As web designers our job is not only to create kick-ass web sites, but also to educate our clients in the ways of the internet and to explain to them the limitations we all have to abide by.
In this article I will outline some of the biggest issues that face web designers and developers across the world and help you realise why we do certain things the way we do.
1) Cross Browser Support
What’s a browser? Why is it angry? Let me explain..
A browser is the program your computer uses to view web sites and there are a number of different browsers you can choose from, the main contenders are Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome etc. They all render websites in their own special way, which can alter how they appear to you.
In order to be provide you with a valid website we have to test each site in over 5 browsers and make sure it is not only looking right but also functioning correctly in each of them.
Add to this the fact that the companies who make these browsers will keep on updating them, putting multiple versions of multiple browsers into the mix. This makes the job of the web designer tricky to say the least!
One browser in particular has made our job more difficult over the past 9 years and that browser is little ol’ Microsoft Internet Explorer 6. Many of the biggest web sites in the world have now dropped support for this browser, as have many design agencies, so if you are using the dreaded Internet Explorer 6, it’s really time you upgraded.
2) Resolution Issues
I’m not about to confuse you with inane computer jargon so don’t worry, but I do have to mention the Resolution Issue which is cropping up more and more.
Have you ever thought “I want my home page not to scroll”
or “I want my web site to fill up the screen”?
When you say “screen”, web designers think “OK, is it a 17’, 19’, 21’ screen or bigger?
When you say “scroll”, we think “Not scrolling on your resolution? Or all resolutions and screen sizes?”
You see, its not just as easy as coding in HeightOfSite=100% its far more complicated than that.
What we have to do as web designers is come up with a happy medium whereby the site vertically scrolls as little as possible in as many resolutions and monitor sizes as possible. Getting it right for all screen resolutions and monitor sizes is a bit of a juggling act. The end result looks easy, but there’s a lot going on behind the scenes!
As a side note, vertical scrolling is now second nature to internet users so it really has no bearing on the success of your new web site.
I hope you have found this article interesting and informative.
So remember, even if something seems easy to you, its probably not the case. You have hired the web designer so trust him or her to do their job properly.
Talking of which, my next post will feature handy tips on how to choose the right Web Design Agency for your next project.
Google have updated their HTML5Rocks website with all new content – http://www.html5rocks.com/ While obviously targeted at Chrome developers in particular the site has grown from the demo slideshow presented last year into a useful point of reference now containing samples and tutorials.
Also gaining some traction are sites offering basic HTML5 frameworks such as HTML5 Boilerplate – http://html5boilerplate.com/ – which help ease the development time which stock implementations of basic code. Even with such reference code becoming commonplace web application development still lacks tools to speed up the process. Two that are headed in the right direction though are Glimmer – http://visitmix.com/labs/glimmer/ – a Flash-like jQuery animation builder and 280North’s Atlas – http://280atlas.com/ – which mimics Apple’s Xcode. With an acceleration of support for new web standards we hope there will be an increase in the availability of such tools.
The demo scene has been around for a long time. Starting out as intros for cracked software titles back as far as the Commodore 64 days it wasn’t long until tech heads were admiring the work of the coders putting together the jaw dropping technical displays pushing hardware to it’s limit more than the software they had obtained by less than legitimate means. The idea of a demo is to push hardware to produce effects that shouldn’t in all reason be possible while doing so with the least amount of code possible. 64k is seen as pretty roomy for a program, 16k is still enough room to swing a cat but the true hardcore programmers show their skills with a limit of 1k. That’s 1024 bytes. To put that in perspective this article is already 775 characters long at this point.
Barely one year after the announcement of Wave Google have decided to discontinue it’s development as a standalone product. Although there was a huge amount of hype behind it’s launch Google Wave was always plagued by the simplest of questions – what do I do with it ? The blog posting announcing it’s cancellation suggests that even Google themselves didn’t know what to do with it. The “future of email” is no more.
A recent mock up for a new design had a couple of us musing on the avenues for adding interesting discoverable content to websites. By interesting I of course mean silliness that may not be appreciated by the clientèle and so the thought ended there. There are however websites that have audiences that are perhaps more appreciative of easter eggs. A growing subset of these use the Konami Code first seen back in the heady days of the NES. Enter the elusive code on such a site and all manner of wackiness occurs. Try it on Facebook for instance. Clearly it’s a bit onerous to try this on every website you visit just on the off chance they have something for you but thankfully wikipedia steps up with this handy list – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Konami_code_websites
Want to add it to your website ? Konami-js provides an easy drop in solution http://www.snaptortoise.com/konami-js/ and there’s a jQuery plug-in for fans of that library http://www.gethifi.com/blog/konami-code-jquery-plugin-pointlessly-easy
P.s. It’s Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A
SEO has its fair share of buzz words these days (we are marketers after all), one that is particularly common of late is “link baiting”. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of this term before or if you’re not sure what it actually means because it’s quite simple really…
The term “link baiting” refers to a simple strategy for naturally increasing the number of links to your website, and as we all know the more links you have coming in to your website the higher your page rank and the better your site will rank in the SERP’s. Link baiting is a completely natural approach to link building and will leave your site with genuine, organically built links; it does not involve buying links, endlessly commenting on blogs, using any automated posting software or anything wacky like that. With this system other people will build links to your website for you and best of all it is so simple that any website owner can do it.
So what is the catch and how does it work?
Ok, lets get down to brass tacks…link baiting…lets think about it. The clue is in the name – so we are laying bait to promote people to link to our sites. I guess the big question is, what is the bait?
The bait can be anything that engages people, something they like, use, need or enjoy – something so engaging and attention grabbing they just have to link to it. So what type of content can cause enough of a fuss that people, without being asked, decide to link to your website? Well the first question is probably what kind of people are you looking to attract and what will engage them? This is when market research and a good knowledge of your customers comes into play, the answer is very different depending on the type and role of your website.
Common types of “link bait” include Interviews with industry guru’s, useful industry tools, great articles, specialised reports, contests, reviews, controversial opinions, free resources and tools, “how to” articles and videos, and anything else that you think might appeal you your audience.
In short, what you are looking to do here is build a good website. If you build a high quality, well thought out, engaging website that is focused around the user then you should never need to build a single link to your website – given time they will come to you.
To go back to Google phrase from time gone by, “content is king”.
Is this the first glimpse of the internet police?
Six simple strategies on how to use Twitter effectively:
1. Shout about it.
2. Don’t be selfish – share the knowledge.
3. Ask a question.
4. Product or service launch.
5. Give advice.
6. Acknowledge and Say Hello to followers.
Perhaps a bit harsh but this is something that has been plaguing Web Design Agencies for years, let me explain.
What is ‘Design-by-Committee’?
When a single goal or aim takes a back seat to ‘letting everyone have their say’.
When a group of two or more business owners have a vision to hire a design agency to build their new website, or redesign their old site, they all have their own ideas and thoughts on how it should look and work. They all put their ideas forward and come to a happy medium whereby all of their ideas are appeased and added to the initial brief.
The Designer in question has to take their brief and do all he/she can to please the members of the committee. This is nigh on impossible.
What we often end up with is a middle ground, whereby all members have had some of their input included but the site completely misses the initial goal or aim. This is where the original vision and purpose of the new web site has completely lost out to ‘pleasing the committee’.
This is a sure fire way to have a mish-mash of a design with flawed functionality.
Stick to the Plan
Whether the new site is to attract interest, sell products or even a first port of call for any new customer, make sure you stick to the plan!
The end-users are the most important thing to your site so think about what they would want, what would they want to see? It easy to say “Well that site has got that element, so I want it” but look beyond the obvious and think ‘Why have they got that?” and “Is it appropriate to my customers or potential customers”
Don’t ignore the ideas and skills of the designers/developers that YOU have hired.
Although they don’t know your business or industry they can often steer you in the right direction on how to communicate directly to you customers and potential customers. Listen to them.
Here is some further reading on Design-by-Committee and how to approach having a new web site or redesigning your existing site.