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Seven Keys to Effective Web Sites, The

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Seven Keys to Effective Web Sites, The


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  • Learn how to build Websites that are attractive, valuable, timely, easy to find, intuitive to use, responsive, and never, ever annoy visitors.
  • Visit 50 leading Web sites, seeing exactly what works in each of them, and what could be improved.
  • Discover specific techniques for using text, graphics and multimedia effectively, involving your audience, and making sure your site works reliably with all kinds of browsers.
  • Understand the implications of new technologies like Java and VRML — and how you can use them effectively, not just for show.


  • Copyright 1996
  • Dimensions: 7" x 9-1/4"
  • Pages: 336
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-13-490087-1
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-13-490087-2


Build a Web site your customers can't live without!

The 7 Keys to Effective Web Sites distills the most important elements of a winning Web site into seven essential goals—and presents the sites that best achieve each of these goals. Join respected Internet experts as they critique great sites like FedEx, Southwest Airlines, Stanford University, ESPNET SportsZone, Cyberian Outpost, the Allergy Relief Home Page, even the IRS and the CIA. Learn exactly what makes these sites . . .

  • Visually appealing.
  • Valuable, useful and/or fun.
  • Current and timely.
  • Easy to find and use.
  • Easy to navigate.
  • Highly involving.
  • Responsive to users.

See what works—and what could be improved. Understand the implications of the new technologies like JAVA(TM) and VRML. And check out the world's best examples of:

  • text, image, and multimedia integration.
  • Sites that work regardless of the a viewer's browser or Internet connection.
  • Sites for ordering merchandise.
  • Sites that provide valuable information.
  • Sites that have been optimized for performance.

You could spend weeks touring these sites yourself. The 7 Keys to Effective Web Sites brings them all together in one convenient reference. It's your personal tour of the world's best Web sites, and the world's best Web practices. It's a cornucopia of ideas you can use right now to dramatically improve your own site. And whatever your role in Web site design or management, it's quite simply invaluable.

Sample Content

Table of Contents


About the Authors.



What Are the Seven Keys to Effective Websites?

For Whom Is This Book Intended?

How Is This Book Organized?

Conventions Used Throughout The Book.

How To Use This Book.

1. World Wide Web Review.

World Wide Web Review. The Web. The Global Internet. Web Servers. Web Browser Software. Web Addresses.

2. What Is an Effective Website?

What Is an Effective Website? The Seven Keys of Effective Websites. What Is New about the Web? Our Illustrations of the Seven Keys.

3. Key 1—Visually Appealing.

Introduction to Key 1—Visually Appealing. Technical Points and Tips. Large Graphic Alternatives. Involvement of Design Professionals. Classroom Connect. Cond– Nast Traveler. Cybertown Home Page. Interactive Imagination's Riddler. NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab. Mecklermedia's World: Internet News & Resources. Metaverse. NetManage Corporation. Novell World Wide: Corporate Home Page. Sprint. The Smithsonian Institution Home Page. Stanford University. Pathfinder Travel. Paramount Voyager. The White House. Summary.

4. Key 2—Valuable, Useful, or Fun.

Introduction to Key 2—Valuable, Useful, or Fun. Technical Points. Responding to the Needs of Your Visitors. CIA's World Fact Book. City.Net. Claritin Allergy Relief. DejaNews Research Service. GE Plastics. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Hoover's Online. Infoseek Guide. IRnetserv, Inc. (Investor Relations Network Services). The List. NewsPage. Southwest Airlines Home Gate. Starting Point. Weblint. Wild Dunes. Summary.

5. Key 3—Current and Timely.

Introduction to Key 3—Current and Timely. Technical Points. Information Availability to Text Browsers. ABC News Reports. Electronic Newsstand. ESPNET SportsZone. Intellicast. Interactive Weather Browser. IRS - The Digital Daily. LA Freeway Speeds. Mercury Center. National Public Radio. NETworth by GALT Technologies. The New York Times. Playbill. Purdue Weather Processor. THOMAS: Legislative Information. USA Today. The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition. Summary.

6. Key 4—Easy to Find and Use.

Introduction to Key 4—Easy to Find and Use. Technical Points. 3M Innovation Network. Amazon.com Books. The American Stock Exchange. CareerPath.com. Compaq Computer Corporation. Eastman Kodak Company. Excite Netsearch. Mobil Corporation Home Page. Mountain Travel*Sobek. Pointers To Pointers. Schwab Online. Shareware.com. Siemens in the USA. Submit It!. The Virtual Reference Desk. What's New? Summary.

7. Key 5—Intuitive On-Page Navigation.

Introduction to Key 5—Intuitive On-Page Navigation. Technical Points. Alta Vista. Better Business Bureau. CNN Interactive. Continental Cablevision. Discovery Channel Online. The Internet Movie Database. Internet Waterway Online. Money Magazine. PC Computing. Shop.Com. Silicon Graphics. StockMaster. Telecom Atlas. Web Review. Summary.

8. Key 6—Involve the Visitor.

Introduction to Key 6—Involve the Visitor. Technical Points. Registration. A Friendly Alternative. Build-A-Card. Coldwell Banker Online. Crestar Student Lending. DealerNet—The Virtual Showroom. FedEx. Freeways by Alamo Rent A Car. The Golf Circuit. PC Travel. PhotoDisc Index. Progressive Farmer Online. San Francisco Reservations. Sandra Gering Gallery. Speak To Me Catalog. UPS. Windham Hill Records. Summary.

9. Key 7—Responsive To Its Users.

Introduction to Key 7—Responsive To Its Users. Technical Points. Apple Feedback Page. Black Box On-Line Catalog. cinet online. Cyberian Outpost. IBM Corporation. Internet Business Reply. Jim Knopf—The Father of Shareware. Lycos, Inc. Mama's Cucina. McAfee Network Security & Management. NetMind Free Services. Paperless Guide to NYC. Virtual Vineyards. Yahoo! Summary.

10. New and Emerging Web Features.

Introduction to New and Emerging Web Features. The Problem for Webmasters. Implications for Webmasters. Intranet Sites. Internet Sites. User migration assumptions. Alternatives for Nonmigrated Users. Adobe Acrobat. HTML 3.0—HyperText Markup Language. Sun Microsystems' Java Language. NetscapeÕs JavaScript Language. QuickTime from Apple. RealAudio. Shockwave from Macromedia. VRML—Virtual Reality Modeling Language. Other Developments to Watch.

Appendix A: Guide to Websites.

Appendix B: Color Figures.


Introduction: What Are The Seven Keys to Effective Web Sites?

We believe that there are certain characteristics or keys that help to define effective Web sites. In our judgment, for a Web site to be effective, it must incorporate as many of the following keys as possible.

Key 1: A site must be visually appealing.

Key 2: A site must be valuable, useful or fun.

Key 3: A site must be current and timely.

Key 4: A site must be easy to find and use.

Key 5: A site must have intuitive on-page navigation.

Key 6: A site must involve the visitor.

Key 7: A site must be responsive to its users.

Reviewing thousands of Web sites has led us to conclude that sites that attend to these seven keys are, for the most part, highly effective. Such sites cause us to pay attention to what they have to say, and to how well they say it. They invite us in and cause us to stay longer than we might have originally intended. Effective sites pay attention to our needs and interests, and provide us with information or resources that we might otherwise be unable to find. They enable us to do our work more quickly or efficiently. Effective Web sites continually recreate themselves, and continuously shape themselves to our very personal needs. In addition, we tend to return to these sites, either to obtain new information, or to make additional purchases. As you will see in the many examples that are provided in the following chapters, effective sites serve their sponsoring organizations well. They are clear about the business that they are in, whether it is education, not-for-profit, or profit-oriented, and they provide information, or services, or facilities that would not be available any other way.

For Whom Is This Book Intended?

The Seven Keys to Effective Web Sites is intended for three audiences: those who create Web sites„ often known as Webmasters; those who are responsible for Web sites; and those who are thinking about the development of Web sites. Webmasters should find this book to be quite useful. When the concepts in The Seven Keys to Effective Web Sites have been presented in seminars, they have been well received, and Webmasters have told us that the examples are helpful and the technical information is valuable. In addition, there are those who are responsible for Web sites, although they may not actually be constructing them. Attendees at our seminars have indicated that information about, and examples of, effective Web sites help them to ask better questions about their own sites, and to think more clearly about the goals and objectives of their particular sites.

Finally, beginning Webmasters have also told us that these examples and insights are helpful; there are lots of marketing issues affiliated with all the technical ones, and beginners have appreciated the opportunity to think about all these perspectives simultaneously and in advance of their actual work. The examples presented in The Seven Keys to Effective Web Sites are readily available at Prentice Hall's Web site:
They should provide a good introduction to state-of-the-art sites that have been developed by a wide array of companies and organizations.

Those who are contemplating the establishment of a Web site would do well to look at all of the examples that are included, and to think about the various issues, both technical and conceptual, that are presented, before committing significant time, energy and money to the establishment of their own sites.

How Is This Book Organized?

Chapter 1 provides a brief review of the origin and components of the World Wide Web. Readers who are already familiar with this information may wish to skip ahead to Chapter 2. For those for whom this is new information, the chapter provides a context within which to understand the phenomenon known as the World Wide Web.

Chapter 2 provides a detailed discussion of the Seven Keys to Effective Web Sites. Web site success is defined, and seven guiding questions are presented for those who are thinking about when sites are most clearly effective. A definition of each one of the seven keys is offered, followed by a brief discussion about what it is that makes the World Wide Web so different from other media.

Chapter 3 presents examples of Web sites that do an excellent job of demonstrating Key 1, which is to be Visually Appealing. Technical points and tips about how to provide visually appealing sites are offered, including a brief discussion about bandwidth, graphics sizes, background colors, thumbnails, transparent GIFs, Java applets, and sound and movies. Examples follow, including a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses (if any) of each one of the sites that is presented.

Chapter 4 focuses on Key 2, sites that are valuable, useful or fun. "Valuable" and "useful" are defined with regard to the functions that they perform or the content that they provide. Also, some concerns are delineated about the need to maintain the credibility and currency of sites. Excellent examples of valuable and useful and sometimes funny sites are provided, along with detailed discussions about their technical strengths and weaknesses and suggestions about how to improve any weaknesses.

Chapter 5 focuses on Key 3, sites that are current and timely. We define what we mean by current and timely, and then detail some of the technical concerns that go into keeping sites that way. A wide array of excellent current and timely sites is offered. We discuss the information or services that they provide, the technical considerations that must be taken into account, and any possible pitfalls that we have observed. Some of these sites represent outstanding examples of how the new and emerging technology of the World Wide Web is forever changing our perception of the speed with which we access news and information.

Key 4, sites that are easy to find and use, is the focus of Chapter 6. The amazing proliferation of Web Sites in the past three years means that it is imperative for sites to be easily found and used. A discussion of the technical aspects of the Web domain name system is offered, after which outstanding examples are presented, showing sites that have attended carefully to this important issue. The increasing number of sites means that those using the Web are finding it harder and harder to find the information and resources that they desire. Therefore, it is incumbent upon those who develop sites to make sure that they are found quickly and easily by all of the major search engines and directory trees that exist. As well, once a visitor finds a site, it is critical that navigation throughout the site be intuitive and fluid. The examples we have chosen do an exemplary job of making it easy for visitors to find what they want, when they want it.

Intuitive on-page navigation, Key 5, is the focus of Chapter 7. The technical discussion focuses on navigational icons, image maps, alternatives for navigation, the IMG ALT parameter, and the need to test a Web site continually with a number of different browsers. The examples in this chapter typify sites that have made it intuitively obvious to their visitors how to navigate through their sites. As sites grow larger and more complex, it becomes increasingly important that creators focus carefully on the navigational aspects of their creation. There is no point in having very valuable or useful information at a site if visitors are unable to find it. The examples provided represent the best of the breed. Occasionally there is a minor pitfall, in which case we offer a possible fix.

Key 6, which is to involve the visitor, is the focus of Chapter 8. These sites are aware that they must involve their visitors actively in various activities once they arrive, or else they will leave. The technical discussion notes that the involvement really has two aspects to it; the first one focuses on involving visitors to make them feel at home, while the second one focuses on involving visitors to develop a customer list or client base. Many excellent examples are provided of sites that do an outstanding job of involving their visitors.

The focus of Chapter 9 is on Key 7, sites that are responsive to their users. These are sites that do an outstanding job of actively seeking to learn more about those who come to visit. Using feedback forms, questionnaires, a set of questions, or a registration form are just some of the methods sites are employing to do this. The technical discussion focuses briefly on the strengths and weaknesses of text-only and graphics options and then explores in detail some of the issues surrounding the use of various feedback mechanisms. The examples in this chapter are quite varied, and offer a good set of possible options for others to emulate.

Chapter 10 focuses on the new and emerging options that Webmasters are beginning to confront. The technical discussion focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of the features that are being offered. Following that are examples of eight new and emerging features that appear to be promising.

Conventions Used Throughout The Book

Chapters„As noted, there are 10 chapters. The first one provides a brief review of the World Wide Web, the second one defines the seven keys, and chapters 3-9 present the seven keys in detail. Chapter 10 provides a hint about the new and emerging features that Webmasters are likely to confront in the immediate future.

Technical Points—Each chapter contains an initial section on the technical points related to the particular key being discussed. Knowing that our audience will vary, we have tried not to make the technical discussion too complicated, but we have attended to the important issues that Webmasters and others should consider as sites are being developed.

The goal of this book is not to show Webmasters "how to do" something, but rather to detail all the issues that need to be addressed at a macro level in order to assess a Web site and its potential. This sounds simple, but it is important to emphasize that diving headlong into the technical solutions that go into creating a Web site may not be the best answer. We would urge Webmasters to take some time to think about the many issues presented in this book; these issues are just as important as (or some would say more important than) the technical solutions. If a Web site is to be effective, it is imperative that those who are responsible for it take the time to think about the user and the many issues that are discussed in the following pages.

Examples—Chapters 3-9 each contain at least 15 examples of Web sites that illustrate the particular key being discussed. The examples, presented in alphabetical order, are current as of mid-1996, and are accompanied by screen shots using Netscape 2.01 running on Windows 95.

Key Feature—For each example, we have denoted the key feature (or features) that make this particular site so exemplary.

Pitfall—Even good sites occasionally have some room for improvement. Where this is true, we point out the pitfall (or pitfalls) that could be improved on an already outstanding site.

Fix—Where pitfalls exist, so do solutions. Wherever a pitfall has been presented, we also present the fix that might be used to improve it.

How To Use This Book

If you are brand new to this whole topic, then we would urge you to read all the chapters in the book in the order in which they are presented. If you are conversant with the World Wide Web, then you can skip to Chapter 2, where we define the seven keys in greater detail. You may wish to read the chapters in the order in which they are presented, or you may wish to focus on the topics that interest you the most.

The Seven Keys to Effective Web Sites is intended to help you to make your Web sites stronger and more successful. Be sure to let us know how this book helps you to do that. As well, be sure to let us know if there are ways in which future editions of this book can be improved.

- David Sachs dsachs@ibm.net - Pete Stair stair@mycroft.com


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