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I talked about poorly described content, conflicting content, and out-of-date content-what's left? How about content that is missing or useless? Since content is primary on the Web, pages or sites that are missing important content are just using up space and domain names .
In late 2001, Slims, a nightclub in San Francisco, hosted a bluegrass music festival in Golden Gate Park. Its website, Slims-SF.com , publicized the event (Figure 1.26[A]). It announced that the festival would take place in "Speedway Meadows." For people who know where Speedway Meadows is, that's sufficient, but for people who don't, it isn't. I didn't know. I browsed around the site trying to find out where in the park the festival would be. I eventually found a link to Shuttle Details (Figure 1.26[B]). After clicking there, I was transported to a generic shuttle bus page provided by the Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority (Figure 1.26[C]). It had almost no information, but it did have a link to a map of Golden Gate Park (Figure 1.26[D]). Unfortunately, the map did not mark where Speedway Meadows is. So much for the power of the Web.
The previous examples were strictly informational web-sites. For an example of missing important content at an e-commerce site, take a look at a catalog page at online electronics store ValcoElectronics.com. The excerpt shown lists two products (Figure 1.27[A]). The first one has a product code and a name , but the second has only a product code. If you don't know what an LGW40 is, you can just click on the link to go to the detailed product page, right? Right, but you won't find much more information there (Figure 1.27[B]). Sure, whatever an LGW40 is, I'll take a dozen ! At least they don't weigh much.
If the LGW40 were the only product on ValcoElectronics' site that exhibited this lack of information, it could be dismissed as an isolated slipup. However, other products for sale on the site also exhibit the problem. Therefore, it is either a systematic data-extraction bug or a design flaw.
My final example of useless content comes from United.com. While customers are trying to book a flight, the site distracts them with enticing links to useless marketing statements. Two examples are shown in Figure 1.28.
To avoid building sites that lack important content or supply useless content, Web designers should follow these guidelines:
Learn what site visitors will need and then include it. During site design, conduct interviews and focus groups with people who are like your intended users to determine what people will use the site for (Brinck, Gergle, and Wood 2001), and then design in the content they need to accomplish their goals.
Don't distract users from their goals. Help people do what they came to your site to do. In particular, once customers have started down the path of making a purchase, you are harming your own sales if you distract them from completing the transaction (van Duyne, Landay, and Hong 2001). Enticing links that lead to nothing useful not only annoy users and waste their time but also increase the transaction dropout rate.
Test to find what's missing. Test the site for usability before it goes live to make sure nothing important is missing, and if it is, add it. After the site is released, continue observing and interviewing users to discover if anything is still missing.
Obviously, following these guidelines takes time, effort, and money.
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