Lloyd Robert Borrett

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Computing

Expert Software Services
Web Site

In August 1996 I began the design and construction of a business to business web site for Expert Software Services, where I was working as National Marketing Manager.

At first we weren't permitted to register the domain name "expert.com.au" under the naming policy then in place. So we went live using the domain name "expert.nf" and switched to "expert.com.au" when they relaxed the domain naming policy in March 1997.

Design Philosophy

The basic idea was to provide clean, easy to read pages that were also fast and easy to navigate. The top image links, bottom text links, navigation bars and table of contents all combined to allow users to get quickly to their next location.

Graphics were kept as small as possible. The same set of small graphics were repeated everywhere. Thus after the first one or two pages most graphics would be cached by the user's web browser and the rest of the pages would be fast to load.

Those users with sound cards would hear MIDI Music files being played on the main pages. MIDI files were used so that I could provide some 40 plus seconds of reasonable sounding music with about a 10 Kb size file. Thus the sounds didn't take long to load. Compare this with wave, or similar, sound files which use about 60 Kb or so for just 4 plus seconds of sound!

Those using Microsoft Internet Explorer v4 would be able to see the VBScript in action. Plus they'd see my first efforts at using Cascading Style Sheets to better control how things are displayed. Being unable to use the company's corporate typeface (Adobe Futura), I tried to force the use of the Helvetica (Arial) typeface as sans serif typefaces are easier to read on a computer monitor.

Users with Java enabled browsers would see some JavaScript and Java Applets being used in a few places.

The Tools

The following software tools were used to design, build, maintain and enhance the first generation of the Expert Software Services web site:

  • Microsoft FrontPage 97/98
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer v4.01
  • Microsoft Word for Windows 97
  • Microsoft Windows 95/98 and Plus!
  • Microsoft Windows NT Server
  • Microsoft Internet Information Server
  • Microsoft ActiveX Development Kit
  • Microsoft Visual SourceSafe
  • Microsoft Image Composer
  • Microsoft GIF Animator
  • Microsoft Music Composer
  • Adobe PhotoShop for Windows v4/5
  • Adobe Illustrator for Windows v8
  • Adobe ImageReady
  • Adobe ImageStyler
  • CorelDRAW! v5/8
  • The HotDog Web Editor 32-bit
  • Netscape Navigator v3
  • Graphic Workshop v1.1j
  • Paint Shop Pro v3.11
  • WS_FTP for Windows

Languages used included:
VBScript and JScript for browser scripting
Perl for CGI scripting.

The Internet Service Provider was OzEmail. They hosted the site on a UNIX based system running the Apache web server.

Thanks go to Steve Frost for help with some Perl CGI scripts. Steve and I also collaborated to create the "Send a Christmas Card" section of the web site in time for Christmas 1996.

The Results

During its first 6 to 12 months, this first generation of the Expert Software Services web site received much praise from clients, prospects, potential employees etc. They liked that the pages were fast to load and that there was plenty of detail about the company and its services. Of course this was against the prevailing web design trends at the time towards complex, slow to load images, and not much real information.

The "Petals Around the Rose" web page I created to demonstrate the use of Microsoft's ActiveX technology also got the company much recognition when it was chosen as a finalist in the 1996 Activate the Internet Awards.

Expert Software Services had about 15 people when the web site first went live, and by January 2000 there were some 130 people. As the company grew and matured, the web site also grew to some 200 pages.

Unfortunately we just never found the time to do a makeover of the web site during that period. Thus the design has seemed very dated for at least the last two years and there are now far better navigation methods that could be utilised. Just such a makeover was planned as part of a company wide re-branding and name change exercise.

Some months after I left the company in February 2000, a new generation of the web site was published using almost none of the design ideas and elements I had been working on just before leaving. In fact I thought it a very poor effort. Others must have had the same opinion as in July 2000 it was replaced.

The site was hosted by WebCentral.

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Last modified: Tuesday, 30 October 2007

 
Expert Software Services Web Site
Expert Software Services
Web Site
August 1996
 


 
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