Saturday, January 24, 2009

Food for Thought

Here are some things to consider when designing a website:
• Keep in mind the purpose of your site is to provide current information about your business or organization. This information should be presented in a concise, consistent and tasteful manner.
• Site continuity is very important. Keep organized and avoid “dead end” pages; those that have no internal links.
• Avoid poor navigation; people will get lost, especially with recursive linking. Having been lost once they will likely remember the feeling and be reluctant to return.
• Keep the website layout fairly simple; too much clutter creates confusion and mental congestion.
• Page backgrounds should be kept relatively simple. It can be very difficult to read words on a busy background.
• Avoid poor color combinations. You may have some favorite colors, but using one for a font and the other for a background may be REAL hard to read, e.g. red on blue or vice-versa.
• Also, colors that look good on your display or monitor may not on look good on others. Photos and graphic images on your monitor may look darker or brighter than other people’s monitors due to differences from manufacturers and/or the brightness and contrast settings people use on their monitor.
• Don't have different fonts on all your pages. It's better to stick to one theme, using only one or two fonts throughout your website.
• Don't use high density photos and graphic images as this can lead to viewer frustration due to slow loading times. A JPEG of about 75kb is should be quite sufficient for a good rendition.
• Also, don't have too many photos or graphics images per page. Again, this will lead to excessive long page loading times resulting in people going elsewhere!
• Use pop-ups or pop-unders only where necessary as they are annoying to most people.
• In this day and age, don't say: “This site is best viewed with [browser]”. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is still the dominant browser in the Industry. However, FireFox, currently used by about 20%+ of viewers continues to grow and one can not forget Safari used by most MAC owners.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Philosophy

As part of establishing APT Web Design, I had to think about a philosophy regarding my approach to developing websites. I was aware of my somewhat limited skills and knew I was not interested in developing a large staff to tackle monster websites for major corporations. My target market was, as myself, small businesses and organizations, be it in any industry. With a target market established, I then studied what were the major obstacles and pitfalls that frustrate people from using the Internet. Surely, if a small business did not present a clear, concise message on the Internet, they would loose the interest and business from their online visitors.

So, based on my own experiences visiting numerous websites and hearing from others on the same subject, I decided the following three areas would be those that I focus on while developing websites for my clients. These areas include:

» STYLE: As a proponent of the “KISS” principle, I believe that being too fancy with exotic background images or elaborate Flash introductions, though artistic and/or technologically impressive, can be a major distraction or turn-off. I believe a clean, aesthetic appearance (structure and design), consistently applied across the entire website is the most effective approach.
» CONTENT: In the financial world, there is a saying that “Cash is King.” Well, in the Internet world the saying is that “Content is King.” It is important that ones website contains a meaningful, well presented message supported by clear, concise, consistent content.
» NAVIGATION: One of the worst offences encountered in a website is not finding what you were looking for and then getting lost. A successful website will make it clear how to navigate throughout the site and how to get back to where you started from.

There is another old saying: “If you build it, they will come.” Many website developers/owners really believe this. But by ignoring these basic principles: Style, Content, and Navigation, I believe a website will quickly loose any visitors who have come. I believe that my approach of focusing on these three basic principles, a website can be effective ands successful.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Beginning

After almost 40 years in the computer industry, first as a programmer (now they are called software engineers) and advancing to various management positions (in hardware, software and systems development), I was faced with the decision of what to do with the rest of my life. Or, stated differently, what do I want to do when I grow up?

In 1996, I was assigned as a Department Manager in a product development group where I had responsibility for people (skills development and assignments) and as technical interface to our marketing group. It became obvious that the use of the company Intranet could be a valuable assist for me to execute all of my responsibilities. I started to learn how to develop web pages that I then used to provide current organizational and technical information easily accessible by everyone throughout the company. After the closing of that project, I became a Resource Manager in a hardware engineering organization. Again I continued to learn and leverage the Intranet to assist in providing easily accessible organizational information as well as an online New Hire Orientation program.

During the last ten years with the company, my work of Intranet development to support my primary job assignments gave me a much satisfaction and a great sense of accomplishment. Additionally, many in the company, at all levels, acknowledged the quality and usefulness of the work I was doing using the Intranet. Other groups would request linking to my work and even a couple used me as a consultant to help them develop their own Intranet websites.

So, given the satisfaction I derived from developing web pages and websites, I decided that perhaps I could leverage my somewhat limited skills and resources to help others, that is small business and organizations, to capitalize on the Internet to foster their products and services. Thus, APT Web Design was born.