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By Joe Burns

Praise: Right off, the site is flashy. The colors are bright but not so bright that I have to wear shades. The site simply looks fun. The home page, referred to as the main page, displays almost fully on one browser window. I dont need to scroll to get to any of the links. They are right there on the left in a nice vertical line. Notice also that the page the user is looking at is shaded to further reinforce the navigation. In addition to the image link on the left side, Kris has also offered text links, but they are down near the bottom of the page. The format, or shell as I like to call it, is consistent across all the pages of the site. It is obvious that I am still with Kriss site when I go from page to page. That is often overlooked and Im glad to see that Kris made a point of doing it.

Concern: First off, I am concerned about the speed of the site. The home page loaded in just under a half a minute. That is almost twice as long as the average Web surfer will wait for a site to load. Kris, you state on your home page that you are concerned that the search engines dont offer enough review. True, but those sites are fast. Surfers want speed. Read any article regarding cable modems or DSL. They feel the need the need for speed.

Suggestion: Your counter suggests 443 people have arrived at the site. That suggests to me that youre new, yet you have two banner ads and a tile bar at the top of the navigation bar. If youre truly serious about this, Kris, get off of the free server, lose the banner ads, and youll find your site loads much more quickly. Youll read this so many times you get sick of it, but it is your user, not you, who is important to the site. Make it easy on them. If you are serious about this site and really want to make a go of it, buy space on a fast local server and go without the banner ads until youre established. Then you can sell your own ads.

Concern #2: On the main page, you first tell me weekends are for sleeping, then you state that you have a new guestbook and that people should sign it. Then you state the purpose of the site. Thats backwards.

Suggestion: When a user arrives at your site, theres no reason to believe they will read everything. Most likely, they wont. What you need to do is promote your site and its killer app. You review sites to help people choose where to go. That is your killer app. Promote it! Push it. A sleeping user certainly isnt coming to your site. Title your site. I really didnt know what to call your site when I first started reading through it. Nowhere am I given a text identifier. Push the site first, and the new guestbook second, or third, or not at all. It doesnt really do much for the user.

Concern #3: Youre not going to like this one. You have a counter on your page. Who is that counter for? Its for you, not your user.

Suggestion: Unless you are completely opposed to the idea, lose the counter. It is a public domain counter, so it slows the page down by going off site, and its really not doing anything for the page. I have never gone into a page and felt better because the count was high. In fact, when I see a real high count, I think Im being lied to. If you want to track your number of visitors, look for a server that gives you that ability through the access log.

Concern #4: You won an award! Good for you! I was so happy with my first award that I actually put it on my site three times. The same award three times!

Suggestion: Now, please dont think I want you to take down your award. On the contrary, I think you should display them. Just not on the home page. You only have one at the moment. Thats not slowing the page too much. Wait until you get four or five. Then the page will really slow down. My suggestion to all that receive awards is to create a separate page for the awards. Offer a link on the home page. If the users want to look, they will. Then the home page is not slowed by another image.

Concern #5: The sub-pages are not very long. Again, you say you are a better choice than the search engines. The problem is you havent the simple quantity of information to be competitive with them. You need to focus the site.

Suggestion: To start, pick one topic. You have at least five. Pick one that really interests you and hit every site within that category. Fill the page. Make it so that, at least in that one category, your site is truly superior. Youll have a better chance at being the site people will choose to go to.

Overall: You have a decent idea here, but you started too broad and youre trying to do it all without spending a penny. Ask yourself how serious you are about this site. If youre really ready to try and make a go of it, focus the site and build a place where people can see reviews of links upon links. Then you could really make an argument that you offer something that the other sites dont. Good luck. You appear to have to tools to be successful.

Thats that.

Joe Burns, Ph.D.

Always Remember: When it comes to designing your Web site, the most important person is not you, but rather your user.

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