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Inform - Keeping Your Web Site Visitors Informed on a Timely Basis

Informative & timely!Bookmarked Topics on this page
Informing Your Web Site Visitors - The Role of Change and Importance
    Frequency of Changes:
        Minute to Minute Changes In Information
        Daily, Weekly, Monthly and On-Demand Changes in Information
     Importance of the Information
New Technology - Improving the Process of Informing Your Web Site Visitors
     RSS - Really Simple Syndication
          Examples of the Many Possible Uses for RSS Feeds
     BLOG - Web Logs
     E-mail Newsletters and Reminders

Keeping your web site visitors informed is an important trait of a good web site. Visitors to your web site expect you to keep them aware of things that they need to be informed about you, your company, your organization, your products, your services, your activities, etc., in a timely fashion. Keeping your information accurate and up-to-date will increase the probability that visitors will browse around longer on your web site and will continue to come back more frequently. Web site information timeliness and accuracy are closely related to web site quality.

One thing is for sure: A visitor will not waste their time coming back to your web site if you let the information on your web site is out of date, or if it is inaccurate. On a business related web site, for instance, just a simple news release that is obviously out-of-date, tells your customers that you don't care enough to keep your information up-to-date. It puts doubt in their mind regarding how much you care about them if it is obvious that you don't care about the information you are endorsing when you don't keep your information on you web site up-to-date.

There are other factors to consider as well when you don't keep the news and information on your web site up-to-date and accurate. One good example of other ways out-of-date information may hurt you is The Open Directory Project which is a web directory that has rules that may eliminate your web site from being listed, if the information it contains is obviously out-of-date or is incomplete or inaccurate. The Open Directory Project is a primary web site information feed for most of the major Internet search engines because of it's reputation for quality. The quality is considered very high because of the high standards they use when a web site applies to be placed in their directory. Every entry is reviewed by a qualified person in your field to be sure the web site entry is categorized properly and that the web site does not contain obviously stagnate, inaccurate, or out of date information.
Informative & timely!For more information see the Open Directory Project Website.

Informing Your Web Site Visitors - The Role of Change and Importance

We live in a fast changing world. The purpose of a web page on your web site determines how often changes in the information should be made to the web page.

Frequency of Changes

Minute to Minute Changes in Information

In the world of 24 / 7, up-to-the-minute news, some web site pages may actually need to change from minute to minute or even more frequently. Not only do some news related web sites fit into this category, but also web sites that monitor certain kinds of events or changes in things must be updated quite frequently. Web sites containing a web cam, web sites that monitor and inform you of the weather conditions at a particular time and place, and web sites that display stock market activity are good examples. Changes to web site pages at this rate must use some sort of automated methodology to help gather, accumulate, and present this data on the web pages. What type of automated methods are used is dependent on the type of data. The technology and infrastructure of this updates that happen this fast are quite costly.

Daily, Weekly, Monthly and On-Demand Changes in Information

There are types of information that obviously don't need to be changed every minute or hour, but still need to change on a daily basis, or may once every few days. A good example of web site information that may change on a daily basis is Real Estate availability and pricing information.

Other types of information may change weekly or monthly. This would be the kinds of information that would traditionally end up in a weekly or monthly newsletter, trade journal, or magazine. Essays, articles, and opinions would fit into this category.

There are also on-demand changes. You cannot really put a schedule on when information like this needs to be released, but when it becomes available it generally needs to be released as soon as possible.

Thus, the frequency that the information changes and how important it is for your website viewers to be informed on a timely basis, is an important thing to consider and will affect the design of the part of the web site that presents this data. It will also effect the technology that is used to gather the information and present it on the web site and whether it justifies the cost of automating it or whether it can just be updated using your normal web maintenance people.

Importance of the Information

The value of keeping people informed is a significant reason to keep your web pages up-to-date. This could include everything from product price changes and when they take effect, or a list of all the gas stations within the web site visitor's travel area with their gas prices listed, or the decisions that were made at a governmental meeting, or a change in the law and when it take effect, or information regarding a newly found computer virus that requires immediate action to reduce your web site visitor's vulnerability.

In our quest to manage the vast amounts of information that users face when using the Internet, we must use various methods to help them not only find what they are looking for, but also to signify the level of importance of the information. For most web sites, the web site owner would know the types of information that would be critical to their web site visitors. This critical information should be presented in such a way that conveys this high level of importance. Other things that people need to be informed of may be important to them, but not necessarily critical.

The level of importance for each news and information item should be taken into account and presented in such a way that the user can easily sort out the most important information from the less important items. You must keep in mind that you should only portray news or information as critical information only if it is really critical to the user. You should use contrast in your presentation of information to designate each item's importance to the viewer. Keep in mind though that you must be careful to not over use alarming presentation techniques. Overuse leads to the "boy that cried wolf" syndrome and the effect is rendered useless. When critical information is most needed to be conveyed, no one pays attention to it.

Fortunately, more sophisticated ways are now being used on the Internet that let the user define what items are of importance to them. Good RSS feed readers (see below) give the user this ability to specify this type of information so that they are notified of the information that would be most important to them because the criteria that is used to rank the importance is supplied by the user up front. This is much better because it puts the user in control of sorting out what is more important in the information you and other web sites provide in your RSS feeds.

New Technology – Improving the Process of Informing your Web Site Visitors

Most web sites contain one or more links on their main menu that take you to pages that inform you about news, events, products, etc. that you feel web site visitors should know about. Almost every web site should have one or more links like this. It may not be called "News". A link to inform visitors about new things related to your company's products may be called "Home of the Month", for instance, if you are a home builder. Your web site should have one or more "News" links on the main menu. A typical "News" page would be a traditional web page that will have the latest news about your company, organization, topic, products, your industry, or what ever else your web visitors should be kept informed about. These pages should change frequently, if you are doing your job, and maintaining a good web site to represent your company, organization, topic, products, etc.

In this first New Technology section we are going to talk about "RSS feeds". You should seriously look at this technology to see if it would enhance your traditional "news" or "available houses" or whatever pages that contains information that changes frequently and that you want to keep your web site visitors informed about. This relatively new technology will effectively enable you to make your important news and other information available to others from your web site in a much more powerful and flexible way than the traditional news page does by itself.

You can also aggregate and display data headlines that are relevant on your web site, but supplied as an RSS feed from other web sites by using this same technology.

RSS – Really Simple Syndication

This is an exciting technology that is taking hold very quickly and is being implemented by vast numbers of websites every week. It is based on the XML formatting language specification.. It is having a huge impact on the Internet with regard to rapid and controlled active information gathering and dispersal, which can be tailored to your interests. Using RSS files written in XML, you can create a data feed that supplies headlines, links, and article summaries from your Web site for others to post on their web sites. This technology results in your drawing more visitors to your web site and providing them with up-to-date information about you, your company, your organization, your events, your new products, your product updates, etc. RSS is bringing about the true dream that was promised when XML was introduced several years ago. The ability to create content that can easily and accurately be found on the Internet by search engines and filters, and where the content is separate from the format specification, such that the same content can be presented many different ways depending on the reader's needs without having to change the content. This is very powerful!

For a thorough explanation of RSS Feeds check this link out.

Informative & timely!Wikipedia: RSS Feeds and File Format Explained

There are many good RSS Feed readers available. We at Odyssey use an RSS Feed Reader called Awasu . We have used this product since July of 2005 and we recommend it because it has a lot of flexible features, the company that sell it offers a free version, for a relatively small fee you can purchase the professional version, and it is programmable.

Examples of the Many Possible Uses for RSS Feeds

The traditional uses of RSS feeds are to automatically pick up and display information that is posted on news organization web sites and on blogs. RSS is now being used for things as diverse as the following:

  • Replacing weekly newsletters because RSS feeds are designed to send out information as soon as it is known, rather than waiting a week to let them know.

  • A well-known online book store is now using an RSS feed to announce their bestsellers and help their RSS subscribers keep track of book releases they are most interested in.

  • Software companies are beginning to use RSS feeds to provide the latest software downloads, and to deliver product updates, and patches directly to their customers as soon as they become available.

  • Academic and Educational sources are using RSS to deliver whitepapers and other educational content that the subscriber is interested in as soon as it becomes available.

  • You can publish dynamic digital catalogues of your products and provide your customers with your latest product releases, broken down by the categories they're interested in, and make it easy for them to order.

  • Using RSS to deliver newsletters or other informative documents instead of e-mail delivery, since many people no longer want to give their e-mail address away because of spamming and virus issues. This is proving to be much safer and hassle free for the subscriber.

  • Help your visitors keep up with what’s going on in your web site or forum by publishing your latest content items or forum posts or whole threads via RSS feeds.

These are just a few of the virtually unlimited ways in which RSS technology can be used to INFORM.

BLOGS – Web Logs

Blogs have revolutionized and democratized the way traditional "news" is covered and disseminated. Its roots may go back as far as the ham radio communities that effectively reported on news independent of the recognized press and news networks decades ago. In the 1990's Internet forums created threads of running conversations regarding news and information. Blogs came into existence in the late 1990's with the development of more sophisticated tools that made the creation and use of blogs easy. Since the early part of the 21 st century, blogs have become a recognized legitimate medium for reporting and expressing opinions. They have had a major role in the breaking and reporting the news and opinions regarding the Iraq War, and other major world wide current events and stories. They have been used for consequential political purposes both for the benefit of some politicians and to the detriment of others. They have given contrast and an alternative to the mainstream broadcast and cable news which has changed and now seems to be driven more by commercial and political interests presented as a form of entertainment mixed with journalism. Blogs have also been used effectively for the benefit of consumers by reporting complaints and vulnerabilities of various products that are not covered by the mainstream news. There are still issues with confirming that the information is accurate and reliable but this is nothing new with information sources. This issue will have to be worked out as this technology is accepted as a legitimate form of journalism. Now major news organizations are beginning to use blogging themselves both as a source and as a outlet medium. Blogs were one of the first types of web sites that used RSS feed technology to help users find and keep track of topics that they are interested in. The other type of web site that was one of the first mainstream users of RSS feeds was traditional news organization who put RSS feeds on their web sites. Now every news organization of any merit has one or more high quality RSS feeds available on their web sites.

E-Mail Newsletters and Reminders

In terms of the internet, e-mail is an older technology, but it is still very effective as an information delivery tool. E-mail has evolved to include the ability to be formatted with HTML, so your newsletters and notifications can now contain a mix of text, images, animations, and hyperlinks.

In some usages, and for some of your customers or members, e-mail is probably the most effective medium of keeping these people informed, especially if the notification is more personal in nature. My e-mail inbox, for instance, contained two informational e-mails today. One that informed me that my online DVD movie rental Queue is almost empty. The other one told me that one of the movies that I selected to rent last week has shipped and they told me approximately when I would receive it. I don't even have to open either one of these e-mails, because the subject line tells me all the information I really needed to know. These are two great instances where e-mail is the best way to inform me about an event that I am interested in. I also received a weekly e-mail newsletter from Microsoft regarding one of the software developer programs we are members of, and a security notice which is sent out on an as needed basis from Microsoft. Even though Microsoft has RSS feeds, blogs, and newsgroups, all with the purpose of informing their customers, the e-mail newsletter is still a very important part of their strategy to keep their customers informed. Also, most companies that you purchase merchandise or services on-line from will e-mail a confirming receipt or notification of the transaction for your records. Nearly all companies and organizations with good websites use a combination of all of these methods to keep their customers, members, or guests informed.

A hindrance to e-mail notification is that more and more people are using spam filters and you must make sure that your subscribers, who use spam filters, OK your newsletter or notification e-mails in their spam filter setup, to let your newsletter or notification e-mail come through. You should have information like this in your instructions when the user signs up for your newsletter or notification service. You should also have this information on your FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) web page. You should have a way for the user to either activate or cancel the e-mail newsletters or notifications on your website as well. The URL for these web pages should be put on your newsletter and notification e-mails as well so the subscriber can easily get to these web pages. The is just common courtesy. Of course the URL's to pages on your website pages that are pertinent to the information in the newsletter or notification are also important to use because it keeps the e-mail size smaller and, more importantly, it takes them to your website where they can take action that may benefit both you and them.

If used prudently, and in a way that gives your subscribers valuable information, e-mail newsletters and notifications are a valuable and effective way to keep your customers, members, and others interested in your website, well informed.


Odyssey Consulting Corporation
113 Overton Ridge Circle
Weatherford, Texas 76088
Voice 817.594.3516 Fax 817.594.2710


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