Web Design Goodies Critique #16

By Joe Burns

Greetings, Fellow Designers,

"Show what's good!"

That line came from a reader who said that I should make a point of not just stating what's bad, but rather, now and again, showing some examples of what I think is really good design.


Now the obligatory release clause statement...

>>>>The critique below represents the opinions of Joe Burns, Ph.D. Feel free to disagree with, argue about, forget, or accept anything he writes. The purpose of the critique is to offer examples that you can use to revise your site, or forget about when it comes to your own Web site. As always, remember that there are simply no hard and fast rules to Web design. Any choice is the correct choice, as long as that choice aids the user and fulfills the site's purpose for being.<<< <

Title: MadTownDesign.com / Author: Hans Koch
Title: Startup Internet Marketing / Author: Dan Porteous

I have two sites this week because I really liked them both.

Concepts: Both sites deal with business on the Net. One wants to design your site, the other wants to market it.Use them both, and they can be your one-stop shop for getting unbelievably rich.

Rather than the usual Concern/Suggestion format, let's do five praises this week, shall we?

1. I love Web sites that take the time and effort to design their own space on the page. The vast majority of sites use the entire browser screen and allow the parameters set by that browser to limit or lengthen the page. MadTownDesign.com has taken the bull by the horns and defined its own space. Dig this:

Click for larger image

It almost looks like the Web pages come from a proposal. This is a design company and it has designed its Web site to be a presentation packet in and of itself. If you were to print these pages and bind them, you would have a professional-level presentation. Believe me, that is not by mistake.

2. Staying with MadTownDesign.com, I am a big fan of consistency across pages. Always remember that you are not building single Web pages, but rather a fully functioning Web site. Thus, there must be something that carries across pages that continually reminds the viewer that they are still within the same site.

Many sites do this with color, a logo in the upper-left corner, or a shell that travels all around the text. MadTown, staying with the design that defines the space, has gone so far as to not only carry the logo and colors across the pages, but also to keep them in the same place on the page. Except for the text, the logo and top banner images stay put. It's almost as if the page hasn't changed. Dig these screen captures:

Click for larger image

Click for larger image

Click for larger image

Each is a carbon copy of the others in terms of design. I don't know if you can see it on these captures, but there is a very subtle striped background on the sub-pages. That background helps to further reinforce that you are navigating through one site. Only the sub-pages have this background.

3. It is my opinion that every site of some size (10 pages or more) should have one page dedicated to the site itself. This should be a page that deals only with navigation and content. I should be able to get to any page on the site from this page. HTML Goodies has what I termed a Master List. There are simply so many pages that it would be difficult to offer a visual representation of the site, so I offer all links in a category format.

MadTownDesign.com, however, is still small enough that it can create a literal site map.

Click for larger image

This is a true site map because it is a map. It shows the connections between the pages and how the site is laid out. Again, it is a map. I say that twice because I get very tired of people naming pages for what they want them to be, not for what they are. If all you offer are links like the HTML Goodies Master List, then you do not have a site map. You have a master list of links. If you have a map--say "map". If you don't have a map--don't say "map".

It's the same with guest books. The term "guest book" should only be used when the responses of the people who signed can be read by others. Think of the last time you filled out a guest book at a wedding, a funeral, or the opening of a building. The concept was that those who kept the book could revisit those who came.

If you are only offering a form for people to e-mail you, then it is not a guest book--it is an e-mail form. Don't call it what it is not.

There. That's enough of a rant, don't you think?

4. Startup Internet Marketing has a well-designed page that I really like, mainly because the company paid close attention to the images. There aren't a lot of them, but they are well crafted and display quickly.

Click for larger image

Look at the logo, the lined background, and the text overlying the globe. There's no pixelization. The colors are brilliant, and the lines are smooth. The creator of the images made a real point of using an anti-alias filter to get that effect.

All too often, pages display images that are grainy and/or resized to the point that they look crumbly. Well-done images just sing out. They really make a page a step above all others. If you do not know how to create images like this, either buy a book that will help or find someone who can do it for you. Bad images suck the life right out of a page.

5. KISS: "Keep it simple, stupid."

Another reason this page grabbed my attention is that it follows the KISS principle. Obviously, this designer has great ability. The table format that allows the one block to stand out, the use of color, the images, all point to knowledge of the craft.

But he didn't go overboard. The killer app of this page is to get you started with Internet marketing, not to make you ooooh and ahhhh at the page. The designer used a basic font--no italics. Attention is drawn to the key words in the sentence with bold type. The roll-overs are text. It is simple yet functional, and it looks crisp.

I really like the signature; however, I hope it isn't a real signature. If so, get a different one up there. I can screen-capture that image and use it to forge your signature. (That's just a hint.) Overall: Design, as well as beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Some may look at these pages and wonder what I was drinking just before writing this piece. Others will agree totally. It is all subjective. What is not subjective is your killer app. Your site must do one thing and do it well. It cannot be all things to all people.

Your design must be good and support that killer app. In my opinion, these sites have done just that.

That's that.

Joe Burns, Ph.D.

Always Remember: When it comes to designing your Web site, the most important person is not you, but your user.

Make a Comment

Loading Comments...

  • Web Development Newsletter Signup

    Invalid email
    You have successfuly registered to our newsletter.
Thanks for your registration, follow us on our social networks to keep up-to-date