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Making the most of critical emails - reading behind the scene

You can't please 100% of the people 100% of the time. So if you have a public facing website with anything like a reasonable number of visitors (we had accesses from over 16,000 different IP addresses in the last 24 hours), you're bound to have a few visitors who aren't totally delighted with what the see. The majority of them will just click away, so you won't be aware of their concerns and indeed your log files will show them identically to people who land at exactly the page they want and are delighted with what they learn - they tend to just click away too! So when someone takes the trouble to send you an email, you read it with great care; it could be the tip of an iceberg.


I am sure you are a bright person, but to say you are not a fan of frames and also to prove it by not using them shows a great deal of ignorance.

Your website like 99.999% of all websites fail to use frames effectively and by doing so cause the visitor to spend a great deal of time scrolling up and down. How stupid. So I have to scroll down to view the entire article but then I want to check out other things on your site and I have to scroll up to the top to find the menu. How stupid. Or even more annoying is the jumping div element that some goofy programmers employ to move the menu as the user scrolls.

It is not that difficult, put the menu in a frame so it stays visible and use another frame for the content. There is zero lose of functionality and a million percent improvement in usability. But because very few teachers/trainers are bright enough to espouse the virtues of frames they are rarely used.

It would be like Microsoft making all the menus in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. scroll off the screen as the user expands their document. How stupid would that be?!?! Just as exceedingly stupid as having one big body element with everything in it so your menu disappears when the visitor scrolls down to view other elements of your site. But that is what most sites do why because nobody knows how to use frames.

In general programmers are good at writing code but the really suck at developing usable sites. This is proven time and time again by the annoying implementation of flash or other popping, whirling, spinning or other crap like that displayed on numerous sites.


Well - that's a strong view, isn't it? I've previously written a "When to use Frames" article, and I would love to use them much more - but there are all sorts of issues with bookmarking, search engine placement, printing, complexity, alignment [and their deprecation in HTML 5 - thanks for the email to remind me, Ted!]... which have discouraged me in the past and will continue to do so into the future. I agree there would be gains from their use, but there would be losses too and, overall, the losses would probably outweigh they gains. We certainly wouldn't gain enough to justify the work to be done to make it happen.

But something doesn't quite add up about Vince's email. He's saying that only 1 in 100,000 web sites gets it right. Whilst we're not afraid to be different, we would have to think very carefully before adopting a scheme that so few others use. And he goes on to talk about jumping menus, and irritating flash elements which we certainly don't have on our site. So I think his email - though perhaps not a widely circulated spam - is a "form letter" that he's written once and sent to many.

Log files are very useful to retrace specific visits to a web site, and I decided to have a look and see whether "our Vince" had visited our site before sending his email to us. And indeed he had. He had arrived at 03:07 - via a google search for "PHP Frames" and spent six minutes reading our "Using Frames in PHP" page - which is a HowTo guide with complete example source that's runnable. He then ran the demonstration, changing the frame content 16 times before leaving the site at 03:20. His email is timestamped 35 minutes later, so either that's how long he took to write it, or he was off researching other sites who he felt might benefit from his comments.

All very curious - and a really interesting piece of detective work which I have quite enjoyed. I'm left wondering "what is his purpose in writing in this way" - no links in the email, no offer to sell his services to add frames to our site, not even a URL to go and look at. So - just as he had found us through Google, I decided to see what footprint he had there ... and I found that he's posted reviews of various products in the past ...


I purchase the ER33C after reading a lot of reviews and all I can say is there are a lot of people that are satisfied with poor performance.

The ER33C is VERY uncomfortable with ALL of the supplied tips. I modified the gray tip and it was sort of comfortable but not great.

The most common complaint I have read is that the mike slips down away from your mouth and you cannot be heard. I found this to be the case and moments after moving the mike up near your mouth it would slip down again. The reason is because of a poor placement of the cord which tugs on the boom pulling it down and could easily be rectified by Etymotic. ...



I purchased a pair of the Bose Tri-Port headphones and all I can say is they are the worst headphones I have ever used! I got these because they supposedly had superior bass response. Not only is the bass very poor but in general the sound is very poor. For $90 I was expecting to be blown away and raving about how good they are but that is FAR from reality. The $5 replacements at Wal-Mart would be better. ...


When I saw this phone I liked it instantly. The size and feel are great and it looks slick too. One of the main reasons I was looking for a new phone, particularly a Nokia, was due to my dissatisfaction with the Motorola Q9h; or more specifically the Microsoft operating system. Not only did every application respond slowly but the phone frequently rebooted it self and froze.

Anyway, the E71 looked like it was going to be everything I wanted ...

But now that I have owned this phone for a while I am a little disappointed by:

Goes on to list over 10 "design flaws" in the strong and colourful language you've already seen ...

There are a couple of other reviews too of a similar ilk, but I think my quotes above are more than sufficient to set the scene. I wasn't able to find any generally positive posts to help redress the balance.

Conclusion. Vincent Terpe, online from Michigan USA, has actually performed a useful service for us in triggering me to think again about our frames strategy - but my view remains that our site would loose more than it would gain by having changes made in this area. He's also given me a fascinating case study to look at and research - seeing how our log site analysis tools stack up when looking at a specific visitor, and how that visitor can easily be researched a little further. And he's reminded me to look at and thing of the person and the motive when judging apparently aggressive and critical emails. Actually I've quite enjoyed the last hour of research too, and because so much of his critical work is already in the public domain at his own hand, this is an unusual case in that I feel free to share it here.
(written 2010-12-16)

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Some other Articles
How do regular expressions work / Regular Expression diagrams
Matching to a string - what if it matches in many possible ways?
Python regular expressions - repeating, splitting, lookahead and lookbehind
Melksham - two many councils?
Making the most of critical emails - reading behind the scene
Sizers (geometry control) in a wxPython GUI - a first example
Object Oriented Programming for Structured Programmers - conversion training
Can you trust the big brand names?
Python - fresh examples from recent courses
XML handling in Python - SAX, DOM and XSLT examples
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This is a page archived from The Horse's Mouth at http://www.wellho.net/horse/ - the diary and writings of Graham Ellis. Every attempt was made to provide current information at the time the page was written, but things do move forward in our business - new software releases, price changes, new techniques. Please check back via our main site for current courses, prices, versions, etc - any mention of a price in "The Horse's Mouth" cannot be taken as an offer to supply at that price.

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