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(2010-06-19) Website design, compliance and optimization

I consider myself a pretty decent script-writer. The authoring system for this web site is something I've created. It's pretty rudimentary but works. But the graphical design is something I'm just not very good at. So far all my sites have had a rather "creative" look, where "creative" is an euphemism for amateurish. Eventually I caved in a started looking for premade designs.



A friend of mine pointed me at "Artisteer 2", a commercial program that allows you to create good looking websites. One man's "good looking site" is another man's "drab cookie-cutter designed site". So what?

Web site design is like clothing: if you dress badly, people will not judge you by your character, but by your clothes. Or rather: you have to be rather obnoxious for people to miss how you dress. If you dress normally, you will be judged by who you are. That may be a stretch, but work with me here folks. And that's how far the metaphor goes without breaking. If you dress sharply, people might be inclined to get a better first impression of you. This is not true for websites! When was the last time you even noticed a site because of its beautiful design? 1999? If so, wasn't it because most other sites looked like a ransom note done by a drunken chimpanzee?

Really, as the web has matured, compliance and optimization are the key word here. At least that's how I see things. Compliance is about making the web sites function well for all devices and browsers out there. PC and MAC may be the least of our worries as people surf the web through cell phones, TVs and gaming consoles. Optimization is an even bigger challenge. This site functions on Windows, Mac and Linux. It plays nice with Internet Explorer and Firefox as far as I've tested. It looks all right on my HTC Desire. That's due to the site being compliant enough. But optimization means serving different layouts to different devices.

If I choose to strip out the menu and headers when someone with a Smart Phone loads the page, they won't have to zoom in to read the text. Alas, this site won't do that. I hope to get around to implement such a function in the future. I do have a plan to implement RSS-feeds, which will allow the site to function on my Sony Bravia TV and many other devices. This is optimization and its the other important thing in design.

Because I don't know when to stop, here's the third thing: navigation. Unless you're interested in the site or the information you're getting, you have little desire to navigate. If it isn't on the front page it will most likely not be found unless you come in from a search result.

So to wrap it up: I believe focusing on amazing graphical design and trying to make it look "cool" is overrated as well as 10 years too late. Instead focus on making it available to everyone and letting them have everything instantly accessible.

Posted: 2010-06-19 by Erik Zalitis
Changed: 2010-06-19 by Erik Zalitis

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