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Ten Things That Will Make or Break Your Web Site

first_imgWhether you’re building a Web site from scratch or simply revamping your existing site, it’s helpful to understand what to include, what to leave out, and how to organize the data you’re presenting. In this article, modified from a blog post on the AU Interactive blog, one technology strategist offers simple ways to think about your Web site.1. EASY is the most important feature of any Web site, Web application, or program. The web is about fulfilling needs. Create a site that lets people find what they need as easily as possible. This means prioritizing:Discoverability. Drive usage. Everything on your Web site should be easy to find; features should enhance content, not distract from it.Recoverability. Generate features that make it easy for others tell friends about your Web site or bookmark what they’ve found. Remove barriers to account signups. Encourage tagging. Make sure that these actions are readily available and free to the user.2. Visual design and copy are extremely important. How you communicate with visitors via text should complement how you communicate with your visitors visually. Remember: Your organization’s credibility is at stake with your Web site. Begin with the design, then the markup, then develop the back end. Remove distractions and simplify.3. Open up your data as much possible. The future is not in “owning” data, so share it with others. Expose every axis of your Web content for people to “mash up,” or reincorporate, into their Web sites.Offer an RSS feed for everything on your site. Use an application programming interface (API), which will allow requests to be handled automatically by computer program, although be sure to protect yourself from intentional or unintentional abuse (for example, a newbie programmer unwittingly making 100 server requests per second).4. Test, test, test. You can do your best to make educated guesses about what will work, but you will never know unless you create it and then test it. Create goals to be able to gauge and measure progress.5. Release features early and often. Always be aware of your end goals. Don’t offer “me too” features just to have them – stay true to your overall purpose. Small increments show visible progress: Start with a core set of features, then create plug-ins for additional functionality. Ideally, your development should be modular, incremental, and well-documented to mitigate future problems.Remember, too: If you stay personable and honest and set expectations, people will be a lot more receptive when things on your site break.6. Be special. Passion for what you are doing and creating is paramount. If you believe in it, do it. Don’t let anyone else tell you that it’s not possible or shouldn’t be done. Create purple cows. Challenge the status quo. Do it against the odds, and with little start up money. (Raising too much money can hurt you and make you lose focus.) Prove all your detractors wrong. Passion and a belief in yourself will get you through the rough times.7. Don’t be special. Don’t reinvent the wheel: Use common standards or open-source frameworks whenever possible. Also, try to share user databases, e-commerce systems, and other elements between your projects to prevent a “siloing” effect, whereby systems won’t interoperate.8. If you plan on developing a successful Web application, plan for scalability from the ground up. Anticipate growth and plan for problems ahead of time. Document everything. If you want a good real-world case study on scalability, check out Inside LiveJournal’s Backend (PDF). Find a top-notch hardware partner if you don’t want to deal with the nitty-gritty details yourself.9. Identify the tools you need. A few to watch, pay attention to, or implement right away:Microformats . This set of simple, open-data formats built upon existing and widely adopted standards will help open up your data easily and contextually.Adobe Apollo , a cross-OS runtime that allows developers to leverage their existing Web development skills (such as Flash, Flex, HTML, Ajax) to easily build and deploy desktop Rich Internet Applications (RIAs), Web applications that have the features and functionality of traditional desktop applications.Whobar , a tool that manages digital identity by allowing users to log in to a Web site using InfoCard, OpenID, or i-names.Akismet , which helps prevent comment and trackback spam.10. Keep abreast of user-generated content and social software trends. This is a bit of a catchall, but I’d like to list what has been working and not working regarding user-generated content.Not working:Requiring participation from everyone. Not all users need to participate to generate social value.Buying communities.Social networks for the sake of social networks.A Wikipedia-like consensus model, whereby many people contribute to a single idea for the greater good, is not a good model in general and probably cannot be duplicated outside of Wikipedia.Working:Giving users control; being open to different uses you did not anticipate.The Dunbar principle, which holds that there are a limited number of people with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships. Target segments of under 150 people.The Web site should provide value to the individual; the organization should derive aggregated value from all the individuals that use it.Social sites have and need different types of users; each should be motivated and rewarded equally.Many voices generate emergent order: You can get much value by tracking all of that user data.Copyright: AU InteractiveSource: http://www.techsoup.org/learningcenter/webbuilding/page6694.cfmlast_img read more