Secret Thoughts of a Web Designer

Table of Contents

  1. Fancy web design
  2. The use of tables

“Fancy” (interesting) web design

In my post “The Purpose of Websites is Being Lost“, I criticized fancy website design for its lack of functionality. Today, I’m going to promote fancy website design and criticize industry standard – which still keeps me consistent because in any case, I’m always against industry standard.

In another post, I gave tips on how to make a professional website. Now, there’s nothing wrong with making a website professional (that’s usually the objective, right?), but there IS something wrong with making websites by industry standard. And that reason is: it’s boring. Industry tends to simplify things. That’s fine if you site is only for people trying to order a product, but if you’re a music group, a video game company, or your just trying to get your foot in the door as a small business, I imagine you’d want something more memorable for a site, right? I know I would.

Up until a couple of nights ago, all of the sites I made were unique and cool looking in their own right, but more importantly, they weren’t boring. They were non-industry standard. Granted, only one in the making was what you would expect from a professional (although I haven’t posted that site – it’s a template). However, my most recent site followed all of those recommendations that I had posted. It looked nice when I was done and I was quite proud of myself (primarily for being so quick in building it). Day later… hm… I’m not so impressed with it anymore. It looks boring. Pardon me: here’s a picture of the site. Why is it boring? Primarily the simplicity – that attribute of professional website design that, as I’ve mentioned before, can make a site forgettable.

Let me clarify something: there are two kinds of simplicity. The first is simplicity of the content. The second is the simplicity of the layout. Both are complementary, but it is the former that makes a site forgettable, not the later. The latter, depending on how you apply it, just makes the site either a delightfully easy experience or a pain-in-the-neck-I-want-to-leave-this-site-so-bad experience. A simple layout can go a long ways, but you need to bring to the front what people are looking for or make it very intuitive for them to get there. If you’re a university, then obviously you’ll have a huge site and simplicity of layout is going to be an issue – thus, you need to strive for making your site intuitive. Before you put up a menu item, ask people what they think will be in it. You might be surprised at their answers. If you’re a small business, you should strive for simplicity. You don’t need to include “special deal XYZ” on your menu bar unless that’s what customers say they are looking for (even then, people are less likely to look at what is put directly in front of their face). Personally, I prefer standard page layout that everyone is useful (since it’s also the most intuitive): home, contact us, about, and such. That won’t optimize your search engine results (which is an ever increasing priority of businesses these days), but at least you can navigate intuitively.

Getting back on topic, simplicity of content is what can make a site boring. Yes, the site may look slick, but it also looks like it fits the industry cookie cutter. (Industry must be making oatmeal raisin. – Bleh.)

Cutting to the chase (pun intended): here’s how to make your site memorable: decorative content.

Okay, but doesn’t that overdo things? Hold on! There’s a right way to do decorative content and a wrong way.

Wrong way: Post a bunch of gifs everywhere.

Right way…

You know those buttons, borders, and backgrounds you’ve got? How about a texture. Gradients look nice… for a while, but they are so overused that if you don’t make strong, maybe even multicolor gradients, they can get old quick. Textures, on the other hand, can be tricky to apply, but the outcome is attractive details for anyone staring at your site for awhile, and it makes their “stay” more enjoyable. Did I say borders? Yes, even borders could have texture. Thick borders are especially good for placing textures, and in fact, you may do it there more than anywhere else on the site since borders tend to be the least interfering with other content.

Notice, however, there is nothing wrong with using gradients in the texture. In fact, textures with gradients can be nice. The point is – something is happening within the texture – there are color changes beyond the (lonely) transition of moving from one color to another.

In summary, explore alittle bit.

The use of tables

My guess is the people who first determined the standards for HTML probably weren’t expecting people to use tables to create website layouts (if they even had tables in HTML to begin with). To put it simple: tables are not for website layout. I’ve seen various websites that use tables. Some of them aren’t too bad – at least until you resize the window. XD Most of them, however, are a probably a pain to modify much less build.

I remember when I first tried to assemble a website (this was WAY back who knows when). I used Microsoft Word. Tables were my friend. I didn’t know about divisions in html. I always saw HTML as the computer jarble that was spit out in the “code view”. The sites I made looked decent for a kid, but obviously it was a long ways from pro quality (or even where I am now). Years later, I tried using WYSIWYG programs (“what you see is what you get) like NetFusion and Komposer, but it proved to be tricky learning how to use them. One thing was proved by them: tables don’t work.

Why don’t tables work well for design?

First and foremost, they are a pain to modify. Resizing a table depends on the program you use. Some programs won’t even let you do it.

Second, everything is boxy and in the same columns. Unless you’re really good at manipulating tables, you’ll probably end up with a website that looks more like a newspaper cover than a professional job.

What about sub-tables? That’s a mess, especially when table borders are invisible and you’re working in a WYSIWYG program. Even if you made all of the borders dark initially and then clear in the final product, you would still need to make them all dark again for editing. You’re making more work for yourself. Just use HTML. The time it takes you to edit your website would be better spent learning HTML.

Believe it or not, there are still websites (on the internet!) using tables. I’m talking about business sites. (Secretly putting this here.) Yes, it’s sad, but I imagine someone doesn’t want to spend the money to fix things. *sigh*

It’s often questionable how much more money you’ll actually make with a better website, but I think the profit is often indirect and possibly subliminal: You’re company will enjoy a better reputation, which can lead to more profit.

And if you’re just doing all of this for personal reasons, go ahead and feel good about yourself – you took the effort to look up and read advice. Now go, apply it, and have fun.

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About chronologicaldot

Just a Christ-centered, train-loving, computer geek.
This entry was posted in art, business, software, web design and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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