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USCF Homepage

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If you are nostalgic for the early days of the internet, back when web pages were mostly poorly formatted text with ill-fitting photos pasted in, you're in for a treat. The US Chess Federation has put up a new homepage. [I've mirrored it here for when they mercifully take it down. For the full retro experience, view the page using Netscape 2.0.] I assumed it had been put together by someone's seven-year-old niece, but the tags actually say "Authors: Mike Nolan; K.R. Sloan". (They also say "demo" so I have no idea why it's live online.) This isn't a web page, it's a cry for help.

Just because everyone CAN make a website these days doesn't mean everyone should, especially if it's for a large organization and not, say, vacation snapshots. There is something to be said for splash pages and simplicity, but good design and navigation can overcome them. I don't expect everyone at the USCF to be a professional web designer. But I would expect that a few of them have actually surfed the web. Things just don't look like this anymore, with good reason. There's no reason the USCF site can't look as good as the tennis association site or even the mostly volunteer-run Chess Scotland site.

I don't want to be mean to those who spent their precious eight minutes putting that page together, and of course this has nothing to do with the gigantic picture of Maurice Ashley (158K!). But yikes. I'll even put my money where my mouth is and offer to do a new homepage for free. (Not an entire site and navigation.)

[Update: In the comments is a Usenet post by one of the USCF people who posted the new homepage page with his explanation and my comments. It mentions there is a $25,000 budget item for the website. But they don't really need a whole new website. They need a redesign and re-org and someone with skills who can run it with design in mind. Blowing 25K on a new car doesn't mean you know how to drive it.]


That is a throwback...to the times of my very first webpage :/
Anyway, one thing that's long been boggling me is the FIDE webpage...they really should manage a better one, too.

Oh my God. Yes, Mig, please, make for them a new homepage. (By the way, the FIDE website is very good in my view: the best what FIDE did in recent years.)

DAMN! you weren't exaggerating. That's a disgrace. The old homepage was dull and completely failed to celebrate any of the high points in US chess history..but this one pales in comparison to the average city chess club website. I agree Sacateca..the FIDE page is pretty awful too. It's cold and fails to convey the excitement and legacy of the game at all. It's a strange world we live in when bonehead pro-wrestling and roller derby websites make "official" chess oriented ones look sick.

I also think the FIDE design is good. The organization isn't so great, and I'm not discussing content here, but the look and feel are standard and attractive. The problem with organization, everywhere, is making everything obvious.

The book everyone should read before they make any sort of site at all is Krug's "Don't Make Me Think." No code, nothing technical, just the fundamental concepts about navigation and presentation for ease of use. Lots of examples. It's the first book I give web design students. Then we draw sites on paper for a while. They are sometimes rather annoyed that we don't do any html at all for the first week.

I just wandered into the following on the Usenet by one of the "authors." This still doesn't explain what the heck a "one hour paste-up" is doing live as the homepage of the USCF. That's what testing servers are for. And while it's dandy to have an attractive welcome page for newcomers, there's no reason it can't be an active, dynamic site that will drive traffic. It's one of the most visited chess sites on the web and they don't even support their own shop with ads or push content. And you don't want people to link internally. You want people, especially regulars, to go through your homepage and you want to give them reasons to want do so.

25K isn't a great budget, but they don't need a ground-up rebuild. What they need is a competent designer/webmaster/editor who can use the current publishing system competently for more than basics. So they risk dumping a pile of money into a new toy and then not having anyone who knows how to use it. Sounds like something they'd do.

At the MIS demo on Thursday the current USCF home page was roundly and IMHO deservedly trashed.

Ken Sloan offered to create a new SIMPLE home page as a front door, one that, unlike the old home page, might look attractive to someone who just happened upon it, would direct visitors to the most popular destinations on the site (members/ratings, TD Affiliate Support Area and the bookstore), and might even look something like the magazine we publish!

It should probably have a link to the tournament announcements page, but I may wait until the new online TLA section is ready to go to add that. Regulars probably bookmark the internal pages like MSA directly.

The budget passed by the Delegates today includes $25,000 to redesign the website. I'm not a web designer, but I will probably be involved in automating the data on a redesigned USCF website and/or migrating some of the roughly 30,000 pages on the website to the new format.

Will the current front door stay like it is now? Probably not, this was literally a 1 hour pasteup job, in rather vanilla html.

I would expect the front door to begin whatever thematic elements make up the new site design, but I also think the concept of having a nice picture, most likely the current cover, and a few basic links to the most important areas on the website are likely to remain in place, possibly with the addition of a decent search engine and a place for ads (of SUITABLE products.)

The front door should not be a dumping ground for whatever announcement someone thinks is important today. -- Mike Nolan"

Mig wrote:
"The book everyone should read before they make any sort of site at all is Krug's "Don't Make Me Think." No code, nothing technical, just the fundamental concepts about navigation and presentation for ease of use. Lots of examples. It's the first book I give web design students."

Thanks! I like it when you give information like that. You're right on. Those kind of pages should be left for history museum. Let's hope some will read or listen! ;-)

Talking of history. I have enjoyed the article of ChessBase on Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California


Another book I think everyone implementing or owning a web site should read is IMHO

Speed Up Your Site: Web Site Optimization
by Andrew B. King

That site does suck ass. It is worse than most Geocities sites!!!

You're telling me that the current USCF page was intended to be official and up for good? Lol, I thought the site had crashed or something, and they were using some kind of back-up page. That's just horrible. I say, the USCF should take up Mig's offer...he'll do it for free!

For once, I agree with the blogmeister: the page is a disgrace.

The most incredible website I've seen thus far is:


It makes all static webpages look like 2005. ;-)

Blimey, that *is* crap. I think if one really were to give a thousand monkeys a thousand typewriters, this is pretty much what they'd come up with. And that's being harsh on the monkeys.

Mig, I have to admit that I took your commentary with a grain of salt until I saw the site for myself. It is by far the most cheesy Chess home page I have ever looked at.
I help run a local county chess club with hardly any funding, and our site is 10 times more articulate than the USCF site! What a joke! I was laughing so hard at that ridiculous life-size picture of Maurice Ashley that I had to change my underwear!
Please send them a small bag of nikels so they can hire an 8th year community college student to upgrade their home page.

I'm guessing that's the same Mike Nolan that's been involved in Nebraska chess since before I played my first games in high school 20 years ago or so. He may be a decent organizer and TD, but that sure doesn't qualify him to design a good web site. Knowing Mike and one or two other Nebraskans, who have (semi-)official web pages, I don't see how the USCF could have picked any of them to be involved with the design of their page. For 25K, they could easily get a competent web designer to set up a decent site for them, even after deducting hosting expenses.

Is it really all that important? The site is adequate. Hope they change the pic now and then.

I suggest a "Write the best caption" contest for the Maurice Ashley photo.

... the same thing we do every day, Pinkie.. try to take over the world!

Ok - a weak caption to start, but if you have kids and watch cartoons like me, you'll get it.

I am a network consultant, so I am obviously very comfortable with computers and learning new programs. I certainly can do a web site, but I really shouldn't.

It really is more of a job for an artist than a technician nowadays. In the beginning, when it was all coded "by hand" you really didn't have a choice but to pick the biggest techno-geek to do it, and style be damned. With the products that make it easy today, style has become the most important element...maybe even more than content, since I dare say since no one will read it if it doesn't look good. It is now the job of artists to do web design.

That said, that page is hideious and clearly done by someone who needs to go to art school.

Possible caption (be sure to say it very fast): "HOT POTATO!"

"I'm the king of the world!" or
"I can shoot free throws better than Shaq."


(I like the Shaq caption, by the way!)

Web design involves three different discipliens, each of which has become more advanced on professional sites.

1. Technical underpinnings. The need to access databases, deliver pages that can be understood by the vision-impaired, runonline stores, and do everything at blinding speeds means the techno-geeks are still essential. ;)

2. Information design. This is the key to making the site work for the visitor. Can people find what they're looking for? Can they find it quickly? Does the site meet the needs of multiple audiences with different "missions"?

3. Graphics design. In the old days of the Web, there simply wasn't the bandwidth to support nice graphics. Now there is, so a site has to look nice to get its message across.

These are the three legs of the tripod. Remove any one, and the beast topples over.


Hello Mig,

You write, "It [uschess.org] is one of the most visited chess sites on the web" can you back up this claim somehow ? My netcraft toolbar ranks it at #124590, one of the worst rankings I've seen among chess sites. As a comparison, chessninja.com is at #110865, chessbase.com at #12547.

I actually thought about offering them my expertise in exchange for free membership. I can help some if you are serious about doing their site for them.

The USCF site is very large, over 10,000 pages, and many people bookmark the starting page they want to visit. So a lot of toolbar type rankings (which look at just the homepage) miss its traffic.

And toolbar sites can only report on their own set of users, which is why you get such different numbers. For example, Alexa ranks it at #65,000, with Chessninja at #165,0000. (With toolbar sites, #1 gets more traffic than #15.) Yet other toolbar reports from other companies might have these reversed.

As an example of the problem with just looking at the toolbar company reports (regardless of the company), the US Government's sites show up in the top 10 (considerably ahead of Amazon) in any survey that looks at actual web log data. Yet rarely show up higher than top 100 on the toolbar reports.

So the toolbar reports give an interesting, but limited picture.

And the USCF's very large site means it tends to be undercounted by any service that just looks at homepage visits.

I like the concept. Simple websites, with no flash, no java(script), no animation are much, much better in my opinion. Look at Google, the most successful website in the world, there's nothing on that web site.

ummm.......... yes, there's no script on a search engine, good call..... Oh and look at any page except google's homepage, it's jam packed with stuff. "Look at Google, the most successful website int eh world, there's nothing on that web site." I think you're more than just a little confused. In fact at many times it seems that google's mantra is html + css + javascript and we can do anything.

But all the complicated stuff is *behind* the front/home page. I *hate* pages with animated flash or moving icons, marquees, sound, etc. If I'm forced to get through that stuff to get to anything useful, I feel very annoyed.

I'm sorry, I rant... It's one of my peeves.

I can shed a bit of light on this subject - Mike Nolan, who is the tech guy for the USCF these days, is from Nebraska, where I'm located as well. Mike used to run the state's affiliate site, the current version of which isn't that much different from those days. Visit http://nsca.nechess.com and you'll see the connection.

It's not that there aren't any decent web developers in Nebraska - it's just that the ones we've had that are also into chess aren't very good web developers. =)

We do have at least one decent site, but that's the one I do, so I'm a bit biased. http://www.nechessleague.com

"Things just don't look like this anymore, with good reason."

Can anyone explain why the site is so bad, from a usability point of view? True, it looks like it was made 8 years ago, but that by itself does not mean the design is bad.

I refer the USCF to Gerry McGovern, who has been preaching web design for ever: "ChessNinja.com"

Also, his weekly newsletter is worth referring to:


Duif pointed out that the USCF website has 10,000 pages, but it has very little journalistic content. Most of the pages are memberships records. Many people bookmark their tournament record and go to it repeatedly. Thus, it may not get the rankings for going through the homepage.

Put the USCF Webmaster on Natrol BrainSpeed and you'll see results, pronto.

The uscf already brought the old site down, good thing that Mig mirrorred it. I still don't know what was so bad about the old site (other than the large picture which can be slow to download...)

Congrats, now the site looks better but... unfortunately produces a lot of warning messages with IE. As a result all IE-users cant use the site. I want the nostalgic page back! Haha.

I am a lousy designer yet I have come out with a fairly successful chess site(by my stndards ) on Judit Polgar. I chose a content management system called Xoops.Just had to concentrate on content and not worry too much on design. I suggest USCF do the same. There a plenty of free content management system out there such as postnuke and mambo. My site only costs about 80usd.


Since you've asked twice...The biggest challenge for the USCF site is the number of different audiences it has to serve. The mother of an 8 year old who's just started to play is looking for something very different from the site than a 30 year tournament director.

If you get Usenet (or Google Groups), in rec.games.chess.politics on August 14 I posted the list of 12 "scenarios" that we used from 96 to 99 on the USCF site. Of course they would need to be updated now, but they'll give you an idea of the range involved.

So the simplified site had the usability problem that it only served a few of the USCF audiences. But serving ALL the audiences gets very tricky, because it can lead to a site that is confusing and cluttered.

So that's where the design challenge lies. The blue and yellow site erred in one direction. The simplified site erred in the other, but of course it was just a first pass.


Since you've asked twice...The biggest challenge for the USCF site is the number of different audiences itmoncler ski has to serve. The mother of an 8 year old who's just started to play is looking for something very different from the site than a 30 year tournament director.

Naka got puntked in 2 pathetic KGs , what an ELITE player he is ....go pathetic loser to Shulman in the US Championship with white like a 2100

You should get a brand new bag.

Hah! "Go pathetic loser..." somehow brought the cadence of Yeats' poem Lake Isle of Innisfree to my mind. I don't quite know why, probably the "go" and I know it sounds crazy, but I'm glad it did! Always good to revisit Yeats!

"I will awake and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade."

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on August 14, 2005 12:43 AM.

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