Your Site: Get with the Plan

Lack of planning – especially content planning – is what keeps many Web sites from success. That’s what a recent article contends, and I couldn’t agree more!

Writer Gerry McGovern urges executives and marketers to “Develop a Five-Year Plan for Your Site.” I’d encourage anyone involved with site planning or content development, corporate or otherwise, to read this article. It’s a fabulous reality check.

This article sparked several thoughts, which I’d like to share…
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Reality Check: Does Paid Online Content Really Pay?

Lately many organizations such as the Online Publishers Association and Jupiter Research have been touting the growing success of online content that people pay real money to receive. However, this rosy picture might be a bit skewed, according to experts quoted in a Nov. 1, 2003 Knowledge@Wharton article, “The Internet Content Conundrum.” It’s definitely worth a read.

My take on a couple of points mentioned in this article…
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Beyond “Flashturbation”

From time to time I’ve railed against poorly conceived, distracting, and pointless Flash animations on Web sites (“Flashturbation”).

Well, one place where Flash does make a lot of sense is instructional materials, like origami instructions. Last night I was teaching a six-year-old friend of mine how to fold some simple origami models, following diagrams in a very basic book. I quickly realized that that the static diagrams didn’t fully convey the motions of making the folds. Once she could see me make a fold, see the motion, she’d get it.

On the Oriland Origami site, I found a collection of simple but highly effective Flash animations that explain basic origami folds. It’s worth checking out, to remind yourself that animation can indeed be valuable content. It doesn’t even need to be fancy or slick to work well.

Several designers and bloggers also have taken Flashturbation to task for its many crimes. Here are a couple of my favorite rants on the topic from Media Savvy and Ozone Asylum.

Comment Spam: The New Online Plague

As if e-mail spam wasn’t bad enough, now webloggers (like me) need to be on the lookout for “comment spam” – that is, spammers posting messages or URLs using a weblog’s comment function. This unfortunate development has been covered in recent Wired News article (which Media Blog has strongly criticized).

Comment spam is insidious, and there appears to be no easy way to deal with it. However, the blogging community is working on this one. Stay tuned…

Weblogs & RSS Not for Everyone, Says One Reader

When I relaunched CONTENTIOUS, I considered my options carefully. I selected the weblog approach and opted to add RSS because that strategy, I think, makes the most sense for me and for many of my readers.

“Many” definitely is not “all.” While the response to the new CONTENTIOUS weblog has been overwhelmingly positive, I have received some criticisms.

I’d like to share with you the most thoughtful criticism I’ve received, from Louis Erickson, who has some sound reasons for generally disliking weblogs and RSS feeds…
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Hotel Web Sites: What’s the Deal with Net Access?

Next week, I’ll be traveling to New Orleans for the annual conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists, which this year will be held at the Astor Crowne Plaza – apparently a very fine hotel in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

It’s been my unfortunate experience that Internet access at hotels is often flaky, complex, or unexpectedly costly. I never seem to know quite what the situation will be until I get there.

Net access has become a necessity for many kinds of travelers. It’s no longer a nicety, but a core service that could easily make or break someone’s decision to stay at a given hotel. So here’s what I wish: That hotels would routinely list on their Web sites, in an easy-to-find place, exactly what the deal is with Net access from their guest rooms, and how much it really costs.
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Megachurches: Ugly as Sin? What the Sites Don’t Show…

If there’s not already one somewhere within 100 miles of you, there probably will be soon – “megachurches” are the latest phenomenon in popular Christianity.

I’ve looked at a lot of megachurch Web sites recently, like Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago (one of the nation’s largest). What I find most intriguing is what seems to be almost uniformly missing from these Web sites – photos of the megachurches!

The absence of photos is conspicuous because these are huge, huge, HUGE facilities. You’d think those pastors would be proud to show them off!
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Answering the really big questions online

Recently, a chance enounter with a scientist on a Colorado mountaintop, plus the publication of a new book by one of my favorite authors (Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything), has rekindled my interest in cosmology – the scientific quest to understand the origin, evolution, and ultimate fate of the entire universe.

Big stuff. Fascinating stuff. Complicated stuff. Concepts that bear little or no relation to the world we experience with our senses. Notoriously hard to communicate about – especially if you’re trying to explain it to non-scientists.

I love a thorny content problem, and even more I love an elegant solution. If you want to check out a well-done site concerning cosmology, string theory, and other core puzzles of the universe, check out The Official String Theory Web Site — an independent project by physicist Patricia Schwarz.

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