Web Design Goodies Critique #31

By Joe Burns

Web Design Goodies Critique #31

Published April 19, 2001 By Joe Burns, Ph.D.

Greetings, Fellow Designers

Oh, did I get a taste of my own medicine the other day.

I am working on a personal Web site. I went out and bought a domain name and have been messing around with putting up a site that represents just me. As with every site I've built in the past, I made sure the site was completely finished before I let anyone see it. Then I let someone see it.

It's a process called beta testing and I would like to try to talk you into trying it.

Now the obligatory release clause statement...

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

Over the past three years of actually teaching HTML in the classroom, I've come to enjoy hearing feedback from the students. They see things with a fresh eye and never hold anything back.

One of my favorite lectures to give is the "10 Things You Probably Want But Probably Shouldn't Have On Your Web Pages" speech.

It starts with me asking students to yell out elements of Web pages that they dislike. I've always found you'll get a much better discussion when it involves what people dislike. Asking people what they like never does evoke good student reaction.

My personal Top Ten list of elements that you probably want but probably shouldn't have on a Web site ends with an "Under Construction" image.

An Under Construction image is not a catch all that allows you to put up a lousy page and then garner forgiveness from your users. When is the last time you went into a bad page but felt compassion because of a little yellow triangular under construction image? It is my opinion that Web pages should always be under construction.

That doesn't mean that something that is under major construction should go live. When starting a new site (or new design), it is my opinion that the designer should complete the project, all pages, so that the site is, in effect, ready to go. Once that's done, the designer should subject him or herself to one of the most frustrating and helpful things ever done.

You should invite people to beta test it.

The site should be posted onto the Web in a place where it cannot be (easily) found without the URL.

You should gather up a group of people at all levels of knowledge to go in, test the site, and report back to you with any problems or concerns they find. Encourage them to be just downright nasty.

I want to specifically point out that I suggested people of all levels of knowledge. You cannot simply ask friends who know the Web inside and out. The return information will be heavily skewed. Navigation is best when even the first time surfer can get around. Image placement and size is best when the AOL user with the 28.8 modem can get it to run quickly.

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