26th November 2003
Lifting your website to its full potential

Welcome to Alcander's news letter. Every fortnight we bring you information to help you increase the pulling power of your website. Our topics will include marketing tips, reviews on webmasters' resources and search engine news. The Alcander website contains extensive information on web promotion including a description of our affordable web promotion and customer retention consultancy services, but we use this newsletter as a vehicle to keep you informed on supplementary information, much of it relating to recent trends.

As we get your feedback on this newsletter, the topics are subject to change. Alcander are also inviting contributions from other parties,so you can expect to be even better informed in the future.





Two of the industries' top leaders, Robin Nobles and John Alexander are coming to London in February 2004.

More on this below!


Internet worldwide growth slower but solid, says U.N..


FTC Cracks Down on Internet Scams


Track mobiles via the net. Route planning website Mapminder launches a mobile location service so you can keep track of people online.


AOL Acquires Multimedia Search Company Singingfish



Robin Nobles and John Alexander are two of the most well known names in search engine marketing, and they are coming to the UK to run their highly successful workshops. Robin Nobles is the director of training for the Academy of Web Specialists. John Alexander is an international educator who has taught onsite search engine marketing workshops to people from more than 80 different countries. He has also run his own Internet consulting business since 1996.

They are running their premiere onsite search engine marketing workshop from February 23rd to 27th 2004. It is an ideal opportunity to learn how to harness the power of the search engines, and you'll learn from the 2 preeminent SEO's in the industry.

Learn more about the Search Engine Marketing workshop here.

Many thanks to Marie Coggin of Prosper Marketing for bringing this news to our attention.



Popular Free Resources for Website Enhancement

The Internet is seen by many as a rich resource of free information. To others, it's seen as a rich resource of free resources. Music downloads, images and applications as well as textual content. This fortnight, we take a look at some popular free resources which are well worth knowing about when developing a website.

If you are looking for a feedback form, then Matt's FormMail certainly does the trick. It is a generic HTML form to e-mail gateway that parses the results of any form and sends them to the specified users.

Are you short of enticing images? A good source for royalty free images is iStockphoto..

With a growing collection of 75746 royalty free files, iStockphoto is a unique community of photographers and designers.

How about including a discussion forum on your site? Enticing visitors to participate in discussions about your service or product is a very effective way of increasing customer satisfaction. A forum also provides content that will get updated without any input from the webmaster, apart from a degree of moderation and maintenance. A free 'lite' forum called Encore Lite is available here - (from Aborior)

Aborior also provide a free newsmanager so you can inform your audience on the latest happenings on your site or around the world.

Kscripts provide one of the best site search facilities, available as a free scripts and distributed under an opensource license. See it in action on the Alcander website! It's called KSearch. We found it easy to install and set up, and it has a rich set of features. It was also no problem customising the look and feel so it fit the style of our website.

FormMail, Encore Lite and KSearch are also listed in Alcander's Webmasters Resources section, along with numerous other carefully selected resources for Web Promotion and Customer Retention.


In each issue, we will review either a) new ways to keep your customers interested once they've found your website or b) ways you can collect information about your website visitors - information you can use to devise new content for your site to help retain different kinds of visitors.

All the resources in the above Web Promotion section will contribute to your visitors spending not only more time on your site, but also quality time. They will be less frustrated because they'll be able to find their way around your site much more easily with Ksearch. They are more likely to want to come back to see their contribution to the forum. Another way to entice them to hang around longer, is to include a game that they can access from your site. Javafile, for example, is a source for free java applets and scripts, including java games.


Improved Customer Retention through design.

In our first 7 issues, we look at the 7 BIG mistakes in web design. We've now reached the second in this series, and we are going to look at....

Redundant Features of websites

In general, too much information on one page at once, can baffle your viewers and they'll end up leaving your site. Avoid information overdose at all costs. There are also specific features which (usually) are of no benefit to your visitors, and all too often put them off your site. These are :

Animated .gifs


Images such as rotating email icons normally just annoy visitors to your site and add to the page's download time.

Insufficient contrast between text and the background.


In order for your text to be at its most legible, you need sufficient contrast between the text and the background. Dark text on light background works best. This is also goes for colour changes for your links (rollovers and visited links).

Excessive images and/or images which take too long to load.


Keep the images to 256 colours, reducing them using an image compressor (our recommendation is UltraGifOptimizer), if necessary. Generally, pages should load in less than 10 seconds. The recommended total size for a web page is 40-60K, but if you can achieve something close to 30K, so much the better.

Background images which make text hard to read.


One or two carefully placed, subtle images behind text is fine, but a complex, multi-coloured image will only make the text almost impossible to read.

Blinking or flashing text.


Such effects are generally disliked and should be limited to the neon lights of night clubs.

Framesets (unless it is really necessary and you know what you are doing).


Frames generally present usability problems and can be detrimental to your web rankings. There are, however, a few arguments for using frames, and these are covered well in Jacob Nielson's article on "Why frames suck (most of the time)". Frames are used when designers want to partition web pages into independent areas. The same effect can be attained by other methods such as implementations of cascading style sheets.

Flash introductions.


It is a known fact that the "skip intro" link is one of the most frequently used links. Flash introductions may be of interest to some, but they may put people off if they want to return to your site.

Under construction pages.


Launching an incomplete website goes against one of the main rules of 'netiquette'. A good website is always evolving, but declaring a site (or any part of it) to be incomplete is like telling your audience that it is a waste of their time being there.

Background music.


This is a very bad idea, unless you know that your audience will share your taste in music and do not happen to be listening to any music already when they load your site.

Horizontal scrollbars.


Horizontal scrollbars decrease a page's usability because visitors are forced to manually scroll the page back and forth in order to view the content. is a useful site for testing your pages for cross-browser compatibility. They include a facility for testing your site in different screen sizes.



We have been busy updating our image over the last couple of weeks. The old Ace of Cards logo has been replaced, and we hope you like the new one which we think is more apt. For now, you will still see something resembling an Ace on our web promotion articles pages, but we hope to change that in time*. In addition, "Web Promotion and Customer Retention Services" has been simplified to "Web Promotion Services" as it is obviously much less of a mouth full. We must hasten to add that by no means have our Customer Retention services been dropped. It is an important part of our business, and it provides our customers not only with high quality web analytics in the form of reports for seeing what their visitors are doing, but also our help in interpreting the reports. So, with the reports and our personal attention, our customers are able to find out which of their web pages are working, which might need some improvement, and we'll include suggestions on enhancements that can be made.

*At the time of writing, the old logo is still in use throughout our website, but plans are afoot to change it very soon.



If we ran a web award scheme, we would give out awards to the following web sites. We have placed each "award" in one of 10 categories (Arts & Entertainment, Bizarre, Business, Creativity, Educational, Kids, Science and Technology and Webmasters' Resources). Who knows, one day we may run an official awards website. One way of getting ideas for compelling websites is to look for inspiration from other compelling websites. The categories below are subject to change.

Arts & Entertainment :

What will life be like in 2054? An interactive experience.


Caricatures by Zach Trenholm

Business :

Compare credit cards, mortgages, life-assurance. Includes tools for finding the best deals.

Science and Technology:

The most remarkable places on earth are also the most threatened.

Africa's first on-line science magazine.

Creativity :

Blue Planet provide web site design and development services throughout the world.

E-commerce :
Travellers Tales produces an exciting collection of cross-stitch kits based on the colourful designs of ethnic and historical textiles from around the world.

Webmasters Resources :


WorldMerge allows you to quickly and easily generate large numbers of personalised e-mail messages using your "internet-ready" database of recipients and a "template" e-mail message.

Educational :

Space news from around the web.



Why restrict your searching to Google? Each fort-night we look at other ways of searching the Internet.

When looking for location-based information, you could just include a place name in your Google search. But this is obviously very limiting. What other options are there at our disposal?

In the UK we have on-line directory services such as yell and Scoot. There is also Ask-Alix for a very good "find nearest" service.

Take an advance look at Overture's location-based search (in development) : <Link now invalid - Webmaster 22/04/04> You'll need to a) enter a business type e.g. dentist and click on "change location" and b) enter a placename or zip code (U.S. places only) to get the demo to work. Google also has a 'trial version only' location based search - (but please make sure you read the terms of use before trying it).



Read about terms or definitions before we get around to putting them in our knowledgebase (

banner blindness : The tendency of visitors to ignore banner ads, even if they contain information which that the visitors would find of interest (or are even actively looking for).

Because of the intrusive nature of much advertising, many visitors get in the habit of ignoring it to the extent that they don't even see banner ads. This tendency combined with the advent of ad-blocking software can give advertisers a bad time. Advertisers are constantly looking for innovative ways to advertise on the web.