June 9 1997

500 readers daily - 60.000 in all !

Even though "your Signal is one of the most confusing web pages Iíve ever seen!" as a reader writes...

Itís a very hot summer day here in Lahti Finland now (June 9 1997), + 29 C in the shadow, + 34 Celsius in sun. Holiday season just started, the schools were closed for next three months, only a few people care to spend lots of time in front of the computer screens now after the long, dark and cold winter. I confess, Iím one of them anyhow. I even go to the summer university for one week course to learn some new tricks on home page making for the web. I wish Iíll be able to make the Signal easier-to-use and better looking, the construction MUST be simplified even though the number of ads and illustrations keeps increasing day by day ! Also my phone bills should be lowered, now some US$ 150,00 monthly.

A reader sent his comment a few days ago - the Signal is one of the worst and most confusing web sites he had ever seen !!!! That gave me something to think about ! Iíve visited thousands of web pages and have seen hundreds of worse pages than an average Signal page. But of course itís in my interest to better this and over 50 other pages as soon as possible. Therefore some of my "long term plans" are revealed here now.

When I started the Signal in the web it contained 2-3 pages with 100-150 pen friend listings, just typewritten names & addresses with the hobbies. Links from page to page, it was really easy to do - gray background, default texts, 1-2 links, nothing more. Now the number of listings has grown to over 4.000, number of photos to 300, banners and logos and other illustrations to 100-200, pages to over 50. Some internal links on the older pages really donít work - I'll correct them as time allows, also the photo pages will be renewed... New ads are added daily, new pages weekly, it seems that the Signal contains some 10.000 personal listings, 500 photos and 100 pages by the end of this year !

What should a typical Signal page be like? Can common template be used on all the pages, or is it boring, dull ? More illustrations, color and photos on every page mean longer loading time ? What about photos behind links, shorter loading time ? Numbered or unnumbered pages with links only to previous and next pages, or with links to all the 100 pages ? In the Signal those code numbers are nuisance to some readers but do you prefer 100 ads with really long description about the advertiser and her | his hobbies and wishes or do you like to select your friends from 10.000 listings with code numbers ?

If one thinks of these requirements just from graphical or artistic viewpoint itís quite fascinating project to realize. Now it seems to be "in" to have white background | black basic texts | 3D shaded or color headings | lots of white space | 2-3 columns per page. Frames are out of fashion, animations, java scripts, cgi scripts slow down the loading time.

I regard The PointCast web pages as the best I've seen. They contain also bright neon colors, moving pictures, texts etc. Really professional work !


Many illustrations and links to gif | jpg illustrations or forms on other sites are nuisance to most readers, they donít have enough patience to wait a few minutes instead of 10-30 seconds for something which may or may not be worth seeing ! What about music ? Do you want music on every page ? If you visit the same page 4-5 times do you want to listen to the same background music every time ?

As to the printed Signal Penpal Magazine itís getting "smaller" issue by issue at the same time as the web Signal is growing day by day and hour by hour. At present some 300-400 people write via snailmail MONTHLY and in the web Signal has some 500 readers EVERY DAY ! If I would send a printed Signal magazine to 500 readers daily the postage costs alone would be US$ 400 DAILY, in theory. Thanks to Internet my real postage expenses are decreasing now, they were over US$ 5.000 yearly earlier - last year about US$ 3.000 only. I print only as many Signal copies as are ordered and paid for, earlier the minimum print order was 10.000, later 5.000 on web offset, sheet fed offset printers accepted smaller amounts from 1.000 to 5.000. Nowadays I do the work myself with the digital duplicator and can print 1-2 pages at a time when ever they are needed. Can also print any amount of pages - the maximum speed is 110 sheet per minute, 6600 sheets per hour, over 50.000 sheets on a normal working day!

To save time the same page originals should be used both in the printed Signal and the web Signal. Possibly also the printed Signals should be "updated" just like the web magazine, as ads come - and printed always when ever one full page of material has been composed and the lay-out made ? Lately Iíve been lazy with the printed Signals and snail mail - the Signals are packed only 2-3 times monthly, 100-200 at a time, new pages have not yet been printed and the pile of unreplied personal letters keeps getting higher and higher day by day. Why ? Iíve been online all the time - ads are added to the updated Signal pages several times a day, I surf more and more and read the code to learn to better the quality of my own pages, search for java and cgi scripts and new useful links and good software for the Signal and for YOU !

Raimo Kaarna, the publisher


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