WebRef Update: Featured Article: Design and Content Tips | 2
Design and Content Tips
Use Technology as a Friend, Not a Distracter
Once again, there is a lot to be said for simplicity and subtlety. New technologies are developed every day, but this doesn't mean that you have to incorporate each and every one in your site to demonstrate your abilities. Indeed, some technology is overused. Let's rephrase that - most new technology is overused at the beginning. Everyone wants to show their ability to grasp the latest and greatest and unfortunately, their attempts usually go overboard until they lose their fascination of the new look. For example, a bit of Flash is nice in the right place at the right time for the right site. But, be wise, a 4 minute Flash movie feels like an hour and a half on the Internet. Not too many people are going to wait around for it. Don't get me wrong, Flash is cool, but a little Flash goes a long way. More importantly, Flash is just not right for many sites.
In essence you get to experience what every cook has experienced for years - it takes hours to make, but people want to consume it in a very short period of time. Don't try to elongate their experience.
While we are speaking about technology and things going a long way, unless you are a musician or selling music, please opt out of music files. Most of us have a different preference in music. Should we want music while we surf, we play our own. Audio files slow your page loads and irritate many visitors. Some of us surf late at night and don't wish to wake our households to the tunes of Doggy Dog. Having said that, there are places where music is just the right touch. If you really believe your site is the place (and please think this over long and hard), tone it down with options for increasing volume if necessary and give surfers the chance to opt out quickly.
Face it, great site design really is about understanding and conveying an image - a picture that speaks volumes if you will. Again, I'm going to remind you that the subject matter of the site should be the focus, not your really cool design. Through your words, design, navigation system, colors, graphics and technology, you convey an image. Remember this when you first begin planning your site. Before you decide what the site will look like and what it will contain, ask yourself what is the image you want to convey.
The site you design should leave an impression, a feeling. So what is the impression this particular site needs to convey? Do you want people to laugh? Does the company you are designing for have a conservative image (such as a legal site)? What is the purpose of the site's product or service? If you are designing a site for lumberjacks, leave a subtle impression of wood. Remember, don't scream "wood" with tacky, dark, wood paneling, just leave the "feel" of wood with perhaps small graphics of trees and flora, using greens and browns for your site colors and a few small tools used by lumberjacks.
If you are after a professionalism concept, don't shock your visitors with bright colors, flashy graphics, tons of animation and cartoons. Use fine photographs, subtle colors, simplistic mouse-overs and a conservative layout. Use a compelling writing style void of unsubstantiated claims and "used car salesmanship". Check and recheck your spelling, grammar and punctuation. Provide oodles of knowledgeable content, scholarly articles and links to other professional sites with the same type of content. Avoid banner ads and pop-up windows like the plague.
Last but not least, give your visitor a reason to come back. Continually add new content, update your articles, verify site links monthly, offer new contests, newsletters or other content that keeps visitors checking back. Please remember to reward visitors with what they expect (updated content and an ever growing site) when they do return.
About the author:
Peggie Brown is CEO of KatsueyDesignWorks (www.katsueydesignworks.com) and Katsuey's Legal Gateway (www.katsuey.com). She specializes in designing and developing content for legal oriented Web sites. She also provides presentations and educational seminars focusing on finding reliable legal information on the Internet and designing successful web sites. Peggie can be reached at email@example.com.
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Revised: June 23, 2000