I just discovered e-gold within the past month, and I think it's a
wonderful service.   The growth rate of e-gold's user base astonishes
me: 3,000 -> 130,000 users in 18 months.  Even so, I would love to see
currency become even more widespread--and easier to use.

Several people have commented recently regarding their dissatisfaction
with e-gold's current website.  Here's some representative comments:

   > ...The first step is to change the look of the site starting with
   > main page. The e-gold Front page looks like it was created by an
   > grader....If a person was to just see the main page of [e-gold and
   > partner companies], they would conclude that GoldMoney is the
   > "big time" appealing to the more "Professional" type people.

      --Khurram Khan <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>

   > It's not the design, it's the structure (or rather the
non-structure). What
   > structure there is is non-transparent; it's difficult to orient
oneself and
   > information is not easy to find.

      --Dennis Bider <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>

   > ...My main gripe is most pages take a long time to download....

      --Jeff Fitzmyers <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>

To be sure, some people like the current design:

   > I think e-gold's design looks fine.
   > the e-gold site has natty stock photography,
   > correctly kerned type, some illustration and
   > so on.
   > Also, it has the "examiner" feature which
   > shits on the other sites.
   > E-gold's SECONDARY pages are a bit rough --
   > they need a proper template system like any
   > old corporate web page.
   > e-gold's site looks far more professional
   > than the others mentioned, I think.


Here's my observations of e-gold's site, and some suggestions for
improvement.  Please note, I've not used e-gold's site much yet--my
comments are based mostly on e-gold's main page at
http://www.e-gold.com.  Also, if I'm in error, I would welcome

To illustrate the changes I'd like to see, I've also taken the liberty
of mocking up an "e-gold makeover" site.  It's available on my web
site at http://www.openknowledge.org/egold/.  Note that except for the
"Discuss" link (points to a bulletin board at www.greenspun.com) all
of the mockup links point to a dummy page.

Most of my analysis regarding why certain changes should be made stem
from Jakob Nielsen's research on usability.  See his Alertbox columns
at http://www.useit.com.


According to Nielsen, the single biggest feature that users want from
web sites is fast download time. Note that many of the most popular
sites--Yahoo, Amazon, Google--have very simple designs, and
consequently, fast download times.  Quoting Nielsen:

"The basic advice regarding response times has been about the same for
almost thirty years [Miller 1968; Card et al. 1991]:

    0.1 second is about the limit for having the user feel that the
    system is reacting instantaneously, meaning that no special
    feedback is necessary except to display the result.

    1.0 second is about the limit for the user's flow of thought to stay

    uninterrupted, even though the user will notice the
    delay. Normally, no special feedback is necessary during delays of
    more than 0.1 but less than 1.0 second, but the user does lose the
    feeling of operating directly on the data.

    10 seconds is about the limit for keeping the user's attention
focused on the
    dialogue. For longer delays, users will want to perform other
    tasks while waiting for the computer to finish, so they should be
    given feedback indicating when the computer expects to be
    done. Feedback during the delay is especially important if the
    response time is likely to be highly variable, since users will
    then not know what to expect
(See http://www.useit.com/papers/responsetime.html)

I did a very unscientific study of how long it takes for the
e-gold.com site to load over a 56.6 kbps dial-up collection.
After each trial I emptied the cache.  (I'm using Netscape 4.72 on
6.2, a pretty standard configuration, at least among the geek crowd.)
I counted the page as completely downloaded when all of the content
was visible, even if the "download indicator" was stilling going.
Both comparisons were done between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Sunday
night (MST).  I'm located in Idaho, but my site is hosted in San

Trial  Time (s)
1       29
2       35
3       30
4       22
5       25

Average: 28.2

In contrast, it took on average about 5 seconds for the makeover
site to load:

Trial  Time (s)
1        9
2        5
3        5
4        4
4        4

Average: 5.4 seconds

The need for fast pages is not likely to go away anytime soon.
According to the ICONOCAST newsletter for August 17, 2000 reported the
following distribution of Internet subscribers in the United States
(as reported by Nielsen at http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9703a.html) :

    Dial-up connections (i.e., at most 56.6 kbps): 93% of home users
    High-Speed connections (DSL, cable modem, etc.): 7% of home users

In addition, international users, wireless and cellular PDA users will
often have much slower connections (28.8 kbps or less).


e-gold has several different constituencies:

1.  Regular users who want to spend some of their e-gold.
2.  New users checking out e-gold for the first time.
3.  Merchants who want to set up their web site to use e-gold.
4.  Market makers.

Although e-gold's site should be organized so that each of the
constituencies above can use the site easily, which of these
constituencies should have priority?  In my opinion, e-gold should be
designed to meet first the needs of their regular customers.  They are
the one's who will be visiting the site most often.  Next, should come
new users--e-gold's value as a company will increase in proportion to
the number of people using e-gold.  Then merchants who want to use
e-gold, and finally developers and market makers.  Of course, there is
some overlap between these categories of users.

When you're trying to find information in a book or technical manual,
your goal is aided by several structural features of the book--table
of contents, index, page numbers. There are fewer aids to navigation
for web pages, and the aids that do exist are much less standardized.
However, one common convention is to have a primary navbar at the top
of the page, and a secondary navbar along either the left or the right
side of the page.  Generally, the most commonly used links are put
into the top navbar, and the less commonly used links into the side

So what are the most common things that e-gold's regular customers
want to do?  I would guess that the most common action is sending
payment to another account.  Therefore, making a "spend" should be
easily done from anywhere in the site. That means that the first
things that people should see are a) the login, because you can't do
much at all without logging in first b) a link to the spend page.

Right now, to login, you must click "Access Account", then click
"Access Account" again, and then enter your account info, and click
enter again, before you're able to spend e-gold.  It is possible to
bookmark the account login page, but many people prefer to simply type
in the URL.  In the mockup, I moved the account login page to the
upper left corner fo the first page.  Even better would be a login
that appeared whenever you attempted to login to a restricted area,
then disappeared, so that the space in the upper left could be filled
with a more menu items.

e-gold could also improve navigation by making more of the website's
functionality and information available from the main page.  I've done
this in the mockup by including links of interest to each of e-gold's
constituencies--everyone, beginners, merchants, developers.  Users can
therefore get to almost every part of the site from any page.  This is
important, especially since many potential e-gold customers will get
to the site via search engines instead of through the main page.


The main e-gold site is currently bordered by a frame.  The frame
takes up 1/5th of the top of the page in my browser, yet displays only
5 links.  This is a waste of valuable screen real estate.  Frames have
other problems as well:

a. Frames break the principal metaphor of the web, that of the
page. Users of older browsers often can't bookmark a particular
page--they can only bookmark the frame.  The use of frames also
presumes that the use of a frames capable display--this may not be
true of someone using, say, a PDA-like device, or a VT100 terminal, or
a text-only browser like Lynx.  For example, this is how e-gold.com's
site looks to someone using Lynx

b.  Search engines often do not read pages with frames.  Many of your
potential users are going to try to find out about e-gold via a search
engine, and if most of your site isn't indexed, then your pages will
rank low on the search results.  ( See


c.  The frame remains even when a user clicks on an outside link.  I
detest this behavior, and so do many other users.

d.  Because users have been burned so often by bad frame design in the
past, they often have an immediate negative reaction to the presence
of frames, even if the site uses frames in a tasteful and useful
manner.  Just as many people immediately close a pop-up ad before it
fully renders, many people will also immediately leave a framed site.


e-gold's main site doesn't display any information except navigation
aids.  If I'm a recurring visitor to e-gold, I want to know what's
new/different immediately, without having to drill down several links.
So I would put general news above the fold on the front page.  You may
also wish to have separate news pages for each of your constituencies.

If I'm a new e-gold user I want to know a) what e-gold is b) how to
get e-gold c) how much e-gold costs.

e-gold is pretty up front about pricing, which is a good thing.
However, I would move pricing information to the front page.  I would
also include a discussion of market maker fees, and wire transfer and
money order fees because the user will have to pay these fees to use
e-gold, even if the fees aren't charged by e-gold itself.  Discussing
all of the relevant fees upfront builds trust.  To quote Nielsen:

"....The big difference in our statistics between the best-selling and
the less-selling Web sites is in terms of disclosure of shipping
information, both in terms of telling you how much shipping and
handling will be as opposed to trying to trick people. If you tell
them up front, they're going to think you're a more honest company to
do business with. And also with respect to delivery time."

(See Austin American-Statesman, Monday, February 26, 2001,
http://www.austin360.com/statesman/editions/monday/business_1.html and


(Note that the pricing I include on the mockup isn't necessarily
accurate--it's mostly placeholding)

I like the Examiner feature--it helps build a sense of trust in
e-gold.  It would also help build trust in the company, and increase
the site's credibility if you put up more information about e-gold's
employees.  Who started e-gold?  What's their background?  Why did
they start e-gold?  Where do they live?  e-gold is asking it's
customers to trust many thousands of dollars to their care, after
all--it would be nice to know more about the people behind it.  I'd
like to see pictures and biographies of all of e-gold's principals.


I think some of e-gold's individual pages are quite well done--for
example, the exchange rate page is cleanly designed and easy to read.
However, e-gold's site as a whole doesn't have a consistent look and
feel to it.  For example, compare the first page
(http://www.e-gold.com) to the FAQ
(http://www.e-gold.com/unsecure/qanda.html).  Different background,
different fonts, different navigational aids.  Lack of consistency
tends to convey a feeling that the site was put together somewhat
haphazardly, which tends to decrease visitor's trust in the site.

I think it's great that e-gold hosts a mailing list, and maintains the
archives on its site.  I think that the mailing list is important for
maintaining communications between e-gold and the e-gold user
community.  It would be nice if users had to make fewer clicks to get
to the mailing list archive.  Currently, you have to go through six

   e-gold.com --> Site-map --> Main menu --> e-gold-list --> view
without joining -->
   read messages --> see messages

before you actually see any messages.  (Each arrow represents one

It should be possible to get to the messages in three clicks:.

   e-gold.com --> Main menu --> e-gold --> see messages

To see what I would prefer, see www.arsdigita.com:

   arsdigita.com --> Forums --> web/db --> see messages

The window that displays the messages is quite small--a larger display
window would allow users to see  more messages at once.

Once you make it to the archive, you must first select the message you
want to see, then click "View message"--two clicks.  I would prefer
that each message title were a hyperlink to the message itself--only
one click.

Also, if you want to read a message that's below the screen bottom,
you have to scroll down.  When you press the back button to read the
next message in the thread, you have to scroll down again--very
irritating and time consuming.  I would prefer something like the
bboard at:

It would be useful if each page have a "bread crumb trail" in the
header, so that users know where they are in relation to the main
page, no matter how deeply they go into the website.  See the small
bread crumb trail I've put on the dummy page.

I would also convert any PDF documents to html (e.g.  The e-gold
Bullion Reserve Special Purpose Trust and the third party Escrow Agent
documents).  PDF documents are not indexed by most search engines, so
you lose the opportunity to increase your sites rankings.  In most
cases, the information in a PDF document can just as easily be
displayed in HTML + JPG's.  In addition, some readers may not have the
Adobe Acrobat reader installed, and resent the extra steps it would
take to download and use it, when you could just as easily have put
the same information in html.  (Providing a second copy of the same
document as PDF is fine--the problem is when the document is _only_
available in that format.)

One many pages, at least on my browser, the default text size is quite
small (e.g. the text links on the main page).  Anyone with visual
impairment will find these pages quite difficult to read.

It's important log out of your e-gold account, so that someone else
can't spend your money when you leave your computer.  However, there's
no indication when you're logged in.  On the mock-up, I put an LOGGED
IN indicator in the upper left corner, so that the user will have a
visual reminder that they're logged in.

I hope to see e-gold grow large enough to substantially replace fiat
currencies.  I have great admiration for Douglas Jackson and the other
people at e-gold.  I hope that my comments have been useful, and will
help make e-gold.com an even better service than it already is.  And I
welcome any
criticisms you may have of my criticisms...:>

Best wishes,

Chris Rasch

Use e-gold?  Send me two cents:
http://2cw.org/257121&[EMAIL PROTECTED]
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