Issue 22, 9 September 1999
In this issue...
Feature article: Collecting your e-mail when travelling
Resource of the week: Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox
Tip of the week: The KISS Principle for Web sites
Question time: Content of mouseover popup text
The first part of this article appeared in Issue 21 of this newsletter, 26 August 1999: http://www.jeanweber.com/news/tenews21.htm#feature21
The first article described several common situations:
- Collecting e-mail from a company account
- Avoiding long-distance phone charges
- Dealing with attachments
- Collecting e-mail using your own computer and account
This article covers:
- Collecting e-mail using your own computer and someone else's account
- Collecting your e-mail using someone else's computer
Step 1. Collect your account information before you leave home (using Netscape Communicator, Outlook Express, or Eudora Light)
Next issue will cover:
- Collecting your e-mail using someone else's computer (cont.)
Step 2. Set up your account information on the other computer
Step 3. Connect to the Internet
Step 4. Send and receive your e-mail
Step 5. Remove your account information from the computer
- Collecting your e-mail using a public-access internet connection
Sometimes the cheapest and easiest way to get your e-mail is to connect to the Internet using someone else's account -- assuming the other person is happy to give you a password.
- Follow the steps in "Collecting e-mail
using your own computer and account" to set up a Travel Connection icon,
if you haven't already done so.
- On the Connect To dialog, type the other person's user name, password,
and phone number.
- After you are successfully connected to the Internet, receive and send your e-mail as usual. Because your mail server information is in the account settings, you don't have to do anything else.
Using someone else's computer to collect your e-mail can be a bit complicated, especially if you've never done it before, but with a bit of planning you should not have any problems.
Note: if you're using a Web-based e-mail account (HotMail, Yahoo!, AOL's NetMail, or similar), you can skip steps 1, 2 and 5 below. All you need is your user name and password, and a connection to the Internet.
If you don't have a Web-based e-mail account, here's what you need to do:
- Before you leave home, collect this information about your e-mail account:
- Your e-mail address (the address people use when they send mail to you)
- Your password
- Your incoming mail server user name
- Your outgoing mail server user name
- The name of the incoming mail server for your account
- The name of the outgoing mail server for your account
This article will help you find the last four items.
- In the e-mail program available on the machine you're using, set up a
new account using your account information. Don't change any of the existing
account information -- your colleague won't appreciate it!
Note: Do not leave your e-mail password on anyone else's machine. Be sure not to choose a setting that allows the program to "remember" your password.
- Connect to the Internet, using either your own ISP or someone else's.
- Send and receive your e-mail.
- Remove your account information from the computer you're using (not necessary for Web-based services).
I'll discuss each of these steps in the following sections, for three commonly available (and free) e-mail programs, Netscape Communicator, Outlook Express, and Eudora Light. Choose the instructions for the e-mail program that is on the computer you will be using. If you must use a program that is not listed, these instructions should give you enough information to apply to the available program.
Step 1. Collect your account information before you leave home
Using Netscape Communicator 4.5
- On the Edit menu, click Preferences.
- To find the incoming and outgoing mail servers for your account, go to
the Mail Servers page in the Preferences. (Usually the two server names
are the same, but sometimes they are different.)
- To find your mail server user name, click the Edit button in the Incoming
Mail Servers section of the Mail Servers Preferences to display the Mail
Server Properties dialog.
On the General tab, fill in the necessary information. Usually your mail server user name is the same as the first part of your e-mail address, but sometimes they are different.
On the POP tab, select both checkboxes.
Using Outlook Express 98
- From the Tools menu, click Accounts.
- On the Mail page of the Internet Accounts dialog, choose your account
and click the Properties button.
- On the Servers tab of the account properties dialog, you can see the incoming
and outgoing server names, and your logon user name.
- On the Advanced tab, you can choose to leave your messages on the server until you delete them.
Using Eudora Light 3.0
- On the Tools menu, click Options.
- Click the Personal Info icon in the left-hand pane.
- Click the Hosts icon in the left-hand pane.
- Click the Checking Mail icon in the left-hand pane.
To be continued next issue.
For anyone making the move into designing, writing or editing Web sites, Jakob Nielsen's site is a valuable source of information. He writes articles and provides links to other sources, including studies of Web users' likes and dislikes.
You may not always choose to follow his advice, but his comments are always worth considering. I've found that several times he's mentioned issues that I'd simply never thought of before, or he has provided a quite different point of view on a topic that I thought I was familiar with.
Recent topics have included:
- Top ten mistakes [in Web site design] revisited
- Who commits the top ten mistakes?
- The top ten new mistakes of Web design
- Stuck with old browsers until 2003
- Web research: Believe the data
- Disabled accessibility: The pragmatic approach
For a full list of the articles on the Alertbox part of Nielsen's site, go here: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/
KISS (variously defined as "Keep it Short and Simple" or "Keep it Simple, Stupid" or similar) definitely should apply to Web sites -- or at least to those sites that are intended to provide information or sell products or services. Several of Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox articles have addressed related topics, and I recommend them to you.
A very helpful exercise is to make some notes when you visit a site that you find particularly helpful or annoying. What are the site's good or bad features? Here are some questions I ask:
- Does the first page have enough useful information to lead me to the part
of the site that I want? (Is it so "simple" that it has little or no information
content at all?)
- Is the first page cluttered? If so, how could it be improved? (Do I have
difficulty finding the information I want because it's buried in a lot of
- Are the navigation aids helpful? If not, how could they be improved?
- Do I feel that I know where the links lead, or do I have to guess and
hope I don't waste too much time finding the link I need?
- Are the color combinations easy or difficult to read?
- Is the site's design consistent from one page to the next, thus assisting me become familiar with what's there?
I'm sure you can add some pet peeves to this list, though I caution you not to fall into the trap of assuming that your personal preferences are -- or should be -- universal ones.
Here's a quote from Aquent Partners, which I discovered just after I had written the preceding section on KISS.
THINK SMART...THINK SIMPLE...
- Information flow
- Intuitive navigation
- Well designed sites
- Crisp, clear, easy to read pages
Think about your audience... design for their needs, not your ego
A reader wrote to me,
"I attended your discussion about online editing the other night... You mentioned tags on web pages that are displayed as popups when you move the mouse over an image or text and how they are supposed to provide the user with "useful additional" information about the image etc. You talked about how irritating these popups can become if they under the heading of "bleeding obvious" and how they are "noise" if there are too many of them. Well, I have been asked to include these tags using "some vague text" to cover all possibilities of these images etc. As it is against my better judgement, I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of some literature that would support my case for not doing this."
"There are two ways to do tags for an image. One results in popups, which (as you note) can be annoying if they don't say anything beyond the obvious. The other is the "ALT" tag which is visible only when the image itself doesn't display -- for example, when the user has turned off the display of graphics. A good "ALT" tag gives some idea of what the image is ("photo of author" or "Next button") and sometimes the size of the image file (2KB, 30KB, etc).
"Mouseover popups should, of course, give more information than is available from the image itself, even when the image is visible. They are also useful when the content of an image (for example, an icon) isn't obvious, or when the words on a button or other image may not be easy for all users to see (because of color-blindness, or small size of the lettering, or whatever) -- in that case, the popup words might be identical to the words on the button, though a bit more text might be useful if the button text is a bit cryptic. (And remember that not all browsers will display the mouseover popups, so don't rely on them alone.)
"In your case, "vague text" does not sound like it fits into any of the above categories. I know I've read some articles on this issue, but I don't have the citations immediately available."
The question to other readers is:
Do you have references to relevant studies or articles?
© Copyright 1999, Jean Hollis Weber. All rights reserved.
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