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Notes on Web Design

Wyatt •

I’ve done enough site design and fixed enough horrible page layouts that I’ve decided to keep a few notes on my experiences. Generally, those of us on the engineering side allow those UI gurus to handle the flow and user experience of a page; however, I don’t think they always get it right. What follows are my opinions on web-design … from an engineer’s perspective of course.

Common Flow
I think this one should be a given, but I’ve still seen plenty of sites that seem to think that user’s don’t mind wading though a mishmash of different layouts and interactions. For example, if you’re site starts out having a menu across the top-middle of the page; don’t randomly start adding controls to the right side of the page. Many people are used to reading the web in the same way they are used to reading a book: right-to-left; top-to-bottom. This isn’t to say you can’t get creative with the flow and express something different … just keep it the same throughout the site.

No Horizontal Scrolling
The web is not the same web that it was back in the 1990’s. Back in the days of the ugly nasty, scrolling horizontally was moderately tolerable; however, it’s not anymore. Scrolling hoziontally is quite possibly the most disruptive interruption a user can experience. If you read book or a newspaper, you eyes handle the horizontal scrolling for you. Asking a user to scroll horizontally is asking them to step outside of their normal operating parameters and will just start to annoy the hell out of everyone. Which leads me to my next point.

Flash Only Makes Up Half a Site
This isn’t as important as it used to be; however, it’s still worth mentioning. You can have the most amazing wiz-bang Flash site in the world, but someone without Flash is going to have a hell of a time viewing it. People on mobile phones, which are becoming more common, are going to be unable to view it because Flash is bloated and doesn’t run for squat on embedded systems. If you make a Flash site, you need to have the fail-safe HTML version of the site to catch all the other browsers out there. (thanks for reminding me K D).

Limit the Use of Scroll Bars
More on this later….

Web Design is NOT Graphic Design or Print Layout
More on this later….

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