Web authors too often create sites based on the technological skills they just learned rather than the desired impact on the site’s audience. The use of big pictures may be appropriate, but if they don’t communicate content, all you’ve done is give yourself a nice feeling without getting your message out! Armed with the mouse and a ready clicking finger, web viewers don’t have to suffer uninformative web pages. There are lots of better places to click off to.
The Web has become commonplace, and web “experts” abound. But the protocols for paper documents took hundreds of years to develop, and rules for effective web design and management are still evolving. Many web sites today are poorly designed, not well targeted, and not very successful — in part because of fixation on technical tricks, in part because of ignorance of how people really surf the web.
There are different reasons for creating a web site — information, education, advocacy, marketing, sales, self expression. What’s yours? The answer will affect how it’s built and who should do it.
Web sites are too important to be separated from the broad management of the organization. They aren’t just technical productions. That’s where our background comes into play. We know how to listen, interpret, plan, balance competing organizational needs, and implement. With sound writing skills, we emphasize thoughtful organizational communication, and that’s what web sites are all about — effective communication.
See a comprehensive analysis of a university’s website that Jim wrote as a basis for a strategic redirection. Such is not typically required for smaller sites, but the same thinking processes apply.
We tackle the chores required. We always ask how design methods relate to the organization’s objectives, rather than being driven by technical glitz. We are especially interested in the emerging specialties of information architecture and usability planning. (What’s this? Read the works of web usability guru Jakob Nielsen or see his web site at his site). A web manager must understand the habits of web surfers.
We advocate key characteristics for web sites:
- Audience orientation — build it for them, not to please yourself, and it will serve you well.
- Don’t make your web visitor think! They are seeking information and form quick impressions.*
- Accuracy and relevance of content.
- Overall coherence of look and content.
- Ease of navigation.
- Reflective of web viewer habits and usability patterns.
- Meaningful involvement of content contributors.
- Top management support.
* Don’t Make Me Think, A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. Second Edition. Steve Krug, New Riders Publishing.