Re: The Netscape / Microsoft / Future Quagmire

Murray Altheim (
Mon, 21 Oct 1996 16:18:17 -0500

Message-Id: <v02140b2aae91921d00c1@[]>
Date: Mon, 21 Oct 1996 16:18:17 -0500
To: "Jason O'Brien" <>
From: (Murray Altheim)
Subject: RE: The Netscape / Microsoft / Future Quagmire

"Jason O'Brien" <> writes:
>Peter Flynn writes:
>>This is because you design your pages with appearance only in mind.
>I do not design my pages with appearance in mind -- it's content first
>(believe me, I'm a free-lance writer as well as web designer and I know
>what's important) and then appearance -- however, I do give great weight
>to appearance as well -- let me give you an example of a situation :
>You're walking around hungry as can be and decide you want a nice chicken
>sandwich and fries -- you walk up and see two restaurants -- both have
>signs outside saying how great their chicken sandwiches and fry specials
>are and they are both charging the same price for this entire meal -- so
>your decision has to be made on appearance.   You open to the door to
>Restaurant #1 -- the floors are dirty, there are only a couple of seats
>so the place looks very barren, the place smells bad, smoke fills the
>air, and the rating sheet shows a 52.  You close the door.
>You open the door to Restaurant #2 -- a person is there to greet you
>right away -- the air smells good, there are plenty of seats, light music
>is playing the background, the place is spotless, and the rating on the
>sheet shows a 99.
>Now you tell me which restaurant you choose.

Bad scenario. Really it's more like this:

Restaurant #1: The floors are clean, everything is in order. If you're
blind or in a wheelchair, you can safely enter and navigate the interior,
and actually eat a meal. You can see the menu, which is straightforward,
and displays all the items in an easy-to-read manner. (Why does a minimal
Web page have to smell bad and be dirty? They've got plenty of time to
clean up -- they're not learning the latest JavaScript trick.) In fact, the
menus are available in several languages, because the proprietor actually
values foreign customers. It doesn't cost an arm and a leg, and the food is
actually tasty: they can afford a good chef. You figure the reviewer
(rating this place a 52) wasn't particularly interested in the food (maybe
he was impressed by the flashing lights of other restaurants), since it is
actually quite good.

IOW:  Time spent on preparing food, keeping the place clean, and
      making the customers happy by presenting both the menu and
      the food in a pleasing, understandable and accessable way.

Restaurant #2: There is no handicap access. The front of the store is
covered with neon and gaudy signs that scroll and <BLINK>, and the signs
are in some sort of code that only the wealthy can afford to decode by
paying some upgrade fee every six months. Once in the restaurant (if you
can get in at all), the menus are obscured by all sorts of flashing lights
that make it difficult to read, much less eat in peace. There's BGSOUND
blaring over the speakers, so you can't have a decent conversation. And
because they spent all their time and money on hype, they couldn't afford
to hire a decent chef, so the food is terrible, and expensive. And they
haven't spent much time cleaning the place, because they're busy keeping up
to date with the latest marketing glitz, updating their facades to the
latest models, etc. If the 99 rating on the restaurant was made by someone
judging the restaurant on its food, then the reviewer was bribed. After
all, this is where all the money is.

IOW:  Less time spent on food, cleanliness, handicap access, more on

>No different with web pages -- it's a known fact that people have a
>better chance of exploring your web site if it's appearance "grabs" them

It's not a well-known fact, it's an example of pure marketing crap. People
go to some sites for entertainment, but I would argue that most are looking
for CONTENT. A well-designed site can pull in readers by having
well-presented content; it doesn't take flashing lights. If the content
suffers at the hands of being obscured by featuritis, or by not being able
to view it due to incompatibilities or because one's machine isn't up to
par, then they don't come back at all.

Why is it that some people assume that their content is so important that
they think a viewer is willing TO BUY A NEW COMPUTER TO READ IT? Simply


    Murray Altheim, Program Manager
    Spyglass, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts
    email: <>
    http:  <>
           "Give a monkey the tools and he'll eventually build a typewriter."