Two Common Web Design Myths

16:10 21 September in Design, Web Solutions


Two Common Web Design Myths

If your site has been approximately for a while, you d probably have been visited by the Web Design Police (people who have a lot of time on their hands). In fact, depending on your site, you may have been visited by different branches of these people, both advocating opposite policies. I recently received an email from one of my visitors who had actually been helped by some of these people, and thought that an article on two of the myths of web design is suitable.

1. The Myth of Content is King, No Animation/Sound/Java/etc

The saying that Content is King applies to all websites, and I am not disputing that. It is also true that when you add sound, animation, Java applets and lots of graphics, your web page takes a long time to load, and some of your visitors may not bother to wait for it to load; they ll just go away.

However, putting those two together does not really mean that all pages with animation, sound and applets are necessarily bad. The trick is to know when they re suitable and to make the download speed as fast as it is reasonably possible under the conditions. I will mention a few ways of reducing your graphics and animation file sizes later in this article.

When is it appropriate? Sometimes applets are needed for some sort of dispensation – for example, the Sesame Street website has a Java applet that shows Elmo (a Sesame Street character) dancing, and the child is using it can use the mouse pointer to tickle Elmo and he ll respond according to where he is tickled. The applet takes forever to load on a 56K modem, but you cannot say that it is out of place: the site caters to young children who are there to play. In this case, the applet is a suitable solution. Likewise, animation and sound might be suitable for sites that feature online comics, online gaming, etc.

In fact, if yours is a website that sells website design services, that is, you want people to pay you to design their website; it is in your interest not to create your site too plain. Many potential customers see your site as an example of what their site can become. There s no point claiming Content is King at this time – they won t be around long enough to hear your claim. Such sites require a certain amount of color, graphics, etc, although of course creating it take too long to load would also be prevention to your potential clients.

Like all things, how you design your site depends on your topic and your target audience. Keep that basic rule in mind and you ll be fine.

2. The Myth of Good Web Design is in the Graphics

On the other end of the scale are the people who believe a good website should have much color, graphics, animation and sound. You may meet them, for example, in the form of newcomers or pundits who either do not have much real world web experience or who only surf on T1 connections.

My first meet with such people came in the form of an old friend who exhibited his personal website arrogantly to me. At the centre of his home page was a large animated graphic that was a few hundred kilobytes in size. That graphic had little function on that page – it did not give any informative value: it was neither a logo, nor was it a photo of him, or an image map, or anything at all. It was purely decorative. At that time (many years ago), I was using a 14.4K modem and that page took ages to load.

Now don t get me wrong. Decorative graphics on a page are fine. They create a page more pleasant to look at, and hence more likely to be read. But you must at least make them as small as possible. While I m cautious to give a hard and fast rule about how big such graphics must be, a decorative graphic that is a few hundred kilobytes in size is definitely too big to be standard.

3. Some Page Design Tips

If your concern is that your page must look good without being too slow to load, here are a few commonly used tricks that you may want to consider:

Do not put too much text in one big block. Separate them out into paragraph and put white space between paragraphs. This creates your text look more readable.

Like colored pages? That s okay, but in universal, if the readability of your text is significant to you, a white background with black text works best.

If you must have a colored background, ensure you try out your page by viewing it in resolutions like 256 colors to see whether the page looks alright. A colored page that looks fine on your 32 bit color resolution system may have irresolute that creates your text difficult to read on lesser settings.

If you check the websites of big companies (Microsoft, Yahoo, etc), you will find that they still favor a white background with black text for their main text. These companies probably have more resources for testing the usability of their website than you have, so it may not be wise to mock at their design too quickly.

Decrease the size of the individual graphics files on your pages by using the following methods:

  • Decrease the number of colors in the graphic
  • Decrease the size of the image, if possible
  • In animations, decrease the number of frames
  • In animations, don t duplicate the background in every frame; create the first frame a background without any objects that will move, and put all your moving objects in separate frames with transparent backgrounds.