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Poor Richard 17

eZine's profile picture
Author: eZine
6 Feb 2023

Geek-Free, Commonsense Advice on Building a Low-Cost Web Site

Editor: Peter Kent
Top Floor Publishing


  • Beginner's Column: Web Design = Software User-Interface Design
  • More Ways to Promote With Cards
  • The Microsoft Site Builder Network
  • The JumpList List Directory Utility
  • More Places to Register Newsletters
  • Banner Ads -- The Other Side of the Story
  • Opt-In Email Advertising - A Warning
  • Finding a Web Site Promotion Partner
  • And Now For Something Completely Different
  • Poor Richard's Web Site in the Press
  • Reading Back Issues
  • In Future Issues

Beginner's Column: Web Design = Software User-Interface Design

There seems to be a huge misconception in the Web world. When people think of Web design, they think of graphic design. That's a shame, because a Web site is not a book or a magazine, it's a piece of software.

I'll bet that most professional Web designers are either graphic designers, or at least people who are interested in graphic design more than software. Yet Web design should be primarily software design, with graphic design used to make the final product look good.

A Web site is software; it's the front end of one or more programs that are being used to deliver and gather information. It's all every well wanting a pretty site, but a pretty site that doesn't work isn't worth the electrons used to transmit it. Yet a not-so-pretty site that does a good job is still worth visiting. So user-interface design has to come first.

I have a theory that this is why the Web is all too often difficult to use. Haven't we all come across sites that just don't do what they're supposed to do? Shopping-carts that are difficult if not impossible to use, search systems that don't seem to find anything useful, technical support sites that frustrate more than they help ...

Some companies have got things the right way around. CDnow, for instance, designs their Web pages in the following manner. First, they decide what they want to do. That is, the people running the store design how the pages should _function_. Once they're sure they know what the pages should do, _then_ the pages are passed on to the graphic designers. And of course the designers have to work within various constraints -- they can't just go wild and design whatever they want. The design manager at CDnow told me that his designers would love to win design awards ... but that wasn't the point, the point was to create a functional site.

Go to your local bookstore and ask for books on Web-site design. You'll see scores of books talking about graphics and working with colors and clip art ... and probably not a single book on user-interface design -- how to make a site _function_ well. Many millions of dollars are being spent on making sites look great. I just wish that some of that money could be transferred into making the sites easy to use.

More Ways to Promote With Cards

In the last issue I mentioned a company selling Web cards -- printed postcards with a picture of your Web site:

I should also have mentioned They create similar cards, though with perhaps more options than the company I mentioned last time. They also have an affiliates program in which they pay you $1 commission for every person who arrives at their site after clicking on a link at yours and then orders sample cards; they also pay 10% commission on all sales.

There's another, much cheaper, way to use cards to promote your Internet business. My friend Randy Cassingham, publisher of This is True, has simple printed cards that he gives away in mass quantities. This is True is an email newsletter, with around 160,000 subscribers. It contains weird but true stores gleaned from the news wires (visit for more info).

Randy had a few simple business cards printed up at a CopyMax (a print shop inside the larger Office Max stores). These are the thermographic (raised letter) cards, so they look good. He's managed to hand out around 5,000 in the last eighteen months or so. They cost $50 for 2,000, so that's still only $125 worth. Just _how_ does one get rid of that many so quickly? "They go out with all the books," he told me, "I leave them around, I put them in with the check when I pay bills (THEY give ME bill stuffers!), my family and friends hand them out, etc." The most important distribution method, he says, is sending them out with books (Randy publishes books of these stories every now and then, and each time he sells a book through the mail he stuffs a few cards into the book): "People who buy books have already said (with their Visa card) that they like the stuff, so I give them something to help spread the word!"

You can see an example of Randy's card here:

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The Microsoft Site Builder Network

Even if you're no fan of Microsoft (quite frankly I'm not very happy with them right now after all the problems I've had with Windows 98), you may want to check out the Microsoft Site Builder Network. This site has information about setting up Web sites; a lot of it's very geeky stuff -- DHTML, ASF, ActiveX, XML, Graph Servers, and so on. But it also has a freebies area that's worth taking a look at.

You have to register to join; it's free to register for the "Guest" level, though there are some areas of the site that are only open to people who have joined Level 1, 2, or 3 -- Level 1, for instance, requires that you put the "Get Microsoft Internet Explorer" logo and link on your site. The freebies area has software downloads, discounts on Web hosting, special offers on various Web utilities, and so on.

The Site Builder Network:
The freebies page:

The JumpList List Directory Utility

A few months ago I discussed the subject of managing list directories at your site

These link directories can be a real hassle, especially if they're very large. The problem is, of course, that links keep breaking, so it's useful to have some way to watch for problems. In that earlier article I talked of the method I used, but I've just discovered another system, a utility called JumpList:

This system will hold and manage a directory of links. The directory actually sits at the Jump List server; you use a Web form to fill in the information, and then the Jump List utility maintains it for you. It periodically checks those links to see if they're still active -- and emails you when it finds a problem. You can even set the list to allow visitors to add links if you wish.

The basic JumpList is free, so you can try it without paying anything. You'll be able to create a single category containing up to 100 links. If you pay $30 a year, though, you can get the commercial version, which allows as many categories as you want, with 999 links in each. It also provides many customization features -- add a logo, change colors, pick button images, and so on. And it has a number of other features for managing the list; the comparison table ( ) lists 28 different features, of which 18 only work on the commercial version.

I don't think I'd want to create a very large list using this system, though. Creating the entries can be a little slow, as you have to do it through the Web forms. But it might be useful for small lists, particularly if you want to allow people to add links to the directory; perhaps you have a club or association, and want to allow your members to share links, for instance. The commercial version will even email you when someone adds a link to the page.

If you'd like to see this system at work visit these pages ...

Free version:
$30/year version:
or see the Free Stuff list:

More Places to Register Newsletters

I've run across a couple more places to register email newsletters. I discussed this subject in an earlier issue, and I have a special report at my Web site explaining the subject, with a list of around 30 places to register (see Places to Register Your Email Newsletter, at ).

Here are the new ones I've just added to the list.

E-Zine Ad Source:
This is only for newsletters accepting advertising -- and they'll expect you to run a small add twice a year if you want to stay in the directory. The directory is being launched in October they say, so I've no idea how you actually access the information, but you can register your publication at ...

Ezine Advertising:
This is a directory of newsletters that is sold for $21.99. This publisher also requires that you include an ad in your newsletter, though it appears that you only have to run one ad. About the newsletter - To register -

Banner Ads -- The Other Side of the Story

I've written enough about the negative side of using banner ads, so I won't talk about it anymore (except to say that I've recently spoken with a couple of business owners who have also wasted a lot of money on banner ads). In fact I've said so many bad things about them, that I'd like to balance things out and say something good.

The problem is, I haven't yet found anyone who's done well with banner ads. At least, not small businesses. As I've mentioned before, many of the big businesses on the Web are playing a game in which they are willing to pay $50 for every new customer ... but that's a game most of us can't afford. If you're selling an expensive product -- a hosting service that will bring in $500 to $1,000 a year, for instance -- banner ads may work. What I'm really interested in, though, are successful uses of banner ads by a typical small business.

This list now has over 8,100 subscribers. Surely someone out there has succeeded with a banner ad campaign. Email me and let me know!

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Opt-In Email Advertising - A Warning

I don't think much of banner ads ... but email advertising really can work. (I'm not talking about spam, I'm talking about advertising in newsletters or advertising with opt-in lists.) On the other hand, be careful. Email advertising is getting a good reputation these days, as people realize that it can be affordable and effective, but not all email advertising is such a great deal. There are three main problems to watch out for.

1. Classified ads
Some newsletters sell "classified ads." You buy a few lines, and your ad runs along with scores of others. It's my opinion that these ads do not work. Very few people will actually read these ads -- in fact I'm not sure if many of these newsletters get read at all. Even if they do get read, people tend to quickly scroll past the classifieds.

If you can find a newsletter with very cheap classified ads, go ahead, try it. Create a key page -- a Web page that you'll use just for that ad -- run the ad, and see how many people hit that page. Probably very few.

2. Exorbitantly Expensive Ads
Some opt-in lists are way too expensive. I was looking at a few opt-in lists recently, such as these:

Direct Marketing Online:

Prices seemed to be from 6 cents up to as much as 30 cents a name. As I discussed in an earlier newsletter, advertising is measured in cpm (cost per thousand). So 6 cents per name is a cpm of $60, which is toward the high end for banner advertising. And 30 cents a name represents a cpm of $300!

Can you make money at those rates? I doubt it. Again, if any subscriber has successfully used an opt-in list paying these sorts of rates, please let me know. A while back I tried a list with a cpm of $150 ... the campaign failed abysmally, and I must say I was a little irritated when the list broker told me that email advertising doesn't usually work for my sort of product -- after he'd sold me the names, of course.

It's quite possible to find advertising in newsletters at _much_ lower rates. The cpm for targeted newsletters is often around $35, but rates can be much lower, around a dollar or two.

3. Real Numbers?
This last problem is tricky, and right now I'm not sure of the solution. If you buy advertising in a newsletter, how do you know you're getting what you paid for? If you pay for 50,000 subscribers ... how do you really know that you're getting 50,000, and not 40,000 -- or 10,000?

Right now most money in newsletter advertising is being spent on faith; people are simply taking the seller's word. I suspect that in a lot of cases numbers are inflated -- many list owners probably don't clean their lists very often, for instance, and a large list can quickly build up thousands of bad addresses.

What we really need is some kind of independent verification service. The mailing service I use -- Lyris, at -- is working on this, and say they should have something in use toward the end of this year. A newsletter owner, for instance, would be able to direct a subscriber report to a potential advertiser. The report would come from Lyris, not from the newsletter owner, and would show how many people are subscribed to the list, and perhaps information about the number of successful deliveries of the last issue, the number of held (potentially bad) email addresses, and so on.

Finding a Web Site Promotion Partner

Have you considered running a promotion with another Web site? A company selling model rockets might do a drawing at a model-rocket hobby site, a comic publisher might promote its wares at a busy comic site, and so on.

How do you find a suitable site? Well, here's one way to figure out how much traffic a site is getting (after all, you want a site with lots of visitors). Sign up with a banner advertising service. I talked about Flycast in an earlier issue ( ).

Flycast provides you with a program that allows you to pick where you want to place your ads. Part of the information it provides to you is traffic numbers!

You can pick a category of site you're interested in working with, then look at each site in that category and see what their traffic figures are.

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And Now For Something Completely Different ...

Okay, so this is nothing to do with the Web, but I just had to mention it. The emails have started flying around the Internet with this humorous and topical idiosyncrasy; in fact you may have heard about this already ... but wait, there's a twist at the end.

If you have Word for Windows, try this. Type "I'd like Bill Clinton to resign." (No, this isn't a political statement, at least not from me; I don't care either way.) Then select all those words, and run the Thesaurus on the text. The Thesaurus will display the words, "I'll drink to that!"

This seems pretty wild; is it a programmer's slipping a political statement into Word, perhaps? It must have been done a couple of years ago, though, because it works on versions of Word that old. But the explanation is a lot more mundane.

Someone discovered that if you run the Microsoft Thesaurus on the word "I'd," it will return "I'll drink to that." Who knows why, but it does. So it was an easy step to create a joke using this knowledge. Add "like Bill Clinton to resign" and send it out onto the 'net, and you've got an amusing little message that the world's office workers can use to while away the hours until home time. Oh, well, it was funny when we first saw it.

Poor Richard's Web Site in the Press

Poor Richard's Web Site is still popping up in the press here and there.
  • "This book is one of the best I've found for going from zero Web knowledge to having a site up and functioning." Ron Burk, Windows Developers Journal
  • "For its sheer practical advice alone, this book is worth its cost several times over" Micro Computer Mart (UK)
  • The SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives of the Small Business Administration) newsletter recently recommended Poor Richard's Web Site to SCORE advisors
For many more reviews and testimonials, visit ...

Poor Richard's Web Site is in many bookstores, and can be ordered by others; it can also be ordered on-line, through the mail, by fax, or by phone.

See ...

Order direct from the publisher, and you'll get a 100%, 1-Year Guarantee. If the book doesn't help you set up a low-cost yet effective Web site, send it back for a refund!

Reading Back Issues

If you need to refer to back issues of this newsletter, you can find them at the following location:

In Future Issues ...

  • The Poor Richard Web Site Makeover
  • Getting the Word Out about your Web site
  • Setting up an email mailing list for newsletters, bulletins, product announcements, etc.
  • Processing orders while you're out of town
  • More on promoting newsletters
  • Secure servers: why you want one, how they work, who has them
  • Mail-merge programs and mailing list programs
  • A quick way to inform Web sites when you change your URL
  • Are people cheating at the award sites?
  • Charging purchases to the buyer's telephone numbers
  • Electronic press releases _do_ work!

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