WebRef Update: Featured Article: Eat a Web Site for Breakfast
Eat a Web Site for Breakfast
A Web site for breakfast is a good thing. Although not very nutritious on a physical level, on a mental and emotional level it might help start your day off with a bang.
When you get up tomorrow morning, grab your cuppa coffee and hit the computer's "on" switch. Wire yourself up, sit comfortably and go to a Web site. Any site. Munch on one that's familiar or branch out and try something new.
Don't go beyond the first course. Now...take a close look at what you're about to eat. How is it presented on the plate? Is this a main dish or is it a fine mix of gruel? Are you riveted by the chef's ingenuity or are you cringing at having performed this experiment so early in your day?
This morning you will discover that you prefer certain types of breakfasts. You will also begin to explore how hungry you might have to be in order to cook for certain people.
Where are you going to stab that fork first?
Presenting an entry page on a Web site is a bit like being a chef. You might be the best chef in the world, but you need to know where you're working. If you're building a site for a clientele who wants a quick slap and a side of pig to start their day, then you want to wake 'em up with a bit of bright and a lot of shock to jolt their senses. If your customer is seeking a champagne brunch, you'll tone it down a bit. Give them little munchies to soothe their souls and lull them into pulling out that credit card.
Knowing the elements of design is very important... if you take pride in your skills as a chef, you will know the basics and the spices that will make your meal a masterpiece. But even knowing this will not help you if you don't know your customer.
Say one of your clients wants a quick-slap wake 'em up site. If your specialty is in designing this type of site, you're in like Flynn. If you have a penchant for the brunch or you're a granola kinda guy or gal, you have one of two choices: If you're not starving, turn the client down or take what you know and branch out a bit. The point is this - it doesn't matter what you cook as long as you cook it up with style.
Take a quick tour to www.kidswb.com and wait for the graphics to download. You might need two cups of coffee if you have a 28K modem. Be patient - what you're about to see is one of those marvels in marketing that overrides any bandwidth issues. This is a big-brand Saturday Morning Cartoon punch that hits the Under-13-Years-Of-Age Bunch. And this group of customers would willingly wait for a chocolate chip pancake with 1/2 gallon of syrup as long as they get what they've been promised.
And they get it - slowly. This is a lesson in developing a site that teases with top billing in the right hand corner. One of the many basics of designing for English-speaking audiences is to take the eye of the viewer from left to right at the top and then lead the eye down to the lower left. From that point you take them to the lower right and - hopefully - back up to the upper right again. This will form an invisible "Z" on the page.
This page will take your eye immediately to "contests" in the top right. As the page downloads, vivid colors that are a treat to a brain loaded with Saturday morning sugar will emerge. By the time the entire page downloads, the wonderful focus of the design unfolds. The WB logo in the right corner is angled to take your eye right back to the top right again. In between, the eye is all over the place - but in a focused circle. This might be murder on cataracts, but perfect for the tensed-up pre-teen with a trigger- mouse finger.
From my own experience with a ten-year-old daughter, I'll guess that the child who has been to this site just once knows instinctively where their favorite link is located - even with a blindfold. This eliminates the download issue for the repeat viewer (I had to ask my daughter to WAIT PLEASE so I could view the entire page). As an adult the site might be a mind-boggling mystical mire of eye-candy, but every kid in your household will know exactly what to order. They will savor the bright colors and eat up the possibilities. They know the instructions, colors and busyness of the site will befuddle and frustrate their parents... and this is exactly what the chef intended. Adults are dumb! Breakfast is great!
Revised: August 18, 2000