Quondam Dreams

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

All You Need To Know About Web Design, In Seven Convenient Items

Now, I'm not saying this is the be-all and end-all of design advice posts. I'm just saying, I've been in this game for just about as long as it's possible to be in this game, and I have some really basic guidelines which you young whippersnappers might want to peruse.

In no particular order, but numbered for hypothetical reference:

  1. One
    Know what you want the web site to do in the long run, what you want it to do now, and what you can have it do now, given the time and resources available. Build it around what you can do, with room to expand. And -- here's the really important part -- don't bring up the long-run stuff on the site unless you really, really have to. "New features you didn't expect!" is much more satisfying than "coming soon... well, soon-ish." If you do have to post a coming soon page, make sure you mean it.

  2. Two
    I don't care if you've spent tons of time, energy and/or money on developing a feature. If more than 20% of people who use your site think that feature's a bug... it's a bug.

  3. Three
    There is never a number three, and you should never base your site in Flash unless there's a damn good reason. ("Everyone else has an unskippable splash page" is the opposite of a damn good reason.) If you really do have a damn good reason, then learn a little bit about search engine optimization, so you and/or your client can skip the panic that ensues when joeslilypads.com doesn't pop up on the first page of Google search results for "Joe's Lily Pads". Otherwise, use CSS for layout and save the Flash for a portfolio site.

  4. Four
    No frequently-updated information should be more than one click away from the landing page. And we're talking really obvious clicks here -- like, "Calendar," not, "hover the pointer over that frog in the lower-right corner, wait for the menu to unfurl, click on 'my lilypad' and select the flower with the stem that says 'what up'." (And, yes, clicking from a splash page to the main landing page counts as a click. Maybe you should just ditch the splash page.)

  5. Five
    There's not much point in using an attention-demanding graphic if the viewer's attention is going to be split, so don't use more than one blinking or animated element in any given screen. "Screen," in this case, is defined as an area equivalent to whatever your usage stats show the most common screen resolution to be, usually 1024 x 768. You do know how to check your usage stats, right?

  6. Six
    Don't depend on Dreamweaver, or any other auto-coding program. You can use them for basic layout, but learn how to fiddle under the hood. Making a tweak in the code is faster, easier and more effective than fiddling with and re-uploading the whole page.

  7. Seven
    Include a contact email in an easy-to-find spot, and make sure every email is answered by (or appears to be answered by) a real, live human -- even if it's just a stock, "Thanks for your email - we'll take it under advisement. Love, the management." That's not a design thing, or an architecture thing, or a functionality thing. That's just good manners.

That's almost certainly not exhaustive, though it's arguably exhausting. I think there might be a sequel at some point. Got any more items for the list? Shoot me an email.

1 Comments:

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    By Blogger Search Engine Optimization, at April 11, 2008 at 4:49 AM  

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