Recently I received a short, anonymous entry in my guestbook on
Internet Tips and Secrets. It simply said "Change your colors".
Short, to the point, and extraordinarily rude. I quickly deleted
the entry from my guestbook as it was not appropriate and did
not fit well into the context. I don't mind an occasional
politely negative but helpful comment, but those which are
stupid (as this one was) or blatantly abusive are not necessary.
As I deleted the guestbook entry I thought of the gall of the
person who left it (besides the cowardice of leaving a message
with no return email address). This is my creation, my web site
- who has the right to tell me what colors or navigation scheme
or for that matter, anything else (unsolicited).
I believe that many web sites (especially professional ones)
have become exceptionally boring and uninteresting. They are
cookie-cut from a common mold based upon "user testing". Perhaps
you've seen these tests, perhaps not.
What they say is a person's eye wanders from the upper left down
to the center of the screen. So the most important thing needs
to be in the upper left, and the navigation should be down the
left. Colors need to be bland and uninteresting - black on white
is best. And blah blah blah. Ho hum, it all looks the same.
People are not created the same. Every single one of us is an
individual, with our own unique desires, needs, likes, dislikes,
viewpoints, or whatever else you want to call it. Why should our
web sites all be the same?
Perhaps it makes sense in the world of business for all web
sites to look like Amazon or Yahoo, but if you widen your
horizons does it really make sense anywhere else? Is your home
page describing your personal life and your cat any better if it
looks like someone else's site? Did that make it better somehow?
Are web sites really better if they include the same collection
of links? The same news headlines and the same guestbook styles?
The same bland colors, the navigation bars in the same place and
a few select fonts? Is this good? Is this what we really want
from the web?
Even with your standard small business sites, do you really
think that someone wants to surf to your site to find that it
looks just like all other sites? Does this make them care about
your product any more?
So what should you do when you create a web site? If you want to
win most of the awards offered by such places as
"awardsites.com", then you probably want to create a bland site
with perfect HTML, excellent navigation, pages that all match
wonderfully and consistently from page to page. You want to
spend your time making sure your site matches the common idea of
"good", and if you can do that you can win the awards. Your site
will look like any other site (bland and uninteresting), but you
will win awards.
On the other hand, if you are an individual with your own brain,
your own artistic sense and your own strength of character and
will, then perhaps you want to create something that YOU like,
something that your visitors may also enjoy. Anyone can create a
site that wins awards (it's actually very easy, just follow the
instructions in your coloring book and remember to draw
perfectly within the lines) - only a true artist or simply an
individual can create a site which tells a story using their own
interesting and unique style.
First and foremost, keep your end user in mind and make it work
for them. In other words, make sure it works in their browsers,
that they can navigate from place to place easily and, if you
sell something, they can purchase it as easily as possible. You
are indeed creating something that you would like to be
understandable to other people, so be sure and make it
On the other hand, include a bit of individuality in your site.
Make it stand out from the norm - otherwise, your site will just
blend in with every other site and will not be remembered for
Use whatever color scheme you want, as long as the text can be
easily distinguished from the background. And guess what, your
pages don't need to match each other - in fact, you can make
every single page different if you want. This is especially true
for personal web sites - don't worry about conforming.
Sites don't need to be symmetrical, they don't need to balance
and they don't need to match anyone else's criteria of "good".
All they need to do is communicate something. Most of the time
(since by far most web sites are personal home pages of some
kind) they are communicating something about an individual or
Black text on white backgrounds are for sissies; Try dozens of
different colors until your site looks exactly like you want.
Having a perfectly proportioned navigation system exactly the
same on every page is boring. Come up with something that gets
your users from place to place without being the same as
everyone else's system.
Use image maps all over the place - these are great ways to
visually show your user how to get around without the same old
boring links. Use graphics as you see fit to make your pages
shine. Yes, you should worry about image size, but don't worry
that much. A few extra seconds of load time is fine (just don't
go overboard); people will wait if they feel excited about a
site. They will not wait if the site is bland and boring.
Don't even try and add all of those extra doo-dads that so many
sites seem to be using these days. Believe me, your site does
not need a news feed - every one else already has one and you
will not attract any new visitors with them. You don't need to
include the cute little quote-of-the-day buttons or the ticker
or the weather map. These just tend to make your site look cheap.
Spend your time writing your content, designing your site and
working on your graphics. If you do include plug-ins,
concentrate on those that build a community such as forms,
guestbooks, message boards and even online games. These are the
things that attract people - being able to communicate with
And a note to those who judge awards - please take off the
blinders. There are many wonderful sites which communicate
exceptionally well which deserve gold 5.0+ awards, even though
they do not have perfect HTML, even though every page does not
match every other page and in spite of a glaring color scheme. I
have seen site after site loose major awards simply because some
robot is sitting in the judges booth, matching the site against
a fixed set of criteria (a way of turning off a judge's brain)
instead of really looking at what's important - is the site
My advice is simple: create a web site which YOU like and don't
worry about the awards. If your site communicates something of
value to your visitors, then you have succeeded. If not, then
regardless of how many awards you've won, you've failed.
About the author:
Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets
at http://www.internet-tips.net - Visit our website any time to
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