Why So Few Bells and Whistles?
In my most recent update of this site I tried to make it look more advanced (maybe "more professional" would be a better way of putting it, though I dislike that word when it's used in that way). But some of you may be wondering (and a few folks have asked) why it's still so much simpler (plainer, one person said) than similar sites. Where are the animated menus? Where are the bells and whistles? Well, the short answer is that I hate the way websites typically look these days. When I visit the sites of any of my publishers, for example, I just find them bewilderingly busy, with menus and text boxes all over the place and stuff moving around. And it's not just websites, of course. Turn on CNN these days and you'll see at least one, and often two news crawls snaking by in front of the talking head reading the news, while behind her there's a whole array of images and logos, many of them moving. It's dizzying, and it's unnecessary. Maybe I'm just old, but as much as I want to attract traffic to my site, both to promote my plays for production and to support drama teachers and other educators, my primary concern was to make the site useful and easy to use. Here are a few specific things I did towards that end:
On nearly every page there can be found both a simple menu listing the seven main trunks of the site and a more detailed one that lists every single page. On most there is also a third menu listing only those pages directly related to the current page. I did this because while it did strike me that it would be useful to be able to jump instantly from anywhere to anywhere else, many people would find the super-detailed menu difficult and confusing. I also felt that structuring the menus in this way would reinforce the hierarchical structure of the site, which would in turn help folks to figure out where they want to go, rather than simply helping them get there.
On any page that I thought anyone was likely to want to print (like the lesson plans), I avoided background images or colors and used only black type. That way folks can print directly from their browser without wasting ink and time while the background prints. In some cases I also added links to completely clean PDF versions of the text. I suppose that sort of consideration is going to be less valuable every year, but there are still plenty of folks who don't carry a tablet around with them everywhere they go, and who need paper copies of things.
I removed all of the automatically-playing multimedia from the site. There are still links to audio from my musicals, but they only play when you want them to. (I'm always irritated when I open a web page and music or other audio starts playing--particularly since, when I'm searching for something, I tend to open dozens of tabs out of the search engine and then check them out one by one, so I often don't know which site is playing the offending music--and sometimes I end up with two songs playing at once!)
I have made some concessions to the millennium. I've gone ahead and assumed that folks know the basics of browsing--such as recognizing text in blue as links--so there's a lot less wearisome "click here" text, and no detailed instructions for downloading. And, where I don't expect anyone will want to print, I have used images where the old version of the site just used background colors. I've tried to make intelligent decisions about when to make links automatically open a new tab, but for the most part I figure folks who want multiple tabs when they browse (as I do) will know how to make it happen.
If there's any way you think I could make the site still easier to use, feel free to contact me.