The Seven Habits of Effective Web Sites - HTML with Style | 5 | WebReference

The Seven Habits of Effective Web Sites - HTML with Style | 5

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The Seven Habits of Effective Web Sites

Why Netscape and Microsoft shouldn't be burned at the stake (yet)

As many of you know, one of my favourite pastimes is slamming Netscape and Microsoft for making browsers that are incompatible with each other and with any Web technology specification ever written.

Though this is indeed something worth whining about, it does not mean that browser makers are at fault for everything that is wrong with the Web today. It is perfectly possible to design a lousy Web site that conforms perfectly with every specification the W3C ever published. And although current browsers make it harder than it should be, it is also possible to design an excellent Web site that works with them just fine.

The problem is also not only with developers who don't know any better. A very important stumbling block is Web designer's clients that don't know what to ask for.

When someone decides to hire a developer to design a Web site, it is obvious that he's doing this because he believes that whoever he hires will do a better job than himself. However, he still needs a way to judge what he's paying for. And most people who aren't even in the Web design business have little to no grasp of the deeper issues involved in designing a good Web site.

Before you scream bloody murder and accuse me of segregating the techies from the laymen, I'd like you to perform a simple exercise: Compare a few Web sites that are designed internally, by the same people who run them and expect to get results from them (examples: WebReference.com, Yahoo, Google) and others that have been outsourced to Web design firms or internal Web design departments by businesses whose primary area of expertise is not the Internet (Examples: The much-ballyhooed Volkswagen Turbonium site, or the site for the summer blockbuster Gone in 60 Seconds).

If you pay some attention, you'll notice the profusion of Flash animations, Quicktime movies, sound clips, JavaScript tricks, frames and pop-up windows in the latter. You'll also notice the lack of graphics, compact, meaningful layouts and abundance of textual information in the former. By the way, you'll probably won't miss the "Please wait, loading..." animations in the Turbonium and Gone in 60 Seconds sites if you skip them. You might be mystified by the lack of such animations in the first group. You might also be mystified by the fact that the former sites get millions of hits a day, with people coming back and reading them all the time, while the latter will occasionally attract a bored Web surfer that will look at them and be briefly surprised by the moving images and loud noises before going back to watching MTV.

Some people would claim that the difference between the two categories of sites is caused by the different subject matter. To counter that argument, I'd like to compare the Gone in 60 Seconds site with the Gone in 60 Seconds page on IMDb. No animations, light graphics, lots of text, clear navigation. Sure, there's a link to the trailer right there at the very top, but the site is designed so that visitors can find as much as they want about the film with as little hassle as possible. You could stick with the summary on the first page. You might want to check who gave that amazing performance as "Intern #2". Or you might want to confirm whether that rear-view mirror really was mysteriously fixed, then broken again.

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URL: http://www.webreference.com/html/watch/seven/4.html

Produced by Stephanos Piperoglou
Created: September 18, 2000
Revised: September 20, 2000