Friday, March 15, 2002

Web Design Thoughts

Rant ahead...

There are 'cool' designs for websites and then there are, well, not so cool website designs. The most recent 'fad' (sorry, couldn't come up with a better word) is the splash page phenomena featuring lovely graphics (which also hog bandwidth) and then in microscopic print below the pictures are words that could be links or tell you what the site works best with (IE versus Netscape). Pretty pages, yes, but slightly annoying because of the extra click ("Enter") and the fancy graphics. Then there are the sites with the mystery meat navigation - I stumbled across one the other day where all the links were numbers - that's right, click on '1' and you end up on a fanfic page, '2' gives you a brief bio of the author. Cute and original bet gets old really fast when you are stumbling around endlessly looking for one story in particular.

So my tips on web design (fwiw):

  • Keep it simple - don't overdo it with graphics because Photoshop 6x just showed up (yes, I know how cool Photoshop 6 is - I've lost hours of my life playing with this, doing graphic manipulations).
  • White backgrounds are simple and easy to read - nice for large amounts of text. Under no circumstances should you use something you would wrap a gift in as a background. Especially as a background for fic.
  • Blinking, spinning, revolving things - not necessary. IE has deprecated the blinking text as a built-in safety for designers who insist on using this tag.
  • Directories are a very Good Thing. For you, not necessarily for the end user. Especially if your site gets enormous. It will make life easier for you.
  • No splash pages, please. They really add nothing of value, I'm sorry to say, and just necessitates extra clicking. Especially if they don't even tell you what the site is about and merely put up some lovely graphics (and I have to say, I am amazed by the talent putting out manipulations). Also, remember some people connect still at 26.4 - yes, slow as a snail, but it does happen (especially in areas where telephone lines have yet to be upgraded).
  • Make your links understandable. No mystery meat navigation. Add text boxes if you must, but please make it clear where things are. Links called "About Me" are just right - descriptive etc. Links called "1" tell the user absolutely nothing. On a related note, graphic links are not good. Again, bandwidth issues and if the user has turned off images, once again, you've got mystery meat navigation. If using graphics for links, make sure you have text alternatives.
  • Frames. Simple. Don't use them. Don't 'frame' someone else. If you get framed, there's a nice little piece of javascript you can use to avoid that in the future. But in general, easy to update, but really not fun to deal with it if you're the clicking-through person.
  • You should be able to reach every page in your site in no more than 3 clicks. Can you do it? Make sure navigation is provided on every page.
  • Index pages are very nice, as are sitemaps, when you have large volumes of material on your site. The less scrolling down, the better. People don't tend to like to use the 'page down' button if they can help it - it's nice when everything can be seen on one screen. BTW, this doesn't apply to fanfic - it's nice to break up a story into chunks of about 30-45k - but not necessary.

That's it. For today. But I may just revisit this topic in the future. You have been warned.

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