November 27, 2000-- Newsletter #108

By Joe Burns

November 27, 2000--Newsletter #108
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Greetings, Weekend Silicon Warriors,

Did you hear

My guess is that one of the hottest things this Christmas will be the new Internet appliances. Gateway just came out with their version, called Connected Touch Pad. Compaq has its iPac and 3Com is offering Audry and you can expect versions from Sony and Intel soon. I wonder if these machines will have a long life on the market as the prices of full-capability desktops and laptops keep coming down. Would you buy an Internet-only machine if you could get a desktop for just $100 more?

VeriSign Global Registry Services have begun accepting Japanese, Chinese, and Korean characters in place of the com, net, and org Web suffixes. They expect to accept Arabic text soon. The concept is to help make the Web truly global. Doubters are saying the move could cause problems. We'll see. It's something that has to happen so we can either run into the problems now or later.

Would you like to ask Jeeves? I meanreally ask Jeeves. The Web site announced its plans to begin offering surfers the ability to pick up the phone and actually call a real, live, walking, talking, human being. The service should be available next year.

And for those of you who love all the new terms that arise out of the Internet songbook, here's a new one; Yettie. It stands for young entrepreneurial technocrat.

Now onto today's topic

Gentlemen, we all suffer from a malady that some may find humorous, but we struggle with every day. We are afflicted with refrigerator blindness.

Refrigerator blindness is where you stand in front of an open refrigerator scanning the contents for a full minute before calling out to your wife who informs you the item you are looking for is sitting right in front of your face. You protest, but then she walks right up, reaches in, and grabs what you're looking for.

I am a sufferer and I admit it.

The reason I bring it up is because I see such a malady beginning on the Web. Some might call what I am talking about banner-blindness. That where you have seen so many banners so many times that the blur of animated reds, blues, and greens have simply gotten overwhelming and you tune them out. I'll bet you can go into your favorite sites and never once recognize what banner ad is being displayed because your eyes go right to the area where the content sits.

I shouldn't have said that. Now sites will begin to move their banner ads around and trip us up, the cyber equal to rearranging the furniture before going to bed.

Although I believe banner-blindness occurs, allow me to go one step further, what about content blindness? I ask this because, as of late, I've been going into news and sports sites a good bit and have noticed one overwhelming concern.

There are links upon links upon links upon links upon links. Go to or,, Wrired news, or

It seems like the format de jour is to make a link to everything on every page. Take CNN for instance. I go to the home page, choose sports from the left hand column, and up comes the sports home page. Then, down the left hand side, I get twenty more links proclaiming the headlines of the day.

The whole thing is overwhelming.

I'm hoping this is a phase of design the Web will soon grow out of. In my own research and readings, I have found two general guide rules to navigation:

1. Surfers don't mind clicking, they do mind scrolling.

2. One should never be more than three or four clicks away from any other page on the site.

To follow those two rules, you are almost required to set up some kind of hierarchy on a site. People come to the home page, click to choose a sub-topic, choose another sub topic and bingo. They are at their chosen page. If you use a back navigation that puts you back at the home page then you stay within the three or four click range.

I wonder why many sites have gone to a link to every page from every page format. I especially wonder why there has to be a link to absolutely everything on the homepage. The process has forced many of the sites to go to a smaller text font and numerous drop down boxes just to get all those links on the page and keep some semblance of design.

That's another thing design. These sites aren't being put together by first year computer students. There are real professionals creating these extremely link-heavy pages.

I can't imagine they are working in a vacuum. New designs and new link formats must be run past at least a focus group, wouldn't you think?

And since it seems to be happening all over the Web, there must be a feel out there that a lightly packed link-o-rama is warranted. Enough people, or the right people at least, must like the give-it-all-to-me-at-once format, but I don't know that I am a fan.

Maybe it's just that I'm getting old in Web terms, but I like to click. I like to have fewer broad choices that take me to more and more specific choices. It's personal preference.

My thinking is that this is a phase that the Web will quickly grow out of. The voracious news reader will most likely enjoy being given every thing at once for a short while, but then you'll see pages begin to lose clutter and go back to a hierarchy format.

At least until someone comes up with a new format that we all want to try for a while.


That's That. Thanks for reading.

Joe Burns, Ph.D.

And Remember: According to the page Pirates: Fact or Fiction, the famous walking the plank punishment didn't happen. In fact, the site specifically came out against the myth. Those in a bad way were simply thrown overboard. No plank was involved.

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