Myths of Web Design Worth Uncovering

 by: Mark Nenadic

If you’ve had a website for a while now, the odds are that some web designers somewhere with too much time on their hands have contacted you about this or that element of your website, telling you how they can repair it for you. In fact, if you’ve been contacted by enough of them, and depending on your site, you may have discovered that a number of different points of view have begun to crop up regarding the proper changes that your site “requires”. This article will help to discover the myths and the realities of what these “Website Design Police” have to say. Often, they’re pushing myth more than anything else.

The first issue that the website design police often tell you is that content is the only thing a website requires, and there should never be any animation, sound, Java, or anything else “extra”. It’s true, the content is the most important part of your website, and it is true that the more you add graphics, Java applets, audio elements, and animations, the longer your website will take to load, however, this doesn’t mean that they need to be cut out altogether.

If your website takes too long to load, a number of your visitors won’t stick around to wait. They’ll simply head over to the next site that doesn’t take as long. Therefore, the trick to using additional bells and whistles on your website is knowing how much you can use, while still being appropriate for fast download speeds under reasonable circumstances.

So when are the additional features appropriate to your website design? It all depends on how your actual content will be complimented. What is your site about, and how will extra website design features make it better? For example, if your website is selling website design services - that is, you want people to buy your services to make their sites better - than having content alone isn’t really going to impress anyone. Prospective customers will be looking at your site as an example of the potential of their own websites. If it’s nothing much to look at, they won’t be around very long. This type of site needs a reasonable amount of color, graphics, and other features that will make it very appealing, yet not so much that it takes too long to load.

The next myth that many website design police like to try to tell you about is that your site is only as good as the graphics it has. This is the exact other end of the spectrum from the first myth discussed in this article. There are other people who think that the more color, animations, graphics, sounds, and other features there are on your website, the better it is. However, these aren’t people who have very much real world experience with web design, or are those who have only ever had a T1 or broadband connection and don’t know the frustrations of waiting for a site to load.

This isn’t to say that decorative graphics and animations don’t have any value. Certainly they’re a fine addition to the right webpage. It makes it much more appealing to look at, and may then be easier and more welcoming to read. However, graphics should be used sparingly, and should be as small as they can be without being difficult to make out.

To try to achieve a good balance, there are a few things that you can put into practice:

Break up your text. Spread out your paragraphs and don’t make any paragraphs too big. Put some space between the paragraphs to make the text more pleasant to read.

If you want to have a colored background, try to make it subtle because readability works best on a white background with black text and the more you divert, the more challenging it will be.

As a final point, remember that when you must choose between your content and making your site beautiful, it should be the content that wins out. Sure, you can come to a good balance that will work, but when you do need to debate whether to add graphics or animations where it would sacrifice content, err to the side of content. No matter what your website is for, few people will be there only to admire your graphics. Those who will be motivated to return will do so because of your strong content.

Copyright 2006 Mark Nenadic

About The Author

Mark Nenadic is the director and face behind FifteenDegrees-North, where you will find articles and resources to help with SEO, marketing and Web design.

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