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Interpreting the OCA Advisory

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Written by Basil on 03/7/2005 6:28 PM. Filed under:

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In a recent article, I mentioned that the new OCA website was visually borken in Firefox on Macintosh platforms. I also promised a site critique. I still hope to publish an article critiquing the new site, but further exploration of the site has proven that such a critique will be a massive undertaking. Though tempted to despair of the utility of such an exercise, I am undaunted.

As I plan what I will write, I was pointed to an “advisory” from the OCA webmaster. Does this make sense to you? “We broke your links to our site. Stop whining and fix your website. We’re more important than you.”

Typical scenario 1: An inquirer looking for information about the Orthodox Church types in “orthodox church history america” in Google. After looking at the top few links which inaccurately skew the history of American Orthodoxy toward Hellenic Orthodoxy, he goes to click links to the OCA website that look promising. What does he get? A very unhelpful default IIS 404 page. The OCA webmaster’s answer to this inquirer? “Stop whining and fix your links.” Right. He’ll probably just get his information from the Greeks or the Antiochians. If he’s persistent, he’ll look at other pages that link to the same two pages on the OCA website. And he’ll keep getting the same 404 errors.

Typical scencario 2: A faithful Orthodox Christian uses the OCA’s daily readings and hymns in her daily rule of prayer. Using her handy bookmarklet to get today’s readings, she finds the default 404 page. Not only unhelpful, it interrupts her spiritual exercises, breaking her concentration and forcing her to find out what’s gone wrong. The OCA webmaster’s response to this Orthodox pilgrim? “Stop whining and fix your links.” That’s beyond inexcusable.

Will Google spider again and update its links? Of course. Will other websites change their broken links? Some will, many will not. “I am the webmaster! Change your links before me, for I am….” Let me be the first to assure you, you are deluded.

These ladies are laughing at you: 3 ladies smiling around a laptopA while ago I also wrote about “The Biggest Design Mistakes of 2004.” This is the top mistake: Believing People Care About You and Your Website.

Write these two sentences where you can see them as you’re working on your computer:

  1. The only reason my web site exists is to solve my customers’ problems.
  2. What problems does the page I’m looking at solve?

Nobody cares about you or your site. Really. What visitors care about is getting their problems solved.

Why is that number one? Because it’s the most important part. The site is not about the webmaster, it’s about the users. Piss off your users, and at best your website will be irrelevant.

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4 Responses to “Interpreting the OCA Advisory”

  1. Erich Says:

    Nice to see you get so worked up over this. It keeps me entertained, at least. Hey, you know, I was thinking today… You were in SAGA at Asbury, weren’t you? If I remember correctly, my sophomore year I met with you and Candace Brown to talk about bringing SAGA into SGA. Am I correct?

  2. Basil Says:

    Erich, yes. That was me.

  3. Fr. John Whiteford Says:

    I think I probably prompted this advisory by posting my concerns about the frequency with which the URL’s to major sections on the web site have changed. As far as content goes, the OCA web page is probably the best jurisdictional web page in English, but it makes no sense to keep moving the urls around. I have links all over my web page, and it will take me some time just to find all the broken links now, and more to get around to fixing them all.

    I also don’t like the way the lives of the saints are formated now.

  4. Basil Says:

    In relation to this specific issue, see the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) policy on URI persistence. Though not normative in the way a W3C Recommendation (such as [X]HTML or CSS) is, it does represent a strong statement by perhaps the biggest player in the direction of the world wide web.