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10 February 2009

Networking Nightmares

I have to admit I'm not very good at the hardcore IT stuff. I can muddle through but would much rather just have things work through pretty little UI's and setup wizards.

I spend far too much time troubleshooting network issues at home. To summarize:

I have a desktop running Windows XP professional. I have a work laptop (Dell Latitude D830) running Windows Vista 64bit. And my wife just got a Dell Studio15 running Windows Vista 64bit. My laptop is part of the "GCC" workgroup while the desktop and Tammy's laptop are on the "WORKGROUP" workgroup. We have a HP Laserjet that doesn't like 64bit OSs. I have a Western Digital World Book II (network connected external storage device) that shows on my Network Places sometimes but not all the time. I can't connect to my home printer. I get different results between being on my wireless network and being directly plugged into my network.
Is anyone confused yet? I'll admit it. I am...

There's part of me that thinks, "If I keep trying I'll figure it all out." But there's also part of me that wants to pay an IT dude to come over for 15 minutes and make it all play nice...

Having all these "IT" issues made me ask the following question:

Is Your Website That Confusing?
Seriously! Do the people landing on our websites feel like they are being guided seamlessly through the content? Or do they feel like a peripheral with a 32bit driver trying to play on a 64bit OS? Are they getting lost the minute they arrive or is there a sweet UI and "setup wizards" to make their lives easier?

If not, lets at least start here:
  1. Design: Make it simple. "Less is more" Less Clutter. Less Noise. People can't look at 50 things on a page without going cross-eyed. Flash banner ads, text links, graphic links, form items, polls, animated gif images, etc. Stop while you are ahead...
  2. Navigation: Have you heard the acrostic: Keep it simple stupid? If not, learn it well. Navigation can be one of the most overwhelming things about a website. If you have thousands of pages - you better figure out a good way to clump them. Make fewer options on the home page and the main navigation and let other pages fall under "landing pages" or "category pages."
  3. Content: Your visitors don't need the whole story - just give them the facts they need and they'll get the rest some other way. At the church - this means we just give people the who, what, why, when and where. If they are interested in the full story there is a contact form or a number to call.
  4. Rich Media: One of the greatest things happening on the web right now. But if you're not careful you can throw video clips all over the place with no thought to cohesiveness and consistency. Develop or purchase a media player for crying out loud. Keep all video in one place with the ability to sort and filter what you are looking for.
These were the first four things that came to mind. Maybe sometime (when I have time to get it out on paper) I'll post a more inclusive list like, The top 50 things to think about when developing a website people will return to.

Of course I am as much in need of this information as any of you. I still have to remind myself not to break rules like these when adding new stuff to the website.

Start untangling your "network nightmare" today and keep up the good work!