Dr. Bob’s Rx for the WWW

By my last count, there are approximately 11.4 gazillion web sites that raise a visitor's blood pressure through a variety of aesthetic and navigational errors of omission or inclusion. That's right, we're talking epidemic proportions here. So let's take a look at some of the typical ailments that afflict a host of sites needing a healthy dose of common sense.


I'm sure you've been exposed to this one before. The designers don't test their creation on any computer but their own (or maybe they're just plain sadistic) and force you to scroll left and right to see the whole page. By the time you've finished reading a page you've either developed carpel tunnel syndrome from clicking the scroll arrow so repeatedly or you've got yourself a serious case of whiplash of the eyeballs.


This one is similar to its lateral cousin except the designer has set the type in columns so you're forced to scroll up and down if you want to read everything that's written.

You also suffer the ramifications of this disease when the designer only puts advance or retreat options at the top of the page. So you get to a page's bottom… and that's it! There's nowhere else to go from there. All you can do is scroll up again and curse the inconsiderate soul who designed it… and probably the company whose site it is.


Certainly, Strobe lights have their place in society. Like on emergency vehicles and in dance halls. But they don't belong on a web page. Yet I'm certain you've seen them more times than enough — those flashing, blinking, blinding sub-messages that do more than distract you from the main message you're trying to access; they drive you from the site and right into an ophthalmologist’s waiting room.


About a half-century ago, Rosser Reeves, of Unique Selling Proposition fame, coined a term for scene-stealing visuals in TV commercials: Vampire Video. Despite his warnings, you still see it cropping up in some commercials today. But on the web, it's running absolutely rampant.

Sometimes misdiagnosed as Strobe's Disease, VV usually takes the form of pop-ups and/or streaming visuals that misdirect the site-visitor's attention from the subject at hand.

Vampire videosis has become so common, there are rumours of a Rosser Reeves revival in the making.


How many times have you gotten to the bottom of a page to find an advance arrow or the word "Next"? At first, you might think the designers are being thoughtful by providing you with directions. But think again and you're likely to come to the conclusion they're being anything but.

In reality, they're leading you blindly by the mouse — just telling you where to go without telling you what awaits you if you do their bidding.

If they really cared about you, they'd give you at least some indication as to what you're going to find if you hit that button, e.g. Next Page: what our CEO did on her last vacation.


Have you ever found yourself midway into a site and wanted to revisit something that you'd seen at the beginning? You want to go back to the Home Page but there's no button to take you there. The only way to get to where you started is to hit the Back button 117 times.

It's happened to me on enough occasions that I'm planning to start a movement for similarly frustrated site-browsers. I even have a theme song picked out: Show Me The Way To Go Home.


I admit I'm cursed with a bad sense of direction at the best of times and it certainly doesn't improve once I get onto a web site. But there are some sites that are so link-ladened that even someone with the navigational sense of a Chris Columbus would get lost.

You're reading a sentence and come across two links within it. The next sentence has one or two as well. It seems they want you to hit links rather than read to the bottom of the page, so you hit, say, link #3. You get to its page and you're soon reading a sentence that has yet another couple of links. Being an explorer at heart, you hit the second one. But once on it, you decide you're not really as interested as you had been moments earlier and try to go back to the place that had previously seemed worth your while. But where was that?


This is pretty rare but I actually did stumble across it last year while trying to subscribe to a free e-newsletter, and last month while trying to make an online donation.

In both case, I had diligently filled out their form, telling them my name, address, e-mail address, age, sex, interests, what I'd had for breakfast and my opinion of how long a piece of string is. Then, an eternity later, after I'd answered all umpteen and a half questions, I went to send it off.

Couldn't do.

No Submit button.


It's the Internet equivalent of the common cold — web pages with sentences that go on and on. Paragraphs the length of the Arctic coastline. Page after page of words, words, words.

Dr. Bob's prescription for web writers: remember, computer screens aren't as easy to read as printed paper. So KISS.

Plus, you're not writing a novel here; not even a brochure or direct mail letter. The people who are being exposed to your copy are on your site of their own volition. And they'll click off the moment they get ticked off by excess verbosity.

So edit as if you're personally paying for every syllable that appears on the screen. And, for heaven's sake, don't ramble on the way I do in my articles.