Southwick Parish Council website
The present website was established in 2015. It has been designed to enable new material to be uploaded and published by logging in to a content management system (CMS) CuteNews was selected as being especially suitable for the publication of news. The advantage of being able to add material online is that responsibility for including new articles does not have to depend on the website designer and is safer than editing web pages in an editor. Editing web pages in an editor also requires specialist knowledge and takes more time than using a CMS.
Parish council website content
A parish council website must almost by definition include access to the proceedings of the council. The documents must include: minutes of meetings, agendas for meetings, details of how to contact councillors and the parish clerk, and information about the parish and news. For further information see: Information about Town and Parish councils
Links to PDF files or real web pages
Many council websites publish their minutes and other documents using links to PDF files (Portable document Format). Whilst the PDF format is excellent for printing documents, particularly long documents it is not considered suitable for online access. Users don't like encountering a PDF file while they are browsing because it interrupts their flow and because standard browser commands don't work, even simple actions such as printing or saving files are not that easy. Also, PDF layouts are often optimized for a sheet of paper, which hardly ever matches the size of the browser window of the user. Even more, PDF is difficult to navigate so it is important to switch any information that must be browsed or read on the screen into real web pages. For more information see: Top 10 Mistakes in Web Design The link is to Jacob Neilson's usability website: Evidence-Based User Experience Research, Training, and Consulting. (Neilson Norman group). He considers the use of PDF as a substitute for real web pages as Number 2 in the Top Ten Web Design Mistakes.
The Southwick site has over 60 real pages, this excludes pdf, jpg and text pages. The website is a modern CSS controlled site. This means that it loads quickly and is easier to update. The increasing use of wide LCD displays has meant that the width of textual material has become excessive as displayed on modern displays. There are very good reasons why newspapers use columns of narrow text but they can be too narrow to read comfortably. However, a web page is not a newspaper page and there has to be some compromises on the appearance of published content. A text column should be no wider than about 20 words. Obviously at this width the user may decide to zoom in or accept the website's text default size. I have set paragraph text size to 12 pixels but font size to 100 per cent to enable users to alter the displayed size of text. Care has been taken to ensure that the site is accessible. I have used WebAim Center for Persons with Disabilities Utah State University. Web URL www.webaim.org The site was re-evaluated 6th Nov2015. No errors, alerts included PDF link, fully justified text, and a reference to a Form that is incorrect.
By all means check yourself: www.webaim.org
Website Display Design Decisions
In 2015 two thirds of the access devices used to access a parish council webite use desktop displays which are over 1250px in width. Parish council websites need to be able to present, almost exclusively, textual material. Text is better read in columns about 8 words wide and not more than 20 words wide. For example, Google's search pages restrict results to no more than 15 words wide. The large displays, which are becoming even more popular as they can be used to view downloaded or streaming films call for two or three columns on each web page to accommodate text. I think that a three column page allows for photos and video to be published in a wider central column whilst still allowing for smaller photos and images in the narrower side columns.
Over fifty per cent of visitors to the website use a display device that is over 1250px width ( eg 13inch Notebook fits the entire widest page with space to spare) there are a significant number of visitors that use mobile devices (17.7% 8-11-2015). Mobile users will experience need to scroll horizontally modern mobile devices can easily cope with thisd inconvenience. The only alternative is to produce an alternative website with cross links or to introduce even more expensive modifcations to the website. In my opinion mobile users would prefer to land on a webpage that displays the whole page even though that is difficult to see as they can then select to zoom in to read the text. Local testing confirms this supposition. The argument being that the user is accessing a website that has been designed for much wider displays and as a consequence they will need to zoom in to read the content. There is a mobile stylesheet which is active for older mobile devices.
Page navigation needs to be placed either above or to the left hand side for ease of access. To save space I prefer that the navigation menu is placed at the top of the page and that a suitable webpage banner or masthead is located at the top of the page. This helps to orient the user especially when they move around the site and may be linked to other websites. Southwick website has a photo montage banner consisting of seven photos 800px wide by 100 high in total. This single image will fill the varying width of the site's two main layouts: three column and single column, by tiling.
The website banner takes up a minimum of space. The banner and site navigation and page title takes up no more space than a standard business card relative to height.
The website has passed an accessibilty test using the tools available at www.webaim.org
The location of articles
The minutes and agenda pages have been designed to fit in a single column page. Other pages mainly have a classic three column layout which allows for the inclusion of a variety of "boxes" in which different categories of material to be published can be placed. The central column can accommodate photos, posters and embedded video. Some pages have links to other pages, this is preferable to pull down menus which can present accessibilty problems. In addition to the standard menubar there is a Search button on the Home page which can find, for example "photos" or any other keyword within news posts.
Will news be deleted?
Since each webpage only displays x number of articles, older news becomes readable only by using the Next Previous page links at the bottom of each page. Some pages may only display one news item or article. If news is of little historic value it maybe deleted. Since older news doesn't distract from newer news there is no need to delete news. Parish council related news: agendas, minutes and Councillor list will not be deleted. For speed of access it may be desirable to archive news at present this is not necessary. Requests to remove news will be carefully considered.
CuteNews Content Management system
CuteNews is a remarkably useful way to add news to a webpage. Unlike a blog Cutenews can be used to add articles of news to any part of a web page. Cutenews is used to publish news from various categories in any place on any page, including multiple pages and categories. Southwick's installation is unregistered this means that Cutenews is unlicensed and a message will be displayed stating that the CMS is unregistered but the extra cost of registering the software. currently £40 is not necessary unless one wants the "Powered by Cutenews . . ." message removed. Therefore, Cutenews is free if the website owners are happy to display Powered by Cutenews messages.
The RSS button (Really Simple Syndication) allows users to become instantly aware of newly published material without visiting and searching the website. I use SharpReader it is free. There are other free programs as well. Currently, the RSS feed works on Windows XP but not on Windows 10. Firefox's Live Bookmark Feed fails to load this issue is being investigated
Website stats Visits and other information
The parish council website welcomes news. There is no reason to wait till the newsletter is published but news should also be submitted to the newsletter. Photographs are welcome but permission might need to be sought for photographs that include people in them. Photographs should be submitted without alteration to size etc. They can then be adjusted to suite the location where they are to be published.
Suggestions are most welcome :) Please use the Contact page.Geoff Edwards Article updated 8/11/2015
NB the background colour of this page is white. If it doesn't look white to you then your display may need adjusting. Also the text is black
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Today's date: 17/11/2017