‘Perfectly proportioned’ websites may be the worst

New Scientist:

…a study by Paul van Schaik at the University of Teesside, UK, has found that the golden ratio does not benefit all designs. Websites with golden proportions can be harder to extract information from, he says.

Van Schaik put 98 students into five groups and asked them all to answer questions using information on five separate websites. He recorded the time it took participants to answer each question, together with the number of web pages they looked at to do so.

All the sites had a navigation bar with links to other sections of the site on the left of the page and a frame for content on the right, but the sizes of these two sections differed for each group. The pages of one group were divided according to the golden ratio, while the websites of the other four groups gave over less space to the navigation bar.

Those in the golden group answered the questions slowest, taking an average of 15.8 seconds to answer each question – 3.5 seconds longer than the fastest group. The golden ratio group also took 2 seconds longer than the next slowest group and had to visit more pages to find the information required.

“It has been suggested since antiquity that the ratio is aesthetically pleasing,” says Van Schaik. “But we found that not only is it not liked in web pages, it is also less efficient in terms of accuracy and speed.”

Please help me test a CSS menu

I’m testing a css drop down menu for use here and for use at Philly Future. Can you help me by letting me know if this works for you and what browser/browser version/OS you are running?

The menu appears as a bar just beneath this page’s header for now. Don’t sweat the colors – they are temporary.

here is the source for the menu.

Spread the word: Albert’s running for Committee person!

Philly Future and Chuck Pennacchio volunteer, photographer and blogger extraordinaire, Albert Yee is running for committee person in Ward 5 Division 8!

Ward 5 Division 8 is a rectangle from 12th St to 9th St from Pine St to South St. He is collecting signatures from registered Democrats living in the area through the weekend. He needs these signatures to qualify.

Please see details in his related post.

Dreamhost update

Performance and uptime have improved considerably in a day. Dreamhost contacted me and informed they have solved a database issue that was the cause (they did not say what). Today has been smooth sailing. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Some tech/media/online community/citizen journalism bits

Google blog search launches in beta! More at Om Malik’s and at Paid Content. I have no opinion yet. Got to do some digging.

The Columbia Journalism Review was with the Times Picayune in New Orleans as it produced its powerful and amazing coverage during the course Katrina and the devestation wrought afterwards. Read their report. More at Metafilter.

Congrats to Jeff Jarvis, who will be starting a a new job heading the City University of New York’s new media program.

Roland Tanglao has a recipie to build your own Memeorandum: Drupal + Aggregator2 + Algorithms = Memeorandum.

Blogging from Flashforward

I’m in New York today, attending Flashforward. What – you didn’t know I use Flash? Yeah, I don’t talk about work that much here do I? Java, MySQL, and yes – Flash… well more like Actionscript. Flash as a graphic arts/animation tool is mostly foreign to me – although it greatly peaks my interest. The intersection of code and visual/audio arts can be a lot of fun.

A couple Comcast co-workers of mine will be speaking this Friday.

If you’re around – say hi.

The New York Times on Craigslist

What eBay Could Learn From Craigslist – New York Times:

…triple-digit annual growth rates are rare among major Web sites. Meet that rarity: Craigslist.

Exceptional, too, is the ability to draw 10 million unique visitors each month without ever relying on venture capital and equity markets. Or the ability to attain fourth place among general-interest portals without ever spending a penny on marketing.

Signal accomplishments, to be sure, fit for boasting in an annual report. But Craigslist is a privately held company that has no such reports, and no burning interest in the competitive fray. It does far more shrugging than boasting. Its management regards profits, which it has earned consistently since 1999, as merely the means to remain in control of its own destiny. Free of debt, it can do as it wishes to maximize what it calls its service mission without having to maximize profits. This is good news for its customers – that is, community members – and bad news for competitors whose shareholders are unlikely to regard community service as their own companies’ raison d’être.

…Craigslist initially provided online listings of local events in the San Francisco Bay Area, the kind that could be found in an alternative newspaper. Visitors were encouraged to contribute, and they added the online equivalent of the mainstream newspaper’s classified section. Software handled e-mail forwarding.

Unlike eBay, which is dedicated to removing geographic obstacles to trading and defines “community” along national boundaries, Craigslist thinks and acts locally, organizing listings city by city for merchandise, jobs, real estate, personals, events, volunteer opportunities and discussion forums.

..Late last month, Knight Ridder Digital announced its plan to finesse the challenge of free classifieds: it dropped fees for ads for merchandise posted on the Web sites of 22 of its newspapers.

..Data collected by Nielsen/NetRatings show that eBay’s page views in April 2005 grew by less than half a percentage point, compared with the previous April. At Craigslist, page views grew 130 percent in the same period. According to the company’s data, its traffic is now about a fifth of eBay’s. And the operational efficiencies are astounding: Craigslist has 18 employees; eBay has 8,800.

…EBay uses an elaborate feedback apparatus to allow strangers who will never meet in person to feel safe doing business with one another. Craigslist does not need that apparatus. It is for locals only, and it is the one place that can fix you up with an entire life – job, shelter, furnishings, lover – at one stop, with minimal intermediation.

Did you know that…

Philadelphia has become a model for sheltering the homeless (Rocky Mountain News)? No? Neither did I. This is a terrific story that should be passed around. Discussion at Philly Future.

Fun with databases

Rafe gets an answer to a tricky MySQL scenario. I’m sharing the linkage here since I ran into a similar problem just a few hours after he posted the answer. Timing is everything.