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BRITARCH  July 1999

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Subject:

RE: Thanks for help on Web sites (Nation

From:

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Date:

Tue, 27 Jul 1999 10:57:41 +0000

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Thanks, Ed, for this very interesting posting.

The Museum of London also had a live Web station running for most of 
Saturday and Sunday as part of National Archaeology Days. However, we took 
the opposite approach to the one described here. We created a Start page 
with about fifteen links to archaeological sites (including the MoL's own 
archaeology sites), but the public were then free to use the facility as 
they wished. We set up a secure *kiosk* front-end to protect the computer 
and to track usage, and we accessed the Web via a proxy server. The proxy 
server speeded up access enormously, and we configured it to filter out 
*undesirable* sites. It was pleasing to see that for nearly the whole time 
the service was used entirely responsibly. On the first day I found that a 
user had broken out into the World Wrestling Federation via Yahoo (I think 
he/she must have been trying to reach the World Wildlife Fund!!), but I was 
able to fix the kiosk software the next day to screen out search engines.

Although the public used the service mostly unaided, I watched what was 
going on from a discreet distance and can make two fundamental observations 
about website design:

1    Users do not like scrolling down or up long pages. It doesn't seem to 
matter whether the page is text- or image-rich. The message seems to be: 
'Make your page a screenful if you can, with lots of links to other 
screen-size pages'.

2    Users find it difficult to puzzle out what is, and what is not, a 
hyperlink. They pick up the old-fashioned text hyperlinks (underscored, 
preferably blue) easily enough, but get confused by images: without the blue 
borders, which are the ones that take you forward? The change of pointer is 
evidently not sufficient, and now that modern browsers habitually throw up 
the ALT text on an IMG it's even more confusing. Why did we surrender the 
Internet into the *safe* hands of designers? (But, on the other hand, 
perhaps  those neat Javascript button rollovers do have a useful purpose?)

On the interface side, I am now convinced that touch screens are the only 
method that ALL members of the public can use reliably. (We used a mouse.) 
However, this does raise problems if one wishes to use live Web pages: touch 
screens and hypertext links don't really mix.

On the sites visited, not much to report. Except that the Meet the Ancestors 
site was used MUCH more often the Time Team site (the machine access logs 
confirm this) - despite being neighbours on our introductory links page. 
Watch out, Tony Robinson!

Francis Grew
Curator (Archaeology), Museum of London
 ----------
From: [log in to unmask]
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Thanks for help on Web sites
Date: 26 July 1999 17:37

Many thanks to the dozen people who contacted me with suggestions for web
sites to show the general public on our National Archaeology Weekend. We
had well over 300 visitors - many of whom stayed for over an hour. Not bad
for a sunny weekend in a museum with lots of other things happening.

The pattern of use was that I would tend to have a family group or a couple
of children or a couple of adults for anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes.
What works best is not general browsing but a detailed talk-through of a
few key sites.

For example. www.stronsay.co.uk/
The diary of excavations just finished this weekend on Papa Stromsay by
BUFAU et. al. Good clear text, well written with a limited number of large,
clear photographs. Easy to follow and great to explain the sequence of
activity on site.

www.sussexpast.co.uk/
The diary of the summer season of excavations at Fishbourne Roman Palace.
They have just completed the first week. Again - large font text, written
in a very accessible style for the general public. Excellent photographs -
including JCBs and dig teeshirts - which made the site a joy to use.

There's a lot of good stuff out there and if you put it together well - you
have a great resource.

Example.
www.capitolium.org/
Very lavish site in Rome funded by Microsoft. Very fiddly live web-cam
pointing at the forum in Rome. The site has some very large AVI animations
of temples and buildings. I downloaded a 6.7mb flythrough of a Roman Temple
reconstruction. I then loaded up virtual models of the temple complex at
Canterbury (still images) from Nick Ryans site at Kent University. Great to
have the two on screen together.

Plug for the ADS gateway at ahds.ads.ac.uk
Where visitors had specific questions - you can use the NMR excavations
index e.g. Roman in Ambleside ("where we are going for our holidays")

P lug for the CBA gateway at www.britarch.ac.uk
Would you believe two of my visitors had come to the museum to the event
because they had found it through the CBA pages? The front page of this
site is not as glamorous as some but the links are very good.

Several people have asked me for my bookmark file. Give me a week or so and
email me directly for a dozen or so sites.

Conclusion.

The archaeology is out there. Much of it is still in text form - but the
right combination of text,images and fancy stuff is of invaluable public
benefit.

Thanks again - to the people who put these sites together and the people
who pointed me to them.

Edmund Southworth
Liverpool Museum



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