How do you know if a web site is good or bad??

While surfing the web the other day I started thinking about what makes one web site good and what makes another bad.

My first conclusion was that the aesthetic design of a site, or lack thereof, must be a prime factor in determining whether it is a good or a bad site. It only took a few moments more an thought, however, to convince me that that conclusion must be incorrect if a good web site is defined as one which attracts visitors back to itself.

From a survey of the sites I visit most often I note that, while some are good-looking, others are very definitely not. The Yahoo site is a prime example of a site which is not a thing a of beauty but it is one which I visit very often.

The true measure of a web site, I soon realised, is that a useful web site will influence people to come back to it time and time again while a useless one won’t. The absolute key to everything is the content of the site because, if you haven’t got useful content, you’ve got nothing.

A picture of the MD and a two-year-old company report are not likely to attract many repeat visitors to a site even if you brought Leonardo back from the dead to do the graphics for it. Well, maybe your site would work if you really manged to get Leonardo: otherwise you can forget it.

I went once to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange site but have never been back because I found you couldn’t look up share prices there. On the other hand, I visit the Electronic Telegraph several times a week because I can get the latest UK news and I often visit the Microsoft site to see what’s happening and get answers to my technical questions.

The most common design fault with web sites is not in their look but in the fact that that information is not presented accessibly or, sometimes, at all. An example I found recently was that of a professional association which had a listing of all its members here in Kwazulu Natal but which included no contact details for any of them.

If I hadn’t already been convinced that content was king of the web I would have have changed my mind after coming across Walter Miller’s Home Page. His sites represents the absolute triumph of content over aesthetics and is becoming highly popular in spite of the fact that there are absolutely no graphics on the site, that the layout is atrocious, and that the text is riddled with ‘typoes’, as Walter himself, describes them.

Walter Miller is a young computer nerd who has fallen out of favour with his family and has been exiled to a junkyard in Texas, two hours from anywhere, to look after his ageing and extremely disgusting grandfather. The site is the repository of Walter’s ongoing account of his life with ‘Granpy’ and contains some of the funniest writing I’ve come across in many a long age.

Granpy is pretty revolting so if you’ve a reasonably strong stomach, I’d recommend a visit to the site for a good belly-laugh and to see a web site whose content is the real goods.

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