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When Eckspurts Strike 21 September 2000 Edition
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In yesterday's column I noted that the New Zealand Computer Society's website was somewhat unprofessional and could do with some attention.

I must admit that my examination of the site was only a cursory one -- but Aardvark's readers have clearly been scrutinising it somewhat more closely and have reported a number of other problems.

The Society has fixed the spelling mistake I reported yesterday (at least one of the members is smart enough to read this column)-- but it still seems that, despite running a "Partners In Excellence" programme on the site, they don't really have a clue about such things as testing or quality control.

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For example: clicking on the link labeled "Click to Enter" on 4 this page was this morning (still) causing the site to cough up the source code rather than rendering page being referenced. Clearly nobody involved in the construction of the site has even bothered to clicked on that link!

If Aardvark's readers were able to spot this glaring gaffe then why didn't the society of "eckspurts" who run the site?

However, the NZCS shouldn't feel too bad because they're in good company.

Take the example of the NZ Stock Exchange, they have been kind enough to place 4 this useful form on their website -- offering to help you decide whether to invest in shares.

Surely, given that the page appears to have been up for nearly six weeks, they would have worked out by now that it's broken and that clicking the button at the bottom simply produces an error message?

Come on people -- whether you're a society of professionals or the heart of NZ's stockmarket -- you should engage an independent third-party to thoroughly test your website for these kinds of stupid and easily discovered errors.

Everyone who runs a website should realise the value of checking the error logs that the webserver produces. These logs will rapidly highlight the effects of any broken links or faulty CGI scripts so their examination is an important part of running and maintaining a site.

I am also constantly surprised by the number of business websites representing seemingly successful companies and which appear to have been produced by a seven-year-old (mis)using a copy of FrontPage.

There are plenty of very good web designers in this country -- use them!

Also, no professional or commercial site should ever be launched without some form of independent site survey being performed. Maybe it's about time we instigated "website warrants of fitness" to help maintain a minimum level of quality amongst commercial sites? (I'd have suggested a "Partners in Excellence" programme but that phrase has been forever ruined me thinks ;-)

Battle of the local news sites
All the surveys indicate that news sites are one of the most popular destinations on the Net and here in New Zealand we have a range of options for the well-informed websurfer.

The newest kid on the block, 4 stuff.co.nz has integrated a number of online news properties that formerly appeared under their own domains and is a bold attempt by INL to stake its claim.

Until the arrival of INL's flagship, 4 The NZ Herald was the undisputed king of the castle but has recently become a victim of its own success as its servers struggle to keep up with the load. I gather that the poor performance issue is presently being addressed so let's hope that those annoying error messages and molasses-like loading is soon fixed.

TVNZ's recently rebranded and relaunched news site at 4 onenews.nzoom.com lacks depth and scope when compared to the other two dailies. It's also probably not the site of choice if you like your newsfix first thing in the morning because its publishing schedule seems to be focused on the early evening news bulletin.

So -- which of these sites is "best?" What makes a good news site better than a bad one? Do you visit just one of these sites or all of them on a regular basis?

Please, send me your thoughts and comments. I'll sumarise the results on Monday.

As always, your feedback is welcomed.

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Copyright © 2000, Bruce Simpson, free republication rights available on request