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NFC: nativefish.org web site critique [LONG!!]

Well anyone who was in the chat last night knows that RR has been hard
at work giving the web site a face lift (is there anything this guy
doesn't do?) and has been soliciting feedback on the changes.  This took
way too long to write partially because I am doing pre-FDA-approval
trial testing of Merck's new "Boreass" pills, and partially because the
network here at IBM is about as stable as a hippo on a pogo stick.

Rather than give feedback on just the changes, I thought it would be fun
to go through  the whole site and give my impressions, perhaps to help
guide the future direction of the site through constructive feedback.

Home Page (http://nativefish.org/)
Overall I like this page very much and have a hard time finding fault
with it.  It lays the groundwork for the look & feel of the rest of the
site, which happily remains quite consistent.  The color selection is
better than simple B&W but still conservative without being boring. 
Nice, clean, simple layout.  It makes the photograph really jump out and
grab you.  The one thing I would like to see here and through the rest
of the site, which believe it or not is already being worked on, is an
official NFC logo which would appear at the top of every page to replace
the plain text "Native Fish Conservancy" header.

Join Us (http://nativefish.org/Join/index.html)
This page is missing something.  It is a little too short.  It would be
nice to have a paragraph here stating what you get for joining the NFC,
and how your membership fees will go to work for conservation efforts. 
Doesn't have to be an essay, just a paragraph.  If we don't mind adding
a little more in the way of graphics, how about thumbnail pictures of
NFC members dressed in clothes that give hints of their walk of life.  A
fisherman, a biologist, a family, a teacher, etc.  This way folks can
look and visually identify with who we are and not think that the NFC is
exclusive to hardcore fish nuts or biologists.

News (http://nativefish.org/News/index.html)
In the future I could see this being split into two parts, native fish
news, and NFC news.  It would require a couple of volunteers to maintain
but I think this would be a fun project.  Take a look at the format of
http://slashdot.org and see how it brings people to the news (rather
than the other way around) and encourages a sense of community about how
the news impacts them.  If we could emulate this, and I believe we
could, this would be a great way to keep people interested in what's
going on around them every day.  Anyway back to the current format, I
like it, but it is kind of dry.  The "press releases" don't follow a
typical form for press releases.  It would also be nice to include one
photo with each press release.  If the photo is of a person, like Robert
Rice, then include a quote below the photo which sums up the press
release or drives an important point home.  If the press release is
about a fish, include a photo of that species of fish.

Articles (http://nativefish.org/Articles/index.html)
We have an awesome collection being built of articles.  The search
feature is really nice.  The next logical step considering the volume of
information we have is sorting this out into categories before it gets
TOO big.  That way any new articles that come in can be quickly sorted. 
One article may match multiple categories.  It would be nice to somehow
tie our photo gallery in with the articles, providing links to fish
photos from within the articles.

Gallery (http://nativefish.org/cgi-bin/cgiwrap/nativefish/gallery.pl)
The gallery is one of my favorite parts of the web site.  As a raw
reference of fish photos it is hard to find fault with this.  But if I
were to suggest a course of evolution, might I suggest a melding of
articles with photographs, such that the gallery becomes a "species
guide".  Such that if you pick a species you are presented with one
photo, a short summary of the fish, and a number of links to relevant
articles about aquarium care, life history, reports of how to capture
them in the field, etc.  If we start organizing our information in this
way it would facilitate nice projects down the road like native fish
books or CD ROMs published by the NFC.

Email Lists (http://nativefish.org/Lists/index.html)
I guess this falls under my responsibilities (unless I sit on it until
Josh gets back MOHAHAHAHAHA) but some of the descriptions could use fine
tuning, as we learned earlier we were excluding non-US NANF's from the
mailing lists (i.e. Mexican & Canadian natives).  Question: do we have
the capability to move the lists to nativefish.org or would this cost
extra $$$?  Just thinking in terms of putting all of our internet
resources under the same domain name.

Links (http://www.nativefish.org/Links/index.html)
Not much I would change here.  The one criticism I have, and it is a
minor one, would be to put conservation stuff ahead of general
fish-related portals and such.

Breeder's Program (http://nativefish.org/BP/index.html)
Okay I don't want to get into the administrative issues here.  We all
know that is a long discussion in and of itself.  Strictly from looking
at the page, here are a few observations.
The image file
http://www.nativefish.org/Gallery/Cyprinodon-fontinalis-1.jpg should be
flipped horizontally.  Right now the fish is pointing to the left side
of the screen and thus drawing attention *away* from the text on the
Rather than using drawings, can we maybe get a photograph of two fish
spawning in a tank for one picture, and for the other a picture of a
growout tank full of fry?  I think that would do more to get the point
I don't want to knock the author of the page too badly but the marketing
at the top is a bit thick and, IMO, detracts from the conservation
efforts of the program, shifting focus to the personal gain of the
breeder.  While I think it is important to make the breeder feel valued
for his or her work, I think it is equally important to clearly state
the conservation objectives of the BP.
Also, the web site states that the life history of each BP species will
be made available on the web site.  Where?  Any LH's we have should be
readily available on the web site.  Also the description qualifies BP
species with the adjective "unusual".  Is this fair?  Do all BP species
need to be unusual?  I would ask to drop that adjective.
One last URGENT suggestion: for lack of any coordinator at this time,
the email link for the BP should go to an interim address that will be
answered by a real human being.  If I were to make an observation on
what is the most common gripe about the BP from recent discussions it
would have to be that email is sent to the link provided but no answer
is ever given.  Let's not lose anymore aquarists to this black hole

Breeders Program Members  (http://nativefish.org/BP/members.html)
I'd like to see a little more detail on this list.  Under each name, a
list of fish this person is working with but without success, a fish
this person has had success with, a fish this person can provide to the
BP (not necessary captive bred), and fish this person is interested in
breeding but isn't currently working with.  It might sound like a lot of
work but I think ultimately this will help the BP coordinator to
allocate fish to the right people and also to catch up with people who
have already had success with a tough species or close relative.

Exotics Removal (http://nativefish.org/ERP/index.html)
Nice facelift on the page!  I like the new photos, though I think they
could use a little bit of arrangement.  I would say try to have fish
facing into the text instead of out to the outside of the web browser,
thus focusing attention to the text.  I love the cichlid-on-a-stick! 
Right now there are some great photos but the arrangement just looks a
little cluttered.  There is definitely a bias towards the right side of
the screen, with only one image on the left side.  I would horizontally
flip the managuense and keep it on the right side offering a dark and a
light fish on one side.  On the other side, keep the pike livebearer and
move the salvinii over too so you have a dark and a light fish on that
side as well.  This should provide a nice visual balance and with all of
the fish facing into the middle of the page it should help draw the
reader into the text.
The page comes right out and focuses on the problems in the deep south
but ignores the exotics in temperate areas, or in warm water ponds
outside of power plants.  I know the program is currently focused on the
deep south, especially florida, but I think the text of the page should
accurately reflect that the exotics problem covers much of the
ERP headlines should be mirrored in the News page.  Perhaps the ERP
headlines would go best in a sidebar.

ERP Gallery (http://nativefish.org/ERP/Gallery/index.html)
This page is rather skinny.  Let's have some fun with this.  How about
photos of ERP folks hard at work collecting those pesky exotics?  Or an
oscar on the BBQ?  Photo of a fish auction getting rid of some nice wild
caught exotics?  A really tough photo to stage but one that would drive
the point home nicely is a photo of an oscar or managuense or something
in the middle of inhaling a native fish.  Visual imagery is a great tool
for driving these points home and making people feel connected to the

ERP Recipes (http://nativefish.org/ERP/recipes.html)
This section is great.  Could be spiced up with some photos to let folks
know you are dead serious about oscars being good eating.  I wonder if
anyone thinks this page is a joke because people have such a hard time
understanding the idea of eating a "pet" species.  Also this could be
spiced up some more by replacing this with a CGI script that allows
other folks to add recipes.  There are a few free recipe CGI's out
there.  If there is interest I can put this on my to-do list to find a
good one and demo.

ERP Price List (http://nativefish.org/ERP/pricelist.html)
*WARNING* This page was never written but we have a link to it.  Can
someone from the ERP put together a price list?  I can format the HTML
and put it online but we need to get something up here or remove the
link (I'd suggest the former)

Native Aquarists (http://nativefish.org/Aquarium/index.html)
I like the visual layout of this page and again have a hard time finding
fault with it.  If I were to change anything I would yank the darter
illustration and replace with a photograph, perhaps of a native
community aquarium.
Quote from the page: "So we put up this homepage to help people learn
how to catch, id and keep
local fishes."  I don't think we're meeting any of those objectives
yet.  This should be a goal to strive for.  Speaking as a newby to
collecting, id'ing, and keeping local fishes, I can attest that the web
site unfortunately wasn't any help for me in that respect and I had to
depend mostly on direct communication with y'all to learn these skills
(and do I ever have a lot more to learn...).  Since fishkeeping seems to
be a big draw for many of us to join the NFC, perhaps we should come up
with a "wish list" of what we want to see of this page and each of us
should see if there is some part of it that we can adopt to make this
site live up to the statement "So we put up this homepage to help people
learn how to catch, id and keep
local fishes."
I also have another great book to add to that list but it is at home. 
I'll try to remember to post it here.

Fish Wish List (http://nativefish.org/Aquarium/wishlist.html)
Robert you've been doing a tremendous job with this.  The only thing
that I would suggest is putting a page footer at the bottom like the
other pages in the site have.  Right now the FWL kind of drops off
without any visual sense of closure.

Bulletin board (http://nativefish.org/wwwboard/wwwboard.html) -  This is
kind of dead.  I think we should kill it.  I even saw someone trying to
sell puppies(?!?!?) in there.  No, not guppies, PUPPIES.

Ponds (http://nativefish.org/Ponds/index.html)
The welcome message is on the same line as the banner ad.  There should
be a CR/LF in there IMO.
There is a large broken image (http://nativefish.org/Ponds/OSsun.jpg)
"this page needs someone to love it. If you are a serious ponder with
some Webpage skills and would like to mangage this page contact
president at nativefish_org."  This is actually something I'd love to see
happen on a wider scale.  Individual parts of the web site "adopted" by
responsible volunteers.  If each person had a LITTLE job to do, it
wouldn't be so overwhelming, and might actually be *gasp* FUN!
Needless to say, this area needs as much help as the Native Aquarists
section.  There is a wealth of knowledge among the members we just need
to get it written down.  Any of y'all have garden ponds with native
fish?  Send in JPG's of your pond or mail me the photographs and I'll
scan them and send the scanned images to Tim for inclusion on the site.

Blue Pike (http://nativefish.org/BluePike/index.html)
The two banner ads would look better side by side, like on the home
There seem to be some problems with embedded CR/LF's breaking up the
flow of text on the page.
There is a lot of GREAT info on the decline of the Blue Pike available
online.  Perhaps we could tie into this more.
Somehow the page just isn't giving me the sense that it should.  I mean,
when my father was a kid there were blue pike in the great lakes and
they were a major gamefish at the time.  By the time he got married they
were extinct.  That is a very short timespan.  Do we have access to any
photos of fishermen coming back with huge catches of blue pike?  Do we
have access to estimated numbers of blue pike leading up to their
extinction?  I could turn these numbers into a graph image.  I think we
need to convey a sense that this was a booming gamefish, something went
wrong, and then they were all gone before anyone could do anything about
it.  That ties in so well as an answer to the question "Why should I
support the NFC?"

Kids' Corner (http://nativefish.org/Kids/index.html)
On my to-do list is a game that RR and I have been talking about, which
should make this section more fun for kids and offer real prizes to
"junior fishheads".  I don't have a status on it right now.  It is
further down than some other stuff which I'll mention later on.
This page, IMO, should probably have a TOTALLY different look and feel
than the rest of the site.  We need to appeal to kids.  I think what
would be a nice idea is to appeal to a public school to offer
independent study credits or something to a young student to maintain
this section of the site.  In other words, have a section for kids by
kids.  And in order to hold their interest, it needs to be constantly
offering them new things to do and learn.  I wonder if we can somehow
tie this in with AATP.  For one thing I think the conservative look that
is so desirable through the rest of the site can be thrown out the
window here in favor of something louder looking, maybe even a little
outlandish, with sound effects, music, you name it.  It has to look
exciting to hold the attention of a young mind.

Adopt-A-Tank (http://nativefish.org/Kids/adoptatank.html)
Can we link to this from the home page too?  I'd hate to limit its scope
to just kids.  This would be great in the workplace, in museums, etc.
The text of the page is very long.  It needs to be broken up with a few
photographs, perhaps of kids clustering around a tank while a teacher
explains something.  Or maybe a school group out inthe field with
collection gear.  We need to help readers visualize what this is all
I think that the content of this page is logically divided already and
should facilitate splitting the content up into multiple pages, thus
keeping one page from looking too long.
Some of the stuff on here is totally cogent to fleshing out the
objectives of the Native Aquarist page, as discussed earlier.

Featured Projects (http://nativefish.org/Kids/projects.html)
This is a great idea.  I'd love to see this expanded.  Do we have any
other AATP participants out there who might want to write about their
experiences with the program?

NFC Store (http://nativefish.org/Store/index.html)
I think there is a lot of untapped potential here.  There are many other
great books out there for one thing.  For another, I wonder if we can
tie in the ERP to make it easier for folks to order fish.  Same for the
BP once we get it up and running.  For every item we sell via the store,
there should be a hotlink to a description of what they are getting when
they buy something.
On my own web site I bring in about $75 per quarter without much effort
by selling books.  I don't know how well NFC is doing with book sales
but let's offer more than just two titles shall we?  There are many
great books out there on fish, and a few even on native fish that we
aren't currently offering.  The revenue from something like this isn't
huge but if it chips one equipped tank into the BP every quarter that is
making a difference.
Are we doing any good with the igofish.com affiliation?  I went to that
site and it seemed to be of little use to me.  I wonder if we could
affiliate ourselves with someone better equipped to service the needs of
the average NFC member like Bass Pro Shops or Cabela's.

Joe T. store (http://nativefish.org/Store/JT.html)
Can we roll this into the NFC store?  Seems odd to set JT's work apart
from the NFC store rather than having a section within the store for his

Administrative Documents (http://nativefish.org/Admin/index.html)
Nothing comes to mind.

Bylaws (http://nativefish.org/Admin/bylaws.html)
Not anything to do with the web site, but I'm just wondering how well
we're able to live up to this so far.  For example, as far as I've been
able to tell the NFC is about a year old now, is this correct?  If so,
when was the annual meeting?  I didn't see anything about it on the web
One thing that is either missing or hard to find is the term length for
elected officers of the NFC.
Are the regular monthly meetings happening?  If so, what access do the
members have to the minutes of these meetings?

Auction (no page yet)
I've got a working demo of the auction.  Charles "dakota" Anderton and I
need to find some mutually convenient time to iron this out before it is
open to the general membership.  The bulk of it is done, it just needs
minor details fleshed out.

Chat (multiple locations)
OK we all love to gripe about the Java chat.  I've got a working demo of
a likely replacement.  I'm waiting for Tim Ayers to get back before we
flesh out the technical details of the transfer to the new system.  The
new system does NOT use Java, does NOT kick you out, and does NOT get
blocked by firewalls like the current system.  The demo I have has the
wrong color scheme for our needs (because it matches my site, not the
NFC site) but that is easily changed.
Also I noticed we have multiple chat rooms, but all of them are
scheduled to meet at the same time (DOH!).  Can we just have ONE chat
room, and schedule different uses of the chat room on different days? 
This way folks with multiple interests don't have to juggle two
different chats at the same time, or just miss out all together.

NFC Look & Feel, and NFC Logo / Logo Use Guidelines (not present)
This is the next thing on my to-do list.  I've got the foundation for it
but no draft yet to submit for review.  The first part is the "Look &
Feel" document, which will serve as a guidelines for people who are
writing anything with the NFC name on it, so there will be a consistent
look and feel that people will see when they correspond with any NFC
officers (or volunteers).  This will put in place, for example, a
letterhead document, the fonts to use when you write letters, etc.  This
will also formalize the guidelines for writing web pages for the NFC
site to facilitate allowing folks to "adopt" individual pages on the
site and still have it look consistent with the rest of the site.

The NFC logo was originally going to be spearheaded by another volunteer
that unfortunately has some technical problems right now so that has
been shifted to Tony G. who will do the original illustration.  I'll
then scan it into the PC and put the digital bits around it.  Pending
presidential approval this will be the "official" NFC logo for use on
the web site, official correspondence, documents, etc.

Along with the logo will be a short document on how to use the logo

*whew*  Sorry for being longwinded but hopefully we can have some good
come out of this.


"I would remind you that extremism in defense of liberty is no vice; and
I would remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no
virtue." - Barry Goldwater