Posted by Barrie Robinson      email barrie@look.ca

As the developer and manufacturer of the OarRATER stroke rate stopwatch I have visited literally hundreds of web sites of universities, colleges, high schools and clubs as well as other organisations.  In a previous life I wrote a column in a computer magazine and I did a short series on web sites and their failings.  So, naturally, I cast a jaundiced eye over the sites I visited.  I found lots of interesting patterns, some brilliant and some awful, so I thought it may be an idea to share some of my findings.

  1. Remember your web site should serve the viewer not you. When a viewer is at your site it is unnecessary to sell your site they are already there!!
  2. Viewers, more than likely, will not know much about you so do not assume that they do.
  3. Busy first pages are not a good idea. Some sites, particularly some American universities, have confusing first pages often splattered with advertising and are a big turn off.  While the first page should give the viewer important information care should be taken to exclude verbal bling.
  4. The application of KISS is probably a good ploy.  Letting “techies” build a complex, all singing, all dancing web site may be heaven to the techies but it could be a massive pain for viewers.  Many viewers are not running the latest and greatest browsers.
  5. Finding geographic locations or just basic information can be an absolute pain, so it’s not a bad idea to say right up front who you are, where you are and what you do.
  6. Make information easy to find. It came as a complete surprise to find that some universities did not show the availability of a rowing program.  I contacted a couple of universities because I knew they had entered regattas but I could not find any info on their web site, even after doing a search for “rowing” as well as that misnomer descriptive word “crew”.  Apparently because it was a “club” sport not a university sanctioned athletic endeavour it was ignored.   A couple of the universities I contacted did respond with a web site address that was not mentioned on their main web site.
  7. Allow viewers to send emails to you - the rowing people! People are lazy and it is too much to expect viewers to write a letter to an address you have given on the web site.  A few sites had pleas for coaches but gave no email address for replies. As someone who loves to coach I do sometimes wander away to clubs outside my area.  I thought it would be interesting to see if I could help these people out but I could not contact them! I am ashamed to say I was too lazy to search them out..
  8. On the same topic many, many, many sites did not have a “Contact us” tag but buried their contact details under some unrelated tag like “About us”, or “Info”.   And what for heavens sake is “Info”?   Everything on the site is “info” even the mind curdling advertising.
  9. The current style of programs and sites trend seems to be to see how small you can get the drop down menus and tags.  Thus cryptic wording is used which seems strange when we have screens with so much space.   One sees tags such as “Info” when there is more than enough space for “Information” to say nothing about “Information on Courses, Information on Sports, Information on Events, Information on Staff, Information on Contact”, “Information on Information”  …….well you get the idea!
  10. Remember advertising ruined TV and now is rapidly becoming the main content on the Internet.  So make sure you control your adverts and not allow them to dominate your site.

These are just a few niggles but there are many more particularly in the site layout and paging structure.  So let’s learn from these aggravations we’ve all encountered in browsing, and make your rowing site GOOD.

Really, how hard could it be?