Say what you Mean, Ron Scheer
April 23, 1999
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A Short Weekly Tip-Sheet for Small Business Web Masters
April 23, 1999 Issue #8
Mike Valentine, Editor,


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by Mike Valentine

The sparkling brilliance of the internet can sometimes be
so bright that it is blinding. Everything is new and shiny,
wonderful and promising on the web. It doesn't cost much in
either time or money to get started online with exposure
for your business that is available to the world! Everyone
will come clamoring to your doorstep as soon as you turn on
that glowing neon "Open for Business" sign.

You are justifiably proud of your hard work and you have
polished and highlighted all of the important points you
have to make and posted beautiful photographs and glowing
testimonials about your products and services on your site.
You have done it all yourself, studying the techniques of
the web and submitting to all the search engines and web
directories. Now it is perfect, a sight to behold available
to the world wide web.

Now what? Go get a second opinion! Not everybody will
love what you have to offer! Even though you've worked hard
to create the perfect web site. Find an expert and seek out
their advice and get ready to hear a little criticism! Why?
Because you've been blinded by all of that brilliance! You
are too close to it to be objective. You've got your nose
six inches away from a tree trunk and can't see the forest
around you!

After going through this scenario myself, just this week,
I can tell you that it is humbling. I sought out the advice
of this weeks guest columnist, Ron Scheer. He reviewed my
site and returned with some insights that startled me and
others that confirmed nagging doubts I've had for some time
about weaknesses that I just didn't want to admit.

Many of you have taken the time to review the offerings at
WebSite101 and liked it enough to send your friends. That
is how we continue to grow and learn and improve what is
offered on our pages. As I learn new techniques and gain
new insights, I pass them along to this list to help you
do the same if you haven't already learned them yourself.

Well if you like the look and feel of WebSite101 now, I
invite you to return over the next few weeks and watch a
transformation take place. Dr. Scheer has made a list of
recommendations that will dramatically improve the site!
When you invite a professional to review your site and he
gives you some solid advice, it's best to take it to heart
and use that advice to make adjustments, improvements and
overhauls. I even got a second opinion on his second

A friend of mine is a professional copywriter who has
done some very respectable work. She reviewed Ron Scheer's
suggestions and confirmed what he had to say. Friends and
family are not the best source of constructive criticism.
She had seen it before and had complimented me on the site.
Seek out an unbiased professsional that can give you your
money's worth. They're not very likely to say, "That's very
nice, dear." That's nice to hear, but it's another kind of


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Improve Your Mileage With Information Design
by Ron Scheer

The current state of website design is a lot like American
automobile design of the 1950s. It was a period of wild
exuberance and variety, expressed in bright colors, chrome,
fins, and ornamentation -- each year's model recognizably
different from the year before.

Website design today
Looking at e-business web sites, which I do a lot of, I
recognize this same energy and enthusiasm for the new and
different. But like the cars of 40 years ago, gas guzzling
and unsafe at any speed, they are often long on
razzle-dazzle and short on functionality.

My advice to people usually begins and ends with: Just say
what you mean, plainly and simply, and get rid of all the
obstacles you have allowed to get in the way of that
message. If the old axiom "less is more" is true for
nything, think of it as carved in stone for the Web.

Identifying the obstacles
What you mean should be instantly clear. Even without
scrolling down your home page, a visitor should be able to
tell who you are, what you do, and why people should do
business with you.

Many e-businesses don't seem to realize what makes something
an obstacle. I can mention a few:

1) Banner ads. They hog valuable real estate when they are
at the top of a page, pull attention away from your own
content (with blinking and animation), and increase download

If you incorporate ad space into the design of your page, it
can even confuse your message. Recently I visited a site
that seemed to be about health and beauty products.
Dominating the top of the page was a Dr. Koop ad with the
naked back and smiling face of someone getting a massage.
The site was in fact a job posting service for recruiters.

2) Hype. Research shows that people expect straight
information on the Web, just the facts. While an e-business
web site has a marketing purpose, this purpose is not helped
by hard sell rhetoric and sales talk. People turn off.

Credibility comes with being factual and truthful and making
it easy for visitors to find what they want to know.

3) Bells and whistles. Maybe 75% of all the clutter on
e-business sites comes from digital bric-a-brac: animated
graphics, decorative devices, patterned backgrounds, icons,
counters, you name it.

Some of the most effective e-business sites I've seen get
their message across using none of these. Just well-chosen
words, color, and reader-friendly information design.

Granted, this must seem like an extreme. But it's more like
the norm of automobile design today, comfort and
performance over ornamentation for its own sake.

When it comes to saying what you mean on the Web, the old
axiom is truer than ever: less is still more.


Ron Scheer is a Web consultant, writer, and teacher based in
Los Angeles. His keep-it-simple approach for e-business
websites is a blend of content analysis, plain English
writing, and principles of information design and usability.
He publishes a regular free newsletter "Say What You Mean on
the Web," and his website
features guidelines for making e-business websites
customer-friendly. .



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Copyright 1999 Mike Valentine

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