Wednesday, February 04, 2009

What do you want from the web?

What I'm Reading: Night Prey by John Sandford
Rita entry 8 of 9

February crept in over the weekend. I've always said that we have two seasons here: Summer and February 3rd. Well, this year, we've got a few more days of chill. The jet stream is dipping into Florida today, letting us share some of the cold air with Canada. I don't mind. Last night I made roasted vegetables, which meant turning the oven on to 400 degrees. I don't do that most of the year.

I also had a pleasant surprise in my inbox this morning. Finding Sarah is a Night Owl Romance top pick.

Here's what the reviewer had to say:
Terry Odell has written an intriguing tale of a woman trying to rebuild her life after a devastating loss. The plot is fast paced, the events deftly mixed with the conflicting emotions of those who find themselves moving toward an inevitable collision. A surprising turn of events keeps the reader from truly understanding the depth of betrayal Sarah has experienced until a strong and combustible conclusion.

But -- onto today's topic, which is website pet peeves ....
Keep Reading...

Everyone's got a blog, a website, a social networking page. You name it, if there's a way to get it onto the Internet, it'll be there. But what's a good website?

If you're a writer, you want a presence. Even if you haven't published yet, those agents and editors you're querying are going to look for you on the web. Maybe you have a blog. This one started because everyone said, "If you're going to write, you need a blog." At the time, I had a contract for one short story. No money, so I went with a free option. Likewise with my website. My son, being much more techno-savvy than I offered to get something started.

Keep It Simple was my rule, something I'd picked up at my first RWA conference. The purpose of a website should be to inform, not entertain. I couldn't attend the meeting of the local MWA chapter where they discussed what a website should and shouldn't be, but I got a recap, and most of my concerns were theirs as well.

A long time ago (by technology standards), Power Point moved "slide show" presentations into a new neighborhood. Hubby, being a scientist, had been attending scientific meetings for decades, and getting the slides in right side up was the biggest challenge presenters faced. The next was making sure they were readable from the back of the room (hubby's favorite spot to sit, so he could nap if necessary). A chart on a journal page doesn't translate to a slide on a screen. Then came Power Point. Now, it was so easy to add all the jazzy bells and whistles, so everyone did.

But ... Just because you CAN do it, doesn't mean you SHOULD do it.

So, here are my top 5 pet peeves.

1. Light text on a dark background. I simply can't read it. That will have me clicking away without reading unless there's a vital reason I have to. I was at a blog the other day (for less than 30 seconds) where every single paragraph was in a different color font, all on a black background. As the 'author' of the site, you don't know what kind of resolution monitor your 'reader' has. Keep it crisp and clean. The goal is for them to READ it, right?

2. Almost as fast a click away for me is MUSIC! Odds are, I'm listening to my own. Or I want quiet (maybe hubby is sleeping nearby.) I don't need to be jolted out of my chair by what you think is going to entertain me. At the very least, have it an 'opt in' choice. Same goes for Flash players. Let me decide. I want to read your books. Showing me a movie doesn't tell me if I'm going to like it -- it's your writing that will sell it.

3. Fonts. Keep them easy to read. Don't have them dancing all over the page. They should read left to right, not up and down, diagonally, or any other direction.

4. Backgrounds. Ties into #1 -- preferably clean and simple. It's much harder to read text against a field of flowers, or champagne bubbles, or whatever cool background you found for free on a design site.

5. Entry pages. This bugs me a lot, but I've put it at #5, because I understand there's a legitimate reason for them if your site included adult content. But otherwise, all an entry page does is slow my search. If I'm trying to find out what books you have, every time you make me click through to another layer delays me getting where you want me.

One of the reasons I don't spend much time at MySpace is because of how many pages are pimped to the point that they're illegible and take forever to load. Music, countless images, fussy backgrounds, and some even have these semi-transparent 'curtains'. Yeah, nothing like trying to read something through a fogged window.

OK -- those are my top 5 rants about trying to read stuff via the web. What about you?


Jess said...

Ditto. Except for maybe #1...I CAN read most light text on a dark background, if it's clean and simple. and I'm wearing my glasses. If I'm hope. But I detest auto-play music, roll-over noises, and most animations (unless the animations are truly professional and useful). I hate pages that are so laden with graphics and coded junk that they take ages to load. The exception is photography sites. I expect the full gallery pages to take a little while. :)

Enjoy the cold-snap!

Terry Odell said...

If the purpose of the site is to showcase pictures, well, yes, then I'd expect good pictures.

Enjoying hot chocolate since it's so nice and cold. The wind is whistling!

Ray said...

Too bad more people don't read this. I agree with every one of your pet peeves. I have had to highlight some text in order to read it. If it is too long I have even been known to cut and paste it into WORD and doing w/o the background. It doesn't give me a good feeling. It is a waste of time to go to that much trouble.


Terry Odell said...

Well, Ray, when I become Supreme Commander of the Universe, these WILL be the rules!