Re: Home page design, WAIS gateway bug, MSEN

Tim Berners-Lee (timbl)
Thu, 31 Oct 91 11:49:15 GMT+0100

Date: Thu, 31 Oct 91 11:49:15 GMT+0100
From: timbl (Tim Berners-Lee)
Message-Id: <9110311049.AA09130@ >
To: Edward Vielmetti <>
Subject: Re: Home page design, WAIS gateway bug, MSEN
Cc: www-talk

Ed, you asked:

>> Any chance that you could put the "home page" from CERN and some   
other sample good pages up for anonymous FTP? <<

Done for the CERN home page:  

> I'd be interested to hear any thoughts you have on what it takes to
> make a good home page.  I suppose you want to be sure that a user
> doesn't get so completely lost that they can't find their way out,  
> enough local information that people feel more or less at home.
> hm hm hm.

Yes, Good home page design is an art -- like the cover of a magazine,  
or a quick-reference card. Of course it depends on the readership.  
The CERN home page has to start with the CERN things to minimise the  
number of keystokes/clicks for the largest number of users. At the  
same time, it needs pointers for someone with a broader interest to  
rapidly find a wider topic, and it has to suggest to people what is  
behind it so that later they will use it again on another topic.
The competition for the first 24 lines is hot! I have thought of  
having a "Latest additions" link, so that people who though they know  
the web can check for new bits.

There is also the question of whether to make the layout really open  
(lots of white space), with 5 well-explained links on each page, or  
to cram in as much as possible. I feel one should start with  
something very open and obvious, but then get more compact once the  
reader is into something he is interested in and has got the hang of  
the program. Having a fast scollbar make it much easier to cope with  
lots of open text. People must have done their PhDs on this sort of  

I suspect one should have, for each site/organisation, a public home  
page for those from outside, as well as a private one for those who  
will underderstand terms differently. For example, a link to the CERN  
phone book from outside could mention that the numbers need to be  
prefixed with +41(22)767!

Also, both pages should be linked to some list of other sites.  
Perhaps a tree of pages which emulate the domain/x500 naming scheme a  
little would be useful because people are used to browsing that way,  
and will be able to once x500 is part of the web. This is only one  
structure which is useful, though. A tree by subject a la Dewey  
decimal system would be another - hypertext would get over the tree  
restriction which limits Dewey's usefulness. In fact, making  
hypertext overviews and making indexes of third party data should be  
"value added services" which anyone - library, or company like  
yourselves, should be able to do on top of existing data. Making  
sense of the morass of data (as you have been doing for years) is a  
very valuable contribution to the world of knowledge. Such ordered  
overview or review information is likely to be much more widely read  
than the underlying documents.  The best reviews will be most quoted,  
and hence most read, so survival of the fittest will ensure that most  
people don't spend their time reading junk.

> By the way, it's possible to build a Sun 3 client with no problem
> at all - just make a "sun3" directory, copy in the Sun 4 makefile, 

> and make.

Thanks - I don't have sun3 to test on, but I'll make the directory
any copy the makefile: thanks!

> "Document address invalid or access not authorised" on 

> could you check on it?)

Oops .. [Long story: The default home page in the last release has a  
pointer to a file ...Products/WAIS/Sources.html which had just been  
renamed  ...Products/WAIS/Sources/Overview.html. When you read it,  
there was a soft link from the old to the new so you read the new  
file but with the client thinking it was at the old address. This  
worked until I put in the new relative link to your list. Then, the  
relative link was parsed relative to the old address, generating the  
bad adderss above]. It should be ok now. 


>> I figured out how to store a WAIS query.  For your "What is MSEN"  
pointer,  something like
hives?msen> will work just fine. <<

Well done! .. I've linked "MSEN" in your list to you main document.

By the way, I want to make that address


but first I have to put into the client a table of gateway addresses  
for protocols the client doesn't know himself.

>> I hacked the line mode client so that "RECALL" and "LIST" spit  
things out in a format that's ready to cut and paste into a source  
document; that was the easiest way to get documents of my own going  
quickly. <<

Ok...I wondered whether a command "Append a reference to this node in  
HTML to file xxx" would be useful. It would allow people to keep  
lists of interesting nodes in their own space. It's in the Line Mode  
bug list now.


>> WAIS database names can include / in them, which
gums up your heuristics for figuring out how to parse them. <<

Yes -- that's true.  I should escape them or something...

Thanks for all your feedback, Ed.  MSEN sound like something heading  
in the right direction.  By the way, do your [prospective] clients  
have workstations in general, or is it all MDOS? Do they dial in, or  
have leased lines?

I wish I could have gone to the IETF to meet a few people in person,  
yourself included, but Robert Cauilliau and I are going to HyperText  
91 (Dec 15-18 in San Antonio TX), and that blows my US Travel quota.  
Will you be at HT91 by any chance?

Tim BL