What to Include in Your Website


What information should you make easily available from the top page of your website? This Venn diagram might help you decide!

Have you ever gone to a website to try to find some information, and had a (expletive) difficult time trying to find that info? I think there is often a disconnect between people designing websites and the people using them -- designers seem to be mainly concerned with having a certain look and using the latest technology to display a slideshow, whereas users just want to be able to find the information quickly and easily.

I found the following graphic that demonstrates this pretty well. It was designed by Randall Munroe, and his site describes itself as "A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language." I assume that being a webcomic is the reason he uses all upper case letters, but with this amount of text, I think that makes it a bit difficult to read. Also, those not familiar with Venn diagrams might not get what it's saying.

So I decided to create my own version using SAS, and make it a bit more professional, easier to read, and more intuitive. I used annotate to draw the circles, and filled them with transparent blue and yellow, so that the combined area in the middle is green (I think just about everyone will understand that green is the combination of blue and yellow, which will make the Venn diagram concept more obvious). And I used mixed case text, so it is easier to read. Since there is no built-in SAS procedure to create this plot, I hard-coded the x/y positions for each piece of text, and then annotated the text on top of the colored circles.

I think the finished graph look pretty nice!

What are some examples of good, and bad, websites you've tried to find information on? Feel free to share in a comment!

Robert Allison, The Graph Guy!, SAS

Robert Allison has worked at SAS for more than 20 years and is perhaps the foremost expert in creating custom graphs using SAS/GRAPH. His educational background is in computer science, and he holds a BS, MS, and PhD from North Carolina State University. He is the author of several conference papers, has won a few graphic competitions, and has written a book calledSAS/GRAPH: Beyond the Basics.

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Re: Informational websites from hell
  • 9/6/2016 8:19:23 AM
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Ah, I think wikipedia gets a bit of a pass because of what the site is.  How many times did you pick up an encyclopedia as a kid and it really didn't matter if you were looking at this year's version or one from a few years prior?  Most sites can't get away with that, we live in a world of dynamic marketing so if your business model lives in the present day you have to look alive.  This is why I think some of the hobby sites I visit have relatively high activity but horrible design and look abandoned.  Tech companies can't even think about letting design go stale.

Re: Informational websites from hell
  • 9/2/2016 8:33:42 AM
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I meant appearance Wikipedia gets away with minimal or no visual change. You're rigth that they probably make sure that content is not stale,  a byproduct in making sure content adheres to its policies on accuracy.

Excellent point about Apple and outdated apps - even an app becomes something to monitor and requires support/update to be relevant.  I agree also about search engine addressing abandoned properties.  Relvancy is the name of the game to keep up with everything online. 

 

 

Re: Informational websites from hell
  • 9/2/2016 8:22:58 AM
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I think even Wikipedia gets updates on older articles/entries.  As people do more research and can fill in some blanks Wikipedia does get refreshed and I'd bet they have a way to identify stale subjects.

The aging apps issue is one that we're seeing cause problems and Apple for one is addressing this.  They just announced a day or two ago that they were going to start removing abandoned apps from their app store.  I don't think we'll see a day where abandoned websites are taken down but I so suspect that the search engines will start addressing this.  Much like the malware warnings that Google gives, I suspect there will be warnings "this site has not been updated in 10 years", that doesn't mean that it's not good information depending on what you're looking for but it would be helpful to know if you're looking for current/recent information.  

 

 

Re: Informational websites from hell
  • 9/2/2016 7:57:53 AM
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You know the sad part? Sites are becoming out of date more quickly as apps (and in the near future bots) introduce new functionality to compete with a site.  

The only one I can recall that can get away with no updates is Wikipedia.  But it monitors its content well enough to strike a balance between what is changed and what doesn't - granted it is donation-powered, so budget restrains it from having an app.

 But it is a good counter example; I use it to note that a client's business needs to speak out on what it has coming up, and do so often.

Re: Informational websites from hell
  • 9/1/2016 8:50:38 AM
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That's an interesting observation, when the funds dry up I could see marketing being scaled back or cut out.  That doesn't seem like the best plan in the case of a web based business though.  A very old and stale site is probably going to make customers start to wonder unless you're a very specialized business.  I know I hit a few sites that I wonder if they died years ago because the styling has never changed and they are very poorly done but then I remember that this is run by a hobbyist who isn't into technology and the market really isn't big enough that they should care how crappy their site is.

 

 

Re: Informational websites from hell
  • 8/31/2016 3:58:53 PM
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They do that with the muscle magazines as well. I gave up my Men's Health ages ago. ;-)

Re: Informational websites from hell
  • 8/1/2016 3:58:23 PM
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I see what you mean, @Pierre. It may not mean the ship is sinking yet, but it likely is not altogether water-tight.

Re: Informational websites from hell
  • 8/1/2016 3:30:45 PM
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I had to learn that the failure to update was also a signal of bad financial standing in some cases.  When I started I had assumed it was just an overlooked need, but after a few interesting failures I learned how much of that overlook stemmed from not affording a marketing budget and not having any meaningful capital to operate.

Re: Informational websites from hell
  • 8/1/2016 3:21:52 PM
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< To this day I still see businesses overlook this opportunity to simplify the SEo process and provide useful content. > @Pierre yes, because many don't have on-staff writers and don't take the time to plan an effective way to outsource the blog. Some businesses start and then give up. It actually looks bad IMHO showing no updates for years on the blog page.

Re: Informational websites from hell
  • 8/1/2016 8:14:05 AM
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I agree that he lifestyle magazines are the worst, fitness in general, fashion, cooking all run in cycles and you can cut and paste them together but I think even newspapers and "news" publications in general fall into similar traps just look at how things are covered during election cycles.  Unless there is some major scandal happening right now all you really need to do is replace the names and 90% of the stories are the same as they were 4 years ago.

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