Web page: http://explainingthefuture.com/
Accessed on Monday, 30th July 2012 @ about 4:30pm GMT+1
This is a very interesting web site explaining where today’s technology and science could get us if we already had tomorrow’s wisdom.
The site is full of videos and the language used is both simple to understand and scientifically correct, coming from Christopher Barnatt, a guy with strong scientific background and possessing good communication skills.
Finding the web page
The address itself is quite easy, if you already know the site. You can add www if you so desire and you will be automatically redirected to the main address.
If you know the site but don’t want to guess the address, it is very easy to find it on other search engines. If you use the keywords “explaining the future” to perform a search you will discover it among the very top results (usually at the top).
However, if you slightly distort the name (e.g. Explain instead of Explaining), it virtually disappears from the search result (is this due to lack of funding for Search Engine Optimisation?)
The page loads pretty fast, but seems to have a fixed size, not allowing the best usage of screen estate.
Use of technology
Technology use is appropriately very limited (yes it’s a website about future technology, science and society, but, due to the content, frills are redundant). It contains many videos, but that’s nearly it. A few extra tools could have been useful (e.g. a search tool).
This site is an excellent example of how correct use of simple technology may be better than random use of special effects. If you click the top banner (the heading) from any internal page, you get back to the homepage (like many sites), but if you’re already in the home, you get the “About” page. Very good.
There are very few abbreviations throughout the site and they are quite well explained as you encounter them (at least following the logical path through the topics).
Couldn’t be better. Logical, simple and effective.
Fitness for purpose
No problems there. You can argue about the content itself, as it may be somehow controversial or cover not too simple topics, but only to the minimum extent possible, taking the subject into account. In my personal opinion, it’s difficult to disagree with any of Christopher’s statements.
There is no search feature, despite the site is not tiny. You are not likely to get lost, though, because the site is not too big and is very well organised. Lack of funding?
None present. It would normally be acceptable, as the site itself is almost organised as its own site map; however, there are circumstances where a web site, even a well organised one, is not as accessible as a site map. Adding one would not hurt.
The page looks nice. A bit old style and simple, but this is why is also very effective and easy to navigate. The white background, although is very common and pleasant, may cause excessive background brightness for some users.
No overlaps have been found on the page. This means all content is clearly displayed as intended and there is no content hidden by other page elements. There are some round elements that may resemble buttons, but they are not.
You would be forgiven for thinking not much priority has been allocated to professional graphic design, which may be OK for this type of website.
Drop down lists
There were none.
There was no explicit accessibility statement; this means some accessibility programs may not offer users this page to browse. Although it is not always the case, this may also mean accessibility is not given much priority on page development.
Whether the lack of such statement is an actual flaw is arguable; however, it never hurts to add one.
There is no explicit validation button on the page. This means it is harder to verify the page is compliant with coding standards. A page that is not compliant may show correctly on the devices and browsers it has been tested on, but may present nasty surprises elsewhere.
Using W3C validator, the page showed as HTML 4.01 Transitional. The validation returned errors and warnings, showing lack of compliance.
This is not uncommon, even in simpler pages like this one. No major errors have been detected, but full compliance would not hurt, particularly knowing any issues can be fixed without too much work.
Meta search engines are search engines that show result coming from different search engines. For example, if you insert the keyword “car” in a meta search engine and you search, results from Google, Yahoo and/or other search engines are displayed as if you manually searched on all engines supported. Some meta search engines can even allow you to personalise them by adding new engines for result searches.
When many engines have similar results, the quality of a meta search engine may be more about the way results are merged together and rated for relevancy.
Personalisation and powerful functions may also be score winners.
If the meta search engine is not good at sorting the results, has the wrong set of features and layout or is not easy to personalise, the final result may be worse that the best of the engines it uses to gather results.