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Internet Based Data Collection and Dissemination Techniques Dr. Mark Rodekohr Energy Information Administration Nepal January 2000 Workshop Overview Session 1 – Web Site Design/Creating A Site Session 2 – Site Evaluation and Management Overview: Site Design Define the purpose of the site

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Internet based data collection and dissemination techniques l.jpg

Internet Based Data Collection and Dissemination Techniques

Dr. Mark Rodekohr

Energy Information Administration

Nepal January 2000


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Workshop Overview

  • Session 1 – Web Site Design/Creating A Site

  • Session 2 – Site Evaluation and Management


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Overview: Site Design

  • Define the purpose of the site

  • Define the users

  • File Structure

  • ISP versus Ownership

  • Hardware and Software issues


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Site Design: Nielsen

  • Nielsen analysis is based on observations of usability tests web about 400 users using many different Web sites over last six years.

  • Two important rules are:

    • User centric design rather than corporate centric design

    • Design for an optimal user experience under real estate conditions

  • Users should not have to care how your company is organized


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Usability as Barrier to Entry

  • Web users are getting more impatient every year

  • If a site doesn't provide immediate gratification, they leave.

  • It may seem unfair that old sites with bad usability can beat new sites. But humans can learn anything and will prefer to stick with what they know, even if it was hard to learn in the beginning.


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Nielsen Rules

  • Above the fold: Content of interest to the user should dominate your Web pages, especially above the fold (at least 50% of Web page's design preferably 80% percent). Navigation should consist of <20% of space for destination pages

  • Usability studies have shown that fast response times are the most important design criterion for Web pages.

    • < .1 second = instantaneous

    • < 1 sec. = uninterrupted flow through an information space

    • < 10 seconds = limit to keep users attention on the dialog


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Nielsen Rules II

  • Style Sheets: use them have one central group develop them.

  • Frames: Just say no.

  • Credibility: Good-looking clean design equals credibility.

  • Printing: Provide printable versions of any long documents.

  • Conclusion: Simplicity is the goal of page design. Users focus on content.


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Nielsen Rules III

  • Users get very annoyed when they move between pages on a site and find drastically varying designs at every turn. Consistency is the key to usable interaction design

  • You cannot create a good website out of content optimized for any of these older media.

  • The only way to get great Web content is to have your staff develop the content for the Web first


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Neilsen’s Top 10 Web Design Mistakes - I

  • Using Frames

  • Gratuitous Use of Bleeding-Edge Technology

  • Scrolling Text, Marquees, and Constantly Running Animations

  • Complex URLs

  • Orphan Pages


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Neilsen’s Top 10 Web Design Mistakes - II

  • Long Scrolling Pages

  • Lack of Navigation Support

  • Non-Standard Link Colors

  • Outdated Information

  • Overly Long Download Times


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Learn From Mistakes

  • In Jared Spool's study of 15 large commercial sites users could only find information 42% of the time

  • A study from Zona Research found that 62% of Web shoppers have given up

  • Forrester Research audited 20 major sites, finding 51% compliance with simple Web usability principles


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Site Purpose

  • Not no why is the number one problem, all right. Neilsen is amazed how many websites are built simply because some executive told somebody to do it without telling them what the site should achieve.

  • Most companies should start their web design project by finding out ways in which they can provide true customer value on their site.


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Purpose of Government Web Sites

  • Generally they do not exist to sell something (although some try).

  • At some levels the main purpose is communicate policies, politics etc., or to develop a debate on changes in policies.

  • Web sites are ideal for this purpose as they are widely available (although there are some issues about this)


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Purpose of Government Statistical Sites

  • Again they are generally not in the business of selling things (a good example of a bad site that tries to do this is the World Bank http://www.worldbank.org/)

  • Overall purpose to distribute the data and analysis products that the agency produces in a user friendly manner.


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When Developing A Site Purpose Avoid:

  • Internally-focused sites cause companies to end up with home pages full of mission statements, photos of the CEO, and corporate history – we can easily substitute agency for company in this statement.

  • Do not build a site that your top executives will love: they are not the target audience.


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Scope

Breadth

Depth

Time

Format

Content

Accuracy

Authority

Currency

Uniqueness

Links made to other resources

Quality of writing

Graphic and multimedia design

Purpose

Audience

Reviews

Workability

User friendliness

Required computing environment

Searching

Browsability and organisation

Interactivity

Connectivity

Cost

Summary Design Considerations


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ISP versus Ownership

  • This decision depends on several factors including:

    • Expected traffic levels.

    • Availability of networks - it is one thing to add a few servers to a existing network and yet another to create a whole new network with internet servers.

    • A number of questions apply to both ownership versus buying a ISP which are discussed in the following slides.


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Service Evaluation I

  • Never - ever trust what a sales person tells you, seek lists of current clients and call them.

  • Unix - NT or both servers is a question. Both offer different functionality and better suited for different purposes.

  • Distance between the servers and internet backbone lines is critical in the determination of bandwidth availability.

  • Connection to backbone T1, T3 or whatever is the case should be determined.


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Service Evaluation II

  • Certification of ISP staff is important.

  • Support is a issue is there 24/7 support?

  • Administration is a issue can your site be remotely administered via the internet by approved staff?

  • Security what is provided, what is the track record of the security system?

  • Support is their 24/7 support?


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Service Evaluation III

  • The final choice depends on economics for low volume sites it is best to start with a ISP and then if traffic increases reconsider.

  • The final cost of ownership depends heavily on staff time and is not as much dependent on hardware and software costs.


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Hardware I

  • The choice between Unix or NT is important. We use both.

  • Unix is probably best if all you are doing is serving up static html or text files and pictures.

  • NT clearly has more functionality but does not serve files as efficiently.


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Hardware II

  • It is much more important to invest in memory and hard drive speed than processor speed. Therefore instead of buying the fastest processor spend money on memory and fast hard drives.

  • To really have a bullet proof site you are going to need three servers - your primary web server, a hot backup and a test machine.


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Hardware III

  • A basic Unix (reconditioned Sparc 20) can be purchased for as little as $2,000

  • A basic dual processor NT machine will cost more.


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Software

  • This can be expensive depending on how many web authors need special software.

  • You will need software including:

    • Web Server

    • Ftp Server

    • Operating System

    • Authorship Software

    • Search Engine

    • Email listserv system (if you wish to set up this service)


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Web Server Software

  • Apache is free and the most widely used however it is difficult to administer and may or may not have remote administration capacity.

  • Netscape Enterprise Server comes with a built in search engine and can be remotely administered.

  • Others like O’Reilly, Microsoft’s IIS (only for NT servers), NCSA, Oracle and IBM are options.


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Netscape Server: Remote Screen


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Ftp Server

  • Wsftp is free in some cases but many alternatives exist. This is necessary just for uploading your own files even if you do not wish to run a public ftp site.

  • We use NcFtpd which has extensive logging capabilities and is very efficient.


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Authorship Software

  • There is a huge variety of authorship software ranging from Front Page to Hot Dog.

  • For cost reasons we tend to use MS Word, Adobe’s Acrobat and a standard text editor.


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Authorship Software

  • MS Word in Office 2000 is a very good html production tool although it does produce some bloated code.

  • Adobe’s acrobat when installed after MS Office can produce complete documents with a single key stroke.

  • Even with all these advances a simple text editor may be necessary to remove or modify some of the code that word produces.


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Search Engines

  • This can be a expensive investment in excess of $30,000 for a large site.

  • The most widely used is the Verity engine (included as part of the Netscape Enterprise Server). We use it but are not happy with it.

  • Google offers a free engine and more robust service for a fee. We like the Google engine.


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Search Engines

  • Search engines are widely used by customers but require careful tuning and updating.

  • There are free search engines available but you often get what you pay for.

  • We use the Verity engine which is difficult to maintain and does not do a good job indexing PDF files. By the time I give this presentation we should have switched to the Google engine.


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Search Engines

  • All search engines use proprietary code to rank documents and therefore control of the ranking is difficult.

  • Google uses information that matches keywords to where users finally end up and how much they spend on a page so it lets users determine the ranking.


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Lyris Listserv


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Conclusion

  • At this point we have:

    • Identified the purpose of the site and the user community

    • Reviewed usability studies and what they have found with regard to page and site design

    • Developed a file structure

    • Have chosen the hardware, software and vendor

      Now we are ready to start site construction


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References

  • Webreference.com - http://www.webreference.com/

  • Web Developers Library - http://www.stars.com/

  • Jacob Neilsern’s Website - http://www.useit.com/

  • Web Style Guide - http://info.med.yale.edu/caim/manual/contents.html

  • Server Watch - http://serverwatch.internet.com/


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