unusual.  Those big icons in the Program Window toolbar, for example, look very Windows 3.1.  The "main" toolbar is OK, but uses a Windows 95-style push-button interface intead of the Windows XP style.  (This is more glaring because your screenshots are taken with Windows XP.)  Also, it always seems strange for me to see the main toolbar in a separate window, divorced from the other program windows -- I know that Delphi does it, but I've never seen other programs work that way.  An MDI interface would be more traditional.

I know that beauty is only skin deep.  But whenever I see a program that uses an unconventional interface, my first impression is that the program wasn't developed very thoughfully or carefully.  See Joel's book on designing user interfaces:

http://www.joelonsoftware.com/uibook/chapters/fog0000000057.html

Have you considered giving your user interface a facelift to give it a more conventional, Windows XP appearance?

Robert Jacobson
Monday, September 08, 2003

I would (personally) nix the stuff at the bottom of the page (doc url, last modified, website checked with, website addr) this stuff isn't very relevent....just uses up bits....

apw
Monday, September 08, 2003

You've wasted a lot of space at the top of every page for no reason. I suggest going with no margins and pulling your [good] icon up to the corner of the screen and adding the nav links under it. Perhaps your content can reach to the top of the screen. I have to scroll way too much to read most of your stuff. And for God's sake (like others have mentioned) clean up your desktop before taking screenshots.

StickyWicket
Monday, September 08, 2003

-> On the feature matrix page, the tick-mark graphics are specified using a backslash (images\tick2.gif) instead of a forward slash (images/tick2.gif). That won't display in many browsers.

-> On the FAQ page, it would be nice if the FAQ headings linked to the "whole page" of FAQ for that topic.

-> The product isn't for sale yet, but the demo appears to time-out after 30 days. You should make it clear what will happen after 30 days. I'd hate to spend time testing the product, decide I want to buy it, but then have it expire without any way to purchase it.

-> Interesting product!

Nate Silva
Monday, September 08, 2003

"Use plain <a>...</a> links, not 'web-artiste' rollovers or fancy graphics or javascript"

Amen. A-bloody-men!

It always annoys the heck out of me when websites use scripting to implement... something that already exists in html. JFC.


Tuesday, September 09, 2003

"After fixing these add a 'Valid HTML' link to show you're a member of the illuminati"

The only reaction this draws from me is a solid "Can someone get the kiddies out of the playpen please?"

I don't do much HTML, and when I do I use the validator as a debugging tool, but adding that "Valid" button adds that special air of unprofessionality and college kid dorkism to a site.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

> ...but adding that "Valid" button adds that special air
> of unprofessionality and college kid dorkism to a site.

But that's Just You (sorry for the bad pun.)

I don't do it, but I don't really find it "dorkish." What I think when I see one of that buttons is that the developer cared.

As for the original post: nice work, still needs improvement. The summary of hints is a really Good Thing.

Leonardo Herrera
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Not bad, but the white main bit contrasts a bit much with the rest of your background.

Makes it look like you are using frames, which is a bad thing.

Try and make the entire site have one background.... White is always a good thing. Use very thin and light borders, or indeed whitespace to seperate the different sections but I really do not like multi-coloured backgrounds.

Tapiwa
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

One more thing, as someone else has already said, you do seem to waste about 2 inches on your product blurb.

Kill the blurb... Either that or move your static navigation to the top (horizontal vs vertical), and have the blurb in smaller letters above it.

I would also suggest using smaller fonts. The problem with large fonts is that they make the site look unprofessional... looks like someone just used h1 and h2 tags instead of being more precise. Its a bit like a site done in Times New Roman. So 80s.

Plus, go easy on the italics. You really should not need to italicize every heading.

Tapiwa
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

check out http://www.casestudio.com/enu/products.aspx for an example of a simple site. Yours will probably be less detailed than that, but you get the idea??

Tapiwa
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

"I would also suggest using smaller fonts. The problem with large fonts is that they make the site look unprofessional... looks like someone just used h1 and h2 tags instead of being more precise."

Of course, you really should use the HTML heading tags and then use CSS to style them as you wish...with relative and not absolute font sizes.

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

For what its worth, I finally managed to view your site.  Never could get www.lingolanguage.com to load, something weird going on there as I could ping it fine.

I found your site via google (enventually) and it loads fine using the url http://www.lingolanguage.i12.com/

Comments:
- Overall the site is better.
- I agree with previous comments that there is too much wasted space at the top of the screen.
- I also suspect that a single background colour would look better
- I general I think there is a bit too much chit chat type text on the front page.  It is well known that people don't read web pages, they *scan* them ... this is all well discussed in the Krug's brilliant book "Don't Make Me Think".  Design for scanning, not for reading!
- Minor point: you have "make programming easier", I think you mean "makes programming easier" ?
- Minor irritation: FAQ 3. "How much does Lingo cost?" takes me to a page where I have to click another link to actually get the answer.  I found this annoying, I'm sure you can do better.  At the very least, state in the FAQ answer that the trial version is free.

Back to reading vs scanning.  How about replacing the text that starts with "Lingo is an easy-to-use ..." with some concise bullet points.  Again, read Krug, in particular the chapter "Omit Needless Words" (Needless is cleverly crossed out).

Also, there should definitely be a hyperlink on the word 'download'.  You need to give people in a hurry (most people) every chance to download the thing.

cheers,
Peter

P.S. I agree with everyone calling for a name change :-)

Peter McKenzie
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Thanks very much for the extra feedback - maybe another redesign is needed. Website design is a lot more iterative than I thought...

Bill Rayer
Sunday, September 14, 2003

just out of interest, what app are you using to build your site.

given what I have seen of your site, you might want to check out NetObject Fusion.

It is not the most powerful package out there, but strikes me as perfect for you. just used it to build a demo site for a friend in a couple of hours....

http://www.tapiwa.com/demos/regal

Tapiwa
Sunday, September 14, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home