Monday, April 17, 2006

Web dogma

Like I've said, I'm no expert on web site design, but some experience has made me wiser. Just look at one of my first websites... it was terrible, but that was 10 years ago! Just like Bruno Munari said: don't try to re-discover the black thread! If someone already has some experience in something, well, see what you can learn. What I mean is, if someone is going to design a website... well, then take some advise from experienced designers, that way you are not going to make all the same mistakes, just only a few.

I found ITESO's promotional site for their "international design day" on april 26/27th (via). I don't want to be too critical, but... it's not the Engineering or Theology congress, it's a design congress, and the web site should be indicative of good design, don't you think? Let's review some of the flaws:

I know it's the Jesuits University, but... the cathedral ambience may scare some people out. Again, coding and decoding of meanings shouldn't be taken so light. The encoder (designer) might think that using the religious ambient is just that, the ambient. Well, dah!!! Decoders (visitors) might start to wonder if there's going to be a religious service to open the congress.

Excesive use of flash. There are many web development sites discussing the issue of flash. For starters, spider-bots can't crawl swf links, some of them don't even crawl images with links! So, your listing on search engines is limited to those using keywords, and that means no ranking on google (google doesn't use keywords on their algorythms).

More about flash and usability: the idea of having a shortcut to skip the flash intro is a courtesy and it should be visible during preload too. I don't think it is a courtesy, when you have to wait 10 minutes for the entire clip to load until the skip intro button is visible. Speaking of loading time... always check your files and pages using the worst computer or connection. Flash has a testing menu, where you can select to test your movie for those using dial-up internet for example. It takes 10 to 15 minutes to load a flash movie that is 3MB on dial-up internet, I guess not many visitors would have the patience to wait that long. I bet that the same interactive menu, plus the 4 posters would load much faster and effectevely using simple jpegs and javascript like mouseovers, etc.

Always compress your images and resize them before using them. It is a common error to resize the images once inside the library (word files are also a good example). If you import a picture that is 3MB into a flash or word file... it doesn't matter if you resize it inside your document to make it look as small as 1 px by 1 px... it will weight the whole 3MB anyway. So, don't be lazy... and resize your pictures beforehand. If you know that the image is going to be 360x240 @ 72dpi, well, resize your image, and please... compress it at least 70/80%.

Many good tips on how to design a web site can be found at Ben Hunt's Web design from scratch. There's very good advise on many issues like: how users look at websites, decoration, golden rule of web design, conventions, etc... or you can wait until your website is listed on Web Pages That Suck, and then read about the mistakes.

Once again, if someone already knew about all this... it is wise to learn about it before making those mistakes. Anyway, good luck with the seminars and conferences. I haven't heard about a "designers day", now I know what postmen and secretaries should feel about their days.

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