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Cleaning the window to the soul

By

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 28, 1998


Is a home page not a window to the soul? A personal expression of one's innermost secrets, desires, fears? If that's the case, Frank and Pat's home page demonstrates they are not really taking anything seriously.

Coming into the site (http://home.att.net/ TILDEfrankpat/index.html) is stressful on dialup modems: It weighs in at a meaty 106 kilobytes. While there is quite a bit of text, it's the graphics that are the killer. Ideally a home page shouldn't be more than about 30 kb to 40 kb, including graphics.

The first thing I would do is move the awards to their own page. While they are important to the site's owners, they are less important to visitors -- and the award graphics were adding to the weight of the page.

Next I would add some kind of consistent navigation throughout the site. The site doesn't use frames, and at 20 pages it is complex enough to get lost. (A frame is a placeholder for other hypertext markup language pages, often used on the left hand side or top of a page to aid navigation. If you scroll up and down a page and parts of it stay in the same place, you are probably viewing a site that uses frames.)

So I would add a strip of navigation. (Traditionally this goes on the left-hand side.) Another approach is the drop-down box similar to the one used on the Times home page, though it is a little more difficult to do and might require some programing. Frank and Pat's site map, while hysterical, didn't really help much. The centered copy on the home page was a little difficult to read, the line breaks were inconsistent and it all sort of ran into itself. I would break things out a little more and maybe add some subheads to help this process. (And guys, lose the background sounds. Or at least have them default to being off.)

The date is clever. It is generated from the date on your computer by what is known as a client side script. This is a small fragment of code that asks your system for the date and then displays it. If you look at the page with a browser that doesn't support client side scripting, you don't see it. This also is the case if you turn off your browser's scripting capability.

This is a fun site and I tried hard not to lose the airy feeling by being overly corporate in my suggestions. (To check the before and after work, see www.jules.com/armchair/part2/.)

So many personal pages are devoid of character and content -- not so here. The banter is sassy and it's a pretty enjoyable, flippant ride.

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