Building better websites for a better web!


 Just what does this phase mean? Website standards, in essence, function, design, usability, and architecture all rolled up into websites that provide the visitor useable information, that is understandable, easy to navigate, and provides SEO (search engine optimization) that works! Improving a website’s appearance, function, SEO, and providing the vital information/compelling content that the visitors to a website are looking for.

 When surfing the web I will on occasion find the good, the bad, and the just plain horrific websites that either perform the task of providing useful information or not. I find that viewing the source code for these sites gives me a good idea of why a website is successful opposed to those that do not. Whenever I see a particularly badly designed website inevitably I will find that it has been built in a table’s architecture. This type of design and coding was once one of the only ways that a designer could produce an html page or site that had some formatting structure that would influence the design and look of a website. That was then, this is now. With all that is available to build a website one of the last pieces of design coding should be a tables design. Using CSS to code and develop a site design gives the designer a much better control of the elements and objects to be included in the site. Even those sites that do use some CSS to style the tables in their site are missing the point. From my point of view, it is just that much easier to build a site using CSS as a basic foundation and progress from there. I would have a lot of problems using tables within a site unless it is used for tabular data. Just the fact that most tables are not named gives me pause when I think how anyone else can make sense of this code much less when this code is being crawled by bots for search engines like Google, Yahoo, ect,… And… if you are a nonprofit organization, it is mandatory that site readers can access the content on the website, and this is not necessarily doable with sites built with tables and of course embedded tables. Worse, the SEO for these sites are a nightmare. With content stuffed into an embedded table’s structure many of the search bots may skip content contained in this manner.  

I have to say, if you use a design tool/program like Dreamweaver and the like, use this method only for what it is intended for, design review, but do not use these programs to write code for you. It is messy, adds way to much code for what the purpose of the code would be and may not be the best solution for what you have planned. Write your own code, name your divs and objects for what their intended purpose is. This will allow you to deliver to your client a product that is readable and understandable to anyone who may need to access this site for future editing purposes including yourself.  

Now with WordPress coming to the front with its design features and its own styles (CSS) you may be able to contain WordPress content into a table’s structure, but why should you, when you can overwrite any of the style functions within the style sheet provided within this available structure. Website are becoming more and more function driven and styling those function elements should be a no-brainer with anyone who has the ability to use CSS effectively.

Content: Let me say this about that, Content is King, just as Cash is King in the retail environment, Content can make or break a websites effectiveness and/or its success or failure. Content are the elements that the visitors to a website view and digests. Text, Graphics, and Navigation are all content elements and should be given the highest priority above all other aspects that a website may contain within its structure. A must read  book I think for anyone who is considering building a website or just making a design for a website, is “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug. Applying these basic concepts of, Compelling Content, Navigation that makes sense, and Graphics that tell the story gives the website a solid foundation that provides information and a better visitor experience that will increase the value and a positive page ranking for search engines indexing a website built in this manner. Everything else that does not contribute to the content contained with in a website is suspect and should be considered for removal from the site.

Mystery Navigation that leads the visitor to pages with no path to return from where they come from is an invitation for that visitor to leave the site. Also hiding navigation links into images spread throughout the index page is ill advised since many of the visitors to this site will not be able to go to the content or page they are seeking. Navigation should be up front, easy to understand, and provide the three click rule for the visitors to the website to go wherever they want to go within that site.

Text that does not provide information that is comprehensive and compact is also a stumbling block.  One rule of thumb that I use extensively is, write out all the content (text) that you think should be contain within that element, then, cut it in half retaining the information that is relevant. Then, cut it in half again, which should produce the desired result of a block of text that provides the visitor with the information they need but not a syllable more. The web is a fast read, and should be built in that fashion.

Graphics do only one function on a website, they tell the story, or complement other content contained within the page. Should a graphic contain a logo, picture, or a graphical element it all comes down to whether or not the graphic complements the information provided on the page. Using cheap clip art I think should not be used extensively but does have its limited place. I remember the times I had reading comic book and how effectively graphics were used in telling the story of the comic. I try to use that comparison when adding graphics with in a website. Anything else is rather dubious and generally misses the point of why that element exists on that page.

Parting Comment; I could ramble on forever on this subject, but I will limit myself to only these basic elements describing “Building Better Websites for a Better Web”. I have visited many a website whose architecture is built in well formatted designed table’s structure with all the styling and naming conventions present. I have also visited websites that break all the rules in the use of graphics and navigation and pull it off quite successfully. My main goal here is to open up the conversation with developers, designers, users, potential clients, and visitors on the aspects that I have observed during my interaction with sites on the WWW. Feel free to make a comment on this blog; I don’t hold my take on this subject matter as the only viable point of view considering these subjects. The web is ever growing and changing in its use of production websites that make a difference. With the advent of WordPress, Joolmla, Drupal, and many more CMS types of architectures I am providing only my point of view.

43 Comments

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    • Posted January 31, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

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One Trackback

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