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Reader E-Mail: You Have A Good Idea, But Your Website Sucks!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 3:10 PM, under

Running and maintaining a web publication (or any web site for that matter) is in some ways like living in a bubble. Your friends and colleagues will always tell you they like the site (even if they do not). Visitors to your site that have problems/difficulties navigating and or using the site will generally not tell you. They will just leave, and not come back (as I have discussed in this white paper).

So when you get a blunt e-mail from a visitor, you have to leave your ego out of it and take what they say to heart. This e-mail forced me to rethink how I was using a customized template, and make some design changes that you might have noticed over the past two days.

Here is the short and to the point e-mail:

You have a good idea but your website is terrible.

Why don't you have a way to see televised games by sport - i.e. all college basketball games on any channel? I know you have that capability it is just damn near impossible to find it.

Bill and Ellen S.

An email like this can be jarring, especially when you are close to a project. What was causing them difficulty? Were they not seeing the graphic link to the schedule in the right hand column. Did I have navigation problems? Were other people having problems with the schedules as well?

The answer to the navigation problem question is "Yes, the site had navigation problems." More about that later.

As far as the last question, I have to refer back to an earlier email I received from someone having difficulty using the college basketball schedule:

Something is wrong with your basketball TV schedule. Last year I was able to scroll down easily and see it, but it is changed this year so very hard to scroll and see. You have too much stuff on the screen. Should be a way to just get the basketball schedule on the full screen.

Emmett and Peg T.

So yes, clearly some changes had to be made. At the same time I had to make sure that any changes made

  • did not adversely impact ad revenue. A site like this takes time to care and feed; and
  • would work in all browsers, and all operating systems.

So here is what has been done:
  • Non-performing ad spaces have been removed, allowing for the removal of the second column;
  • The removed ads have been replaced by an Amazon store (See link at top) so that if you would like to purchase and books, DVDs. or other items, you can do so within the context of this site.
  • The story/content column has been widened to make the content easier to see; and
  • A cascading style sheet (CSS) - driven navigation menu has been added, to include direct links to the most popular TV schedules.
There are still a few things to be done, including redesigning the home page story slideshow to make better use of the dead (white) space created by the elimination of the second column, as well as recoding/restyling the TV schedules to make better use of the expanded left content column.

So please feel free to play around with the menu and the other changes, and do not be afraid to tell us any problems you encounter, as well as any suggestions or feedback. The e-mail link is up top under "About Us."

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