[Theforum] Demographics

Madhu Menon webguru at vsnl.net
Wed Nov 7 05:25:45 CST 2001

At 04:12 AM 11/7/2001, you wrote:

Huh? What? Where am I? (He says, bleary-eyed, waking up at 11:30 AM)

Sorry for not piping up in the last few days. Been chasing down elusive 
potential clients (gosh, it's hard to find work these days) and writing 
mini-essays on Web advertising on my weblog (at: 
http://madman.weblogs.com/2001/11/07 - Comments most welcome).

>I'll leave you to write something along the lines of what we were talking
>about the other day (re those other lists, etc).

Well, you asked for it, sucker ;)

Isaac is referring to an off-list conversation around 22 October that we 
had about the "techie" nature of thelist and how other web development 
lists were different. I think he said...

[checking archives]  ...

<quote person="isaac">

thelist is very techie which often sucks.


And I responded:

<quote person="Madhu">

I see thelist sometimes as more of a "web developer" than a "web designer" 
list. For example, when someone asks for a site critique, many replies tend 
to focus on the HTML validity before all else. That's nice, but not the 
first thing I'd think of. I remember a time when someone asked advice for a 
site about farm foods or something, and he'd used a blue and gold colour 
scheme. There were lots of "align this, fix that" suggestions, but no one 
mentioned that there are very few "blue" food items in the world, and that 
a more earthly colour combo might be more appropriate. This isn't *always* 
the case, but it happens more often than it should.

But it's still very helpful though. I enjoy the community feeling. And 
since I'm on digest, I just skip over posts about Apache, PHP, and CF ;)


That, I think, is essentially what Ron L said too. I just said it about two 
weeks earlier, before theforum was formed ;)

If you're on digest, pick up any 3 consecutive digests (from a random 
period) and compare how many db design/ web server/ sysadmin type questions 
were asked and answered versus visual design/ typography/ layout/ content/ 
marketing/ information architecture/ user experience related questions. I 
think you'll certainly notice a pattern.

I'm not sure if this is because there are relatively fewer visual designers 
or usability people on thelist or because they don't *speak up* because 
they think this is a "techie list". I hope our survey tells us this. It 
would be a shame if people were members but didn't feel like part of the 
community. I'd like some mechanism in the survey that would tell us how 
many people have *never* posted anything to thelist. I'd like to find out 
if they feel intimidated that they're "newbies" or not "advanced" enough 
for it. We must drive fear out of the community.

I'd like to see more people asking (and answering) questions on:

1) Layout
2) Colour schemes
3) Typography
4) Information architecture
5) Usability
6) Site strategy
7) Web marketing
8) Content development (do you realise how few discussions we've had on the 
copy used on a site? I'd love to discuss this, being a writer myself)
9) Production techniques and processes (naming conventions to Photoshop 
tips to site maintenance included)
10) Interface design
11) Dealing with clients

These are certainly part of the web development process, are they not? In 
fact, people will never see the ASP code on your site and they may not give 
a hoot about your db design, but they will certainly notice glaring 
interface problems and illegible text. Don't get me wrong. Having been a 
Webmaster for sites with > 10000 pages, I care a lot about server 
configuration and server-side scripting, but I know that people come to a 
site with specific goals, and your site's success depends on whether they 
can accomplish these goals. And as a list of web development folks, we need 
to make sure that all such issues are also discussed. If nothing else, the 
cross-functional learning can only be beneficial for our resumes. 
Programmers might learn a bit more about better interfaces, and interface 
designers might learn why the stateless nature of HTTP makes life so 
difficult for programmers :)

Coming back to the issue of critiques, it might help if we all paid a 
little more attention to how much a site succeeds at what it's trying to 
achieve before commenting that the DOCTYPE is missing. Of course, that's 
important. But if pages are missing, the search sucks, or the copy is 
condescending, those are probably much bigger problems. (I remember a site 
that used "Buy it now, you fools!" in their "specials" page. I wrote about 
it in my critique as well - and got $15 in Amazon vouchers from the bloke.)

In all fairness, trying to bring so many topics under the umbrella of one 
list may be difficult. Some of them need to be on a list by themselves. In 
fact, lists like sigia-l (Information architecture), CHI-WEB (Human 
computer interaction for the Web), InterfaceMafia (interface design), 
NTBugtraq (Win NT/2K bugs), etc. do serve as specialist lists, and hence 
the discussions are more focussed. But if we encouraged it on thelist, 
there would be more traffic on thelist, and apart from potentially causing 
Dan headaches in list maintenance (like relay problems) <grin>, it would be 
an enriching experience.

What we essentially need to do is tell people, "don't worry if it's a 
stupid question, ask away."
(and when someone does ask a newbie question, there shouldn't be responses 
like "why on earth would you do that?"). Everyone was a newbie at some point.

Reminds me of a shampoo ad that goes "it won't happen overnight, but it 
*will* happen" (oooh, Rachel Hunter...) :))

I was saving these suggestions till the "Survey" thread expired and the 
survey actually was completed, but since we're on the topic, let me put 
them forward.

1) We should evolve a format for critique requests that people can fill it 
appropriately. Fields should include things like "target 
os/browser/resolution", "audience", "site objectives", "Critique severity: 
Soft/Balanced/Harsh/Take no prisoners" and most importantly, what people 
want critiqued (if a person doesn't want his Javascript looked over, that's 
his right.) This might help in restricting the discussion to relevant 
topics only.

2) I'd like www.evolt.org to be more than a place for articles. I'd like it 
to evolve into a proper community. I'm thinking along the lines of one (or 
more) "guides" for each section of evolt. These guides would be responsible 
for writing articles, posting links to interesting articles on the Net 
(weblog style), and perhaps taking the best threads in their section from 
thelist and pointing to them. Also, if some really tough problem is solved 
on thelist, the guides would take various member posts, coagulate them into 
a "tip" style article and post them on weo. Let's get some moreover.com 
news feeds set up as well. Think About.com
Unfortunately, most of us have day jobs, and this will turn out to be a 
full-time job by itself. That's why I think each section should have 4 or 5 
guides (if possible) to handle the workload. For example, Martin, Javier, 
and I could do the "usability" section (example only; I'm not committing on 
their behalf).

This has a great benefit. It preserves the "knowledge" in the community for 
future subscribers. For example, how many times have you answered the 
"what's that icon in my IE favourites list" question. Yeah, it's the 
favicon.ico thing, but it's a question that seems to be asked every couple 
of months. At the moment, it's lost in the archives.

Am I being way too nutty here or do you think it's workable? Shouldn't 
require much modification in the CMS, if any. Change in some templates, and 
some permissions, IMO.

That was way more than my 90 paisa (that's US 2 cents, in case you're 
wondering). Hey Isaac, feeling sorry you asked? ;)



<<<   *   >>>
Madhu Menon
User Experience Consultant
e-mail: webguru at vsnl.net

Weblog: http://madman.weblogs.com

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