|It isn't that there are a lot of fools in the world, it's that lightning isn't distributed right. -- Mark Twain|
Take these ramblings for what they're worth. They are my thoughts resulting from years of experience on the web as a
You will see that graphics designer is conspicuously absent from this list. I am by no means a graphics designer. But then, graphics design is a very personal thing. I tend to go for a more minimalist approach to graphics. Perhaps one day, I'll share my thoughts. But for now, I'll concentrate on more general issues.
More . . .
Keep it Current
Before I get into content, I'd like to emphasize the issue of currency. Not the spending kind, but the need for a web page to be fresh and current.
This brings up the issue of updates. The best design, to my mind is one that emphasizes the content (see below) and allows the page to be kept current with as little effort as possible.
I find there are a couple of major problems when trying to keep a site current:
This last one is particularly irksome. It occurs because the content owners have moved on to something else and cleaning up old things just isn't on their radar. It's like an event. You can probably get people to set up for the event and you definitely can get people to participate in the event. The problem comes with cleanup after the event is over. Everyone is tired of the event and doesn't want to do it.
But cleanup is essential! As a webmaster you have to be on constant lookout for expired material and get it off your site or into your archive section.
You're going to think I'm crazy when you see the start of the content discussion, but I can't emphasize this enough.
So how do you keep your site current? Here are some "quick hits":
I have decided to create some simple rules (axioms) for web page design. I'm not going to comment on these here, but you might find something in the other discussions. I will be updating these as I come up with them.
Read more . . .
Like the admonition "Location, Location and Location" for real estate or restaurants, the admonition for websites needs to be "content, content, and content". And when we say content, the admonition is "current...current...current".
Do you get the idea that current content is important? Well it is! You can have the glitziest, flashiest, most wiz-bang site there is, but without content or with old and outdated content, you won't keep your audience.
So, what do you do?
I can think of nothing more important than constant involvement with your site. Try it yourself, have your friends, co-workers, and others try it. Encourage them to be brutally honest about your site and listen to what they are saying. Follow your own links. Check for the following:
If you create your own content, change/update it frequently. Some Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts say that you should revamp your main page monthly.
Make sure that users can always find something new at your site. Make sure that your content is fresh, current, and reflects your current thoughts views and interests.
Don't change the layout and look-and-feel of your site often. Keep your site a familiar, easy place to come for your existing visitors. Too much change will frustrate your visitors and drive them away.
Remember that visitors may bookmark pages that they like. The next time they come to that page they are likely to use the same bookmark. If the page isn't found, they are likely to remove the bookmark and with it, any contact with your site.
Watch the usage of your site. Work on the most popular sections and consider dropping sections which are not so well received. Make sure, if you are running a personal site, that the site reflects YOUR interests. If you are interested in a topic, you are more likely to keep up with it and keep up the interest of your visitors.
Aslk your visitors what they like. Make sure that you listen to what they are saying and, most important, that you acknowledge their posts even if you don't intend to do anything about them. Make them feel a part of your site and you will bring them back.
I have been visiting pages which look great in my browser, but might cause problems if you visit them with a text-based browser or with certain elements turned offi. Here's a list from builder.com of things that needs to be done. You need to provide alternative content if you're creating pages with certain elements:
Even if you only explain why the user isn't receiving the information, you will be alleviating some confusion.
Have you ever wondered about some sites. Many seem to be just vehicles for displaying ads and getting the revenue from clicks.
We have ads on this site, but just a single set at this time. I have been reluctant to put ads on the site because I am not attempting to make money from this effort. But, I think I have to address some use of these, sometimes annoying, distractions from the main purpose of the site.
To generate the most income, ads should appear "above the fold". This is an old newspaper term which referrs to the placement of ads on the top half of a page so that they would be seen when the paper was folded in half. On the web, this refers to placing the ad so that people don't have to scroll to see it.
This results in ads appearing at the top of a page or in the upper left hand corner of the page (people give most attention from left to right, top to bottom).
I think that ads should be minimized on a page. Ideally, they should relate to the content of the page. And ideally, the page should have some content to relate to! That is, the page should not just be a vehicle to get ad clicks.
There are also some pages which I feel should contain only minimal ads, if any. Here are some:
I believe that ads should not detract from the main purpose of the page, if they are used. They should not be the only purpose for a page, and they should, ideally, be relevant to the message of the page.
Getting around is important to a user's acceptance of your site. There are common elements which will help users navigate your site. Here are some thoughts.
Standardize navigation elements. Keep menus, links, navigation dropdowns, etc. in approximately the same place on each page. Unless there is a good reason, don't change these elements throughout your site.
Don't strand your visitors. Give them some place to go from each page. If you have elements such as PDF files or other pages where navigation elements cannot be added, consider popping these up. That way, when the user finishes with the document, they close the window and there is your site.
Pop up remote sites so your users can easily return to your site. This helps the user get back to the page on which they started. Almost all the remote links on this site work that way.
Give your visitors logical alternate routes through your site. Consider how the user may use your site. When you mention another part of your site in your content, make that reference a link. That way, the user doesn't have to navigate to the other page through a series of clicks. Relate your pages in ways that are interesting and logical to a user. This will keep your site interesting and active for the user.
Clean up your site. Test the links yourself. One trick that I use is as I review my site, I do so through the browser using the actual site. I try to think like a visitor and click on the links myself. Remove old and outdated links. If you have a reference to an external site, make sure that the content of the site continues to reflect the original purpose for which it was linked. Be brutal in removing sites which do not reflect your current thoughts or are below your standards.
Consider reorganization as you add content. As your site grows, re-examine your navigational elements. Make sure that they are still relevant to your content. Look at pages, break up content appropriately. Don't necessarily make grand changes, but examine the navigation to make sure that it still makes it easy for your visitors to navigate your site.
I believe that every website more than a personal site needs an About Us section. The first thing I look for on a site--especially those offering opinion--is who is behind the site. I want to know who is trying to sway my opinion.
The first thing I do on an opinion site if I can't find out the backers is leave!
So what should be on an about us page?
A simple statement of what the site is trying to accomplish. It is not always obvious what a site's purpose is. This helps users understand your point of view and interpret other things on the site. I know that some sites want to keep this a mystery -- like political action committees. This way, they can try to drive visitors to their opinion by mascarading as something they are not. But, if I can't find out who you are, I'm leaving !
The people and groups behind the website. Knowing who sponsors a site is vital to understanding the opinions expressed on the site.
Even when a site's objective is stated, it is sometime difficult to interpret just what that means. Political sites are especially difficult as one groups "objective, unbiased opinions" is likely to be different from another's. I really like to find out who is supplying the money for a site. This tells me more than anything written what the site is about.