The power of simplicity
You probably know the frustration when surfing on the Internet : you arrive at a website and do not know where to look first, or where to click or even look for what you need. Banners and advertisements fly around, there are various noises, or you get unwanted popup windows. You start to search anyway, but after a few minutes you quit, close down and continue for the next websites proposed by the Google list presenting you the results of your search query. Designers have the bad habit making things much too complicated, and still do not realise this is frightening the visitors. The visitor is THE measure for a website.
We keep it simple : the visitor should find immediately what he is looking for. If made by us, you will not quickly find advertisements, or banners with publicity etc. These annoy the visitor anyway.
What matters is user experience
Simplicity does not mean something is not stylish. Simplicity, with style and for the use of the visitor : that is our goal. We are no artists, but we make it tidy and pleasing to look at. Compare it to a car : first of all you have to be able to drive, but a nice coach-work is what we all like.
Usability is a strong term in the world of the Internet. The guru in this field is Jakob Nielsen (http://www.useit.com). His website is rubbish, but the contents and his recommendations have an impact on the biggest websites and the largest companies of the world. The man has become very rich by telling how others should build their website.
Usability has everything to do with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction of the visitor :
- Effectiveness : does the visitor reach his goal, does he get an answer to his question, does he find what he’s looking for ?
- Efficiency : does this happen in a short or acceptable lapse of time ?
- Satisfaction : is the visitor satisfied, is it pleasing to visit the website ?
Building a website is a continuous consideration of many factors. We don’t pretend we apply rigorously all usability principles when building our websites, but we aim to do so. These are 10 directives we go for (source : http://www.w3use.nl/usability/goudenregels.html)
- clear recognising of the company information
- clear and simple navigation
- quickly loading pages (except if the client asks an animation with flash or with pictures)
- a search query (only for bigger sites or data bases)
- the setup is made so it can be shown on each screen. The texts are legible. Setup and contents are kept separated
- clear short texts (see below)
- clearly recognisable and informing hyperlinks possibility of interaction with the user : offer forms, reaction forms,
- possibility to ask questions, ...
- accessibility : we admit this is most difficult as it is also most time consuming. Lack of time causes we cannot always execute this as it should. It concerns adaptations for disabled people, for instance providing texts with a picture and so on.
- Economical and goal-directed use of multimedia.
To the top 50 of most nerve-racking deficiencies of websites belong :
- bad colour combinations
- not enough blank space
- grammatical mistakes
- too much blank space unclear abbreviations
- text is too small
- text is too large
- all text is written in capitals blinking
- text no paragraphs in long
- texts wrong information
Unbelievable, how certain renowned companies manage to edit websites with the smallest possible characters, often made in bad colour contrast. To bear in mind the screen resolution of the users is also of big importance. For websites with a rather restricted contents and simple navigation we use two columns. The width of these sites is 780 pixels (800 minus any possible tool bars left or right from the screen).
Websites with a more complex contents require 3 columns : the column on the right hand is used for side information, space for logos, short actualities, links etc. The middle column (the contents) has at least 10 up to 13 words per line. This as a result from frequent reading tests with users, indicating that this line width gives the most legible text.
What do we mean by optimisation ?
A website can be fruitful only if built so as to be found easily through the search engines. Optimisation is a business earning millions through the Internet. As for us, this is something so obvious, so it is included in our price. Logic, isn’t it ? Suppose you want to buy a car and the owner explains it is a very nice car, with full options, but you have to go elsewhere for the optimisation : it consumes 40 litres of fuel, it gives smoke like a chimney, brakes do work just now and then, ... You understand what we mean ?
Don’t be taken by smart guys promising you heaven on earth to get your website on top. They will tell you something like : “We’ll announce your website at a hundred search engines!” And you think Wow. But if you consider it : how many search engines do you know ? If you can sum up 3 you’re OK, but much more you will not find. This is also the case for a 99,99% of all Internet users. In other words : if you can be found through Google, MSN and Yahoo, you’ll be found by 99,99% of the Internet users.
How do we proceed ?
We are very pragmatic, in other words, subject to a good deal of common sense : we start from the principle that with 20% of efforts you obtain an 80% return as for optimisation (this is sometimes called the 20-80 rule, or the law of Pareto).
We provide you standard with this 80% profit, for free. If you provide us with sufficient (text)material we can even guarantee a 90%. The balance of 10% is work for specialists and a time consuming activity of monitoring, correcting, etc. What does optimisation consist of ? We dedicate a separate chapter to this
. Look what I can ?
Many designers believe web design to be first of all a means to show their “skills”. In some cases this can be necessary (a minority), especially when a lot of multimedia is involved. The danger of “look what I can” is to create “stupid blonds” : beautiful at the outside, but without contents. There is but one measure on the Internet : the visitor. Of course, it has to be pleasing to be surfing. But the decorations, animations and other accessories should never get the upper hand. The contents is of paramount importance. Of course, here we depend strongly on the owner of the website. If the latter does not provide us with “ingredients”, we cannot do that much. If the chef only gets a dry sausage and a potato to cook with, he can mount some whipped cream on the potato and add some pepper onto the sausage, but the outcome still is a dry sausage and a potato.
In other words : if the client does not supply any basic material, we cannot do miracles, and in that case you can be tempted to pay more attention to the envelope than to the contents. Unfortunately, this is a common Internet disease.