Reign In Those Files

I had an interesting conversation the other day regarding file sizes. The person with whom I was speaking had the opinion that since broadband is so common and download speeds are so much faster, one didn’t really need to worry about image or download file sizes. We were talking particularly over some PDFs which were over 5 MB in size.

I had an interesting conversation the other day regarding file sizes. The person with whom I was speaking had the opinion that since broadband is so common and download speeds are so much faster, one didn’t really need to worry about image or download file sizes. We were talking particularly over some PDFs which were over 5 MB in size.

While it is true that dial-up is all but gone, there is a whole new class of browser which is likely to outstrip even plugged in broadband in just a few years: mobile. According to many predictions, mobile browsing is set to overtake “traditional PC” browsing sometime in the next couple of years.  Gartner, a leading prognosticator of things tech, quoted in this story in MobileMarketingWatch, predicts this will happen in 2013.

While mobile browsing on 3G networks is certainly faster than the old dial-up connections, it’s not as fast as WiFi or wired networks. Speeds will certainly increase as 4G networks become more common, but large downloads still will be an issue even for those on the newer networks.

Another consideration to keep in mind is battery life. It certainly takes more juice to download a 5 MB PDF than a 500 KB one. People will certainly notice if their battery dies faster after visiting your site than if they visit your competitor’s.

There are also search engine optimization considerations to keep in mind. Google very publicly lets us know they take download times into account when figuring out page rank. I’ve not heard that Bing does, but I’m willing to bet they do to at least a certain degree.

So, file size does still matter. It will continue to matter for the foreseeable future. Keep that in mind as you put together your marketing materials for download.

Having Problems With Internet Explorer 8?

Are you having problems with parts of your web site since Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) was released? I’ve been seeing chatter around the web about parts of web sites all-of-the-sudden not working even though they work in other browsers.

Are you having problems with parts of your web site since Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) was released? I’ve been seeing chatter around the web about parts of web sites all-of-the-sudden not working even though they work in other browsers. The menus on our own Business to Business site quit working when customers upgraded their browser to IE8.

The problem stems from how IE8 processes JavaScript. I’m not up on all the technical details, but I do have a fix – albeit a temporary one: add the web site in question to the Compatibility View list. Here’s how to do it –

  • Open Internet Explorer
  • Click on “Tools” in the menu
  • Click on “Compatibility View Settings”
  • Enter the web page’s address in the “Add this website” box
  • Click on the “Add” button
  • Click on the “Close” button.

You may have to close and then reopen IE8, but once you add the web site to Compatibility View list, the site should work properly.

We put a note on the home page of our B2B web site to let our customers know about the fix. As I noted above, it’s meant to be a temporary solution.

The long term solution is to figure out why that part of your web site doesn’t work in IE8 and find a fix for your code which will work in IE8 as well as other browsers.

It all goes back to testing your web site in as many browsers as you can to make sure it works in all of them.

Do You Know Where Your Menu Is Going? – Stuff I Learned At PubCon South

I learned a new way to think about making web site menus.

On March 12th, Benu Aggarwal of Milestone Internet Marketing, Michael Martin of Googleandblog.com and Ted Ulle of the MEWS Group gave great presentations on the “SEO Sight Design and Deployment: Information Architecture” panel. Although all the presenters gave up some good information, I want to focus on Ted’s presentation entitled “The Main Menu.”

Menu at a drive-in restaurant

The information Ted presented really got me thinking about how we look at data structure and menu building. It was especially applicable to me. We are getting ready to redo our corporate Intranet and very much need to come up with an improved menu structure, not only for now but to anticipate future growth.
He pointed out that if you give people too many choices, they may choose nothing at all. I read that a couple years ago in Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell (a good read I recommend checking out). I think that may be part of the problem people have finding content on our Intranet – too many choices in the menus. It’s something worth checking out.
Specifically Ted recommended:
  • only 6 items to choose from in a menu, with an absolute maximum of 7.
  • not to make your menu like your org chart (though this may not apply for corporate Intranets)
  • to forget the “3-Click” rule (which asserts that users will only click 3 times to find a certain piece of information before they give up).
3 Clicks Is Gone?
The “3-Click” rule has been around a long time. The opinion is now that it’s OK for content to be more than 3 clicks away, provided you let your users know they are on the right track to finding what they want. Ted said to think “Information Scent” in making sure your users know they aren’t wasting their time and are headed in the right direction to find what they’re looking for.
Menu Building – Old School
The part of the presentation which really got my attention was what I call “Menu

Menu at a German Imbiss

Building with Index Cards.” Basically, you start by putting all of your web site’s “links” or pieces of information on 3×5 cards. You then create no more than 6 “labels” which would represent your main menu choices. Then you sort all the cards into piles corresponding with the labels. After you revise and resort a couple of times, have a disinterested third party look for information you ask them to find in your cards. I have to admit, I am quite intrigued by this and I will give it a try when it comes time to do our Intranet menus.
Lastly, Ted recommended reading Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: Designing Large-Scale Web Sites by Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville. I got my copy on Monday and have already read through the first five chapters. I can already see where this will help me design better sites in future.
Do you know where your menu is going? Can your visitors figure it out? Are you giving them too many choices and, maybe, causing them to click off your site? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
Image credits: Editor B & dweekly