Webmastering the Worldcon, Part 10

Chaz Boston Baden, smofsweb@bostonbaden.com
Rev. 06-Apr-19910

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Icons and Cross-Links

"Janice made some useful points about masses of icons, and personally I do feel that the LAcon III pages were icon-heavy, but Chaz did a lot of things to mitigate this. Primarily the icons were kept small and were used frequently. Remember that web browsers cache icons, so once you have it once you have it for all copies and, provided you don't clear out the cache directory on your PC, you have it forever. Thus regular access is not a problem." (Cheryl Morgan)

"Not all browsers work the same. Some clear the cache each time the program is closed, so it is only available for *that* session. Others limit the size of the cache and clear out the oldest unused files. If you revisit a page frequently, or aren't a heavy Web Surfer then this isn't a problem. But it's too easy for the files for a particular page to fall down the queue, especially if you maintain your own page and are frequently testing the links. In any case, a page that has lots of different icons, or graphics that aren't necessary for the page, can often take a long time to load." (Sharon Sbarsky)

"As to understandability of icons, I though that many of Chaz's were very clear. It was very helpful to be able to scan the programme quickly for the sort of thing I was interested in, and I've used the same technique on the MSFC calendar page. People can now see at a glance when there is a film on, or when hot meals are available." (Cheryl Morgan)

"Some were clear, some weren't. I found that I often just skipped to the bottom of the page where there were links in clear text." (Sharon Sbarsky)

"Frankly, I got to the point where I just skipped everything on the main page. Either I used the "What's New", or waited until enough of the page loaded that I could get to the list of words on the bottom. I virtually never used the mini-icons at the bottom of the page because most of them made no sense to me." (John Lorentz)

"A far worse sin on web pages is to cover the thing with very big graphics, all of which are different. They look pretty, but they take ages to load and convey no information." (Cheryl Morgan)

"True, it's worse if the graphics are large. But lots of graphics *also* can take ages to load. They also will take up room in the cache, so that other files will be forced out, and will cause those (unrelated) pages to take longer to load since there is no longer a cache copy.

"A good compromise is necessary. When a site has lots of links onsite and offsite, it is useful to have the little icon to indicate which are which. It is a small icon and used often. (I especially found this useful on the Bidding page to tell at a glance which pages Chaz produced from a bid flyer and which were the bids own page.)

"Having a different "new" or "updated" icon for each update, got to be annoying. It made the pages busier than necessary, and each icon was a separate load. For the Boston in 2001 site, I use *one* version of each, and include in hidden comments the date the link was added or changed. Whenever I update a page, I'll delete the icon (and date) for any that was more than a month old. It's true that some people may visit the site less often than that, but they don't really need to know every link that was changed. (having a key for which dates were valid for each icon would have help, if the different icons were necessary.)"

"Whenever there's a major change that's pertinent to the site (new pages, reformated pages, announcements from the committee, etc.), I'll include the date in plain text next to the link to the "What's New" page. That way people will know if the "What's New" page has changed, without having to load the page and see." (Sharon Sbarsky)

"Given my druthers, I'd rather have seen a simpler main page. Something easier to navigate with and a lot less stuff to wait to load before I could go to where I wanted. But I'm not sure that someone using the page for general information would have the same opinion." (John Lorentz)

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