Jay Maynard (jmaynard) wrote,
Jay Maynard

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On web page design

I don't have much in the way of web page design skills. I've always done HTML in a simple, straightforward manner, leaving choices such as font and color to the reader. If he's picked a suitable set of browser defaults, I don't think it's my place to override them without a good reason. This leads to a look that's been described as "1994 Mosaic". I haven't felt that to be a bug, personally.

Now that I've got a web site that I expect people to visit repeatedly, though, the idea of making it more attractive has soaked into my 1994-standard brain. Unfortunately, this leaves me without any real experience in doing something that looks good. (Heard this from me before?)

I'm not a graphical designer, or much of an artist. I do have firm ideas on web pages, though.

First and foremost, they should be small in size and fast to load. No matter what the trendiest web designers seem to think, not everyone is reading over a broadband connection, and even those who are don't like waiting for lots of stuff to load. I often find myself reading over a 40KBPS dialup connection - and not infrequently, slower if the hotel's phone system is particularly antiquated. I've suffered through reading stuff at 14.4 in the not too distant past, and it was extremely painful. Images should be small and in a format that allows the browser to render the page as quickly as possible. This goes for backgrounds as well, and those should be unobtrusive if used at all.

Second, they should not depend on third-party software extensions. The browser should be able to handle them completely using its native facilities. This means no Java and no Flash. Those tend to be big and slow, as well. Sometimes, the content can't help but be big and bloated - video, for example - but there's no reason the rest of the site should be.

Third, no visual or aural annoyances. No background music, no animated graphics, and, as Eric Raymond said in his page about web design, "if you're using the <blink> tag, you're misusing it". No replacing the target URL display at the bottom of the browser window with a scrolling marquee, either. That trick went out in 1998, and it should have never been invented.

Fourth, no security holes, actual or perceived. People who have cookies or Javascript disabled should be able to use the site with no loss of function. I visited a site yesterday (URL withheld to protect the idiotic) whose only navigation was from a Javascript popup that slid upward and downward as you scrolled the page, cutely taking its time to return to the position about a fourth of the way down the left hand side that its designer intended for it to occupy. WIth Javascript turned off, that site is unusable.

Finally, have something worth reading. Too many sites out there are nice and pretty and flashy, but once one gets past the glitz, there's nothing to reward the effort. This isn't so much a design issue as it is an issue of the purpose of the site, but it's still worth keeping in mind.

I'll happily accept design help for the tronguy.net site. I intend to maintain it myself once the basic design has been established, so what I'm looking for is, most of all, a template that I can plug content into. I do plan to keep the basic layout (a simple frameset, with navigation on the left and content on the right), and the fundamental concept of a black background (with, possibly, a graphic background image suggesting the TRON world) and blue text (for the good guys, of course). If a font is specified, it will be something simple and easy to read, rather than fancy looking.

With that in mind, anyone who would like to give me a hand is welcome to drop me an email.

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