2005 was a very big year for internet web design. With the launch of YouTube, and the outset of Google Maps, one might relate the internet to the Final Frontier. Those days were the genesis of some really huge things. We never saw how big that would be a decade ago, when flip phones were still cool.
What did web designers do then that sparked such a revolution of the world wide interface as we know it today? And the question in the broom closet of all our minds, hidden just behind the daily whir of business: what can web designers of this decade learn from those glory days? How do we launch cyber rockets into our new web-linked world?
To learn from our own genius and mistakes, and the innovative thinking of minds just a few decimals behind us in the hyper speed dial of time, we’ll have to take a stroll through memory lane. It’s time to pull out the web design year book for the last 0.10 of a century, and see ourselves in our head-gear as adolescent web designers. (Kudos if you’ve made it past that and you’re sporting the tux now. To you guys still locked in the head-gear: you’ll get there, that’s why we’re doing this.)
So, let’s go deep web and hear what the scholars are saying. What do we need to stress more, and what did we botch back then? For starters, web site usability. In “Prioritizing Web Usability”(2006) Jakob Nielsen stated that the internet is a tool. He went on to say that if a feature can’t or won’t be used, why bother to have it at all?
As web designers, are we treating the internet as a tool anymore, or has it become more of a toy? Are we filling our sites with junk copy, scammy offers, and glitchy features? Nielsen Norman group went on to take a poll on the top ten web design blunders of 2005. Number 4 on the list complained of content that’s just not written for the web,(FYI: The number 1 problem was the font sizes this content appeared in. We’ve got to post good content , not just cheap copy, and we’ve got to post it right.) It has to be relevant. It has to fit the need like a glove. The internet, ladies and gentlemen, is a tool.
The Number 2 problem of 2005 was Non-standard links. According to Nielsen, web designers should write a description of what the user will find at the end of a link, and ingrain some key info terms into the anchor text, to increase scan ability performance and SEO. “Click here” is too nondescript to use. Clickable links have to be…well…clickable. Point out what’s a visited and what’s an un-visited link. Except for PDF files, don’t open to new windows.
To quick-list the rest of the points that Nielsen made about the blunders of 2005, there were also complaints of cumbersome forms, lack of company contact info, pages that don’t re-size with the window, and images that don’t enlarge to an adequate size, flash and browser problems, etc. What web designers of today have to ask is “Are we making the same mistakes?” Nielsen highlights it for us; we have to get back to the basics.
Make it easy as pi, without the math part. Give them readable content that answers their questions, in words that they will search with. Map it out for them, so they can keep browsing with the pace of a sidewalk stroll to find what they need. With our image options these days, the web is as good as window shopping.
What have we changed? A Northern Irish company specialising at web design in Belfast ran a simple web search which lead them to listings of the common mistakes web designers made in 2014. If you skim over them briefly, you’ll see that a hefty percent of these are the same as the ones that Nielsen addressed. Cheap content or no content at all, bad layouts and splash pages where they aren’t a must. Poor colour theory. Complicated registration forms or the lack there of. Use of heavy or flash based images. Clutter. We are faster, more colourful, and are streaming more videos than ever before, but we’re still making some basic blunders…
We have to be hip to their needs. We have to be hip to the fact that the world-wide web is world-wide (define cultural cognitive style). People using your site are doing well to read English at all sometimes, so make that content easy. Under wraps, we just have to realise that good web designers are good web users. It’s more like a friendly neighbourhood info directory than a galleria.