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First impressions

Every month, in preparing the LXF coverdisc, I search the net for hot new (and updated) Linux software. Freshmeat, HappyPenguin, KDE-Apps and other websites help greatly in this endeavour. However, I come across many individual project websites with problems - and fair enough, the developers are busy focusing on the code itself. But just a few tweaks can make all the difference to the immediate perception of a project, so here are my recommendations...

  • Say what it does! I've come across many projects where the front page is news, download links and the like, but there's not a single line explaining what the software actually does.
  • Have a clear indication of activity. Perhaps by putting news near the top, or a box with the latest version and a date.
  • Be consistent. Krename is called both Krename and KRename on its website. It's a tiny point, but it looks like the project is more loved if everything is consistent.
  • Use clear English. At the very least, run a spelling checker. If English is not your first language (and I know how hard it is to learn another language!), ask on a friendly Linux forum for someone to skim over your text.
  • Link to the files. So many projects link through to a generic SourceForge landing page, so the user then has to navigate through tree widgets and interstitial pages to find the latest version. Aaargh!
  • Have up-to-date screenshots. Games are particularly bad with this. There'll be announcements on the page about version 0.7 having all sorts of cool new stuff, but the screenshots are from 0.3.

There are 18 jillion free software projects out there, so it's worth trying to get ahead of the crowd with a good website. And not just for individual downloaders: when I'm finding software for the disc, if your website is old, fiddly and full of typos, I'll pass it by. If it's up-to-date, clear and well maintained, your software will go out to 27,000 potential users!

Update 16 Nov: and one more thing! Do not, NOT, use a non-standard compression format like .xz unless absolutely necessary. If it reduces a massive ISO by a few hundred megabytes then fair enough, but I've just come across a 174K program in .xz format, and had to install another set of tools just to look at it. BAD!


Your comments

My URL...

Hi Mike...

I await your slating...

http://homepages.tesco.net/wisecracker/

;oD

73...

Bazza...

Team AMIGA...

et tu?

You are right on-- soooo, where is your full byline and title? Who the heck are you anyway? There are a jillion blogs and authors.... ;)

Things you forgot: Is it

Things you forgot:

Is it Open or Closed source.
What platform and or OS.

Web-based forum

Very good points.

Another thing that I find bothersome: Mailing lists are much worse than a web-based forum. I don't want my Inbox to be field with ten's of e-mails ever day, and much prefer to skim through the front page of a web-based forum instead.

s/field/filled/ ;-)

s/field/filled/ ;-)

Remmina

Mike,

Just wanted to say a big 'thanks' - One of the recent issues reviewed Remminda (and included it on the cover disk, I believe).

Completely agree with the rating - Remmina is by far the best remote desktop viewer I've seen.

I know that the magazine goes to a lot of effort adding extra tools and applications to the distros included on the cover disks.

Please consider including Remmina in future - Makes no real difference to me because I typically download it from the repository of the distro that I'm using at the time (or source it from the web site) - Would be a great way to continue to introduce this great tool to readers, though, and support the project.

Keep up the good work - Love the magazine and will subscribe again next year!

Cheers,

Anon

I agree

Sites with terrible English, poor screen shots and overall sloppy design turn me off to software.

It's not how it should be because so many amazing tools have poor websites, but we can't expect people who have come from a Windows or Mac world to take stuff seriously if the site looks crap.

The amount of times I've wanted to mail project leaders and offer to put together a better website.. I should do it in the new year.

It's a small change that makes a big difference!

P.S just got a LF sub for Christmas, I'm very happy!!

Cheers!



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