are so many web sites so difficult to use? Why is it that
web designers are seemingly everywhere, but really good
ones are so hard to find? Some of the answers to these questions
lie in the complex relationship between web designers and
web developers. Other answers
can be found in the complex nature of the web page itself.
good commercial web page is part billboard, part television
commercial, and part instrument panel. Therefore, the
successful construction and presentation of a site requires
the creativity of the artist, the human relations skills
of the sales professional, and the technical savvy of
the engineer - plus the management skills to coordinate
it all. Only rarely are these various skill sets found
in one person. This is the main reason why successful
sites are usually the work of a team effort; good web
design is the "synergy and synthesis" of all
four aspects working together.
contrast, web surfers complain bitterly that many sites
seem to have no rhyme, reason or order whatsoever to their
construction. They seem, in fact, to be intentionally
designed to confuse, frustrate, and intimidate the visitor.
And we can be sure that once we have wasted the potential
customer's most valuable asset - their time - they will
be in no hurry to invest their loyalty, their trust, or
their money with us.
Berkun of Microsoft Corp., in his excellent article series
Human Factor, explains the problem this way:
like us who build things for a living are intimate with
the technology and have a mental model for how it works.
It's our job to know this stuff and we take pride in
it. The problem comes when we design how the thing is
operated...Internal representations become external.
Concepts that are familiar to our development team are
quietly assumed to be familiar to everyone. Most people
who make things spend most of their time with other
people who make things and not with the people who will
other words, for a site to be successful, each member
of the team must be able to generate a marketing/usability
perspective in addition to their own. Designers must design,
not for rave reviews from other designers, but for warm
receptions from the marketplace. Marketing must concentrate,
not on offering every bell and whistle that the competition
is using, but on making sure the customer finds each additional
feature to be of real benefit. And programming must make
sure that their ingenious user-interface solutions are
invisible when possible, have clear instructions whenever
needed, and work as advertised 100% of the time. In the
end, it is far better to do a small thing extremely well
than do many grand things poorly. It must always be remembered
that the user is fickle, impatient, and in control; and
once offended, is not quick to forgive.
What determines good web design?
web page design, and home page design in particular, should
have a single-minded focus - to attract the viewer's attention
and stimulate their interest. One should not have to possess
a fine arts degree in order to appreciate the layout of
a web page. This is one case where beauty is indeed in
the eye of the beholder. Selling is first and foremost
a transfer of emotion, and creating a positive emotional
response in the viewer's mind is the designer's one mandatory
responsibility. Everything else is an optional extra.
good web design supports, but does not overpower, the
message. In short, any design that interferes with
the marketing message is bad design, no matter how
aesthetically pleasing or precisely formatted it may be.
If people are talking about our design rather than our
message, we have our cart before the horse, and our sales
figures will reflect that fact.
web is not print, and web designers must accept the reality
that they simply do not have the level of control they
have in the print medium. Basic formatting principles
do apply, but to obsess over exact positioning, font choices,
and perfect color selection over presenting content that
makes the user hungry to find out more is to reveal a
lack of understanding of the web. On the Internet, images
may be cool, but content is king. Period.
SkyVault Web Design provides marketing consulting,
web development, and Internet business services to small
and medium sized businesses. They have been developing
income-producing online properties since 1998. Contact
the development team at: www.skyvaultwebdesign.com.
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