While developing websites – throughout the pre and post .com bubble era − I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. What was once good became bad, and what was once bad became downright ugly. Web design and programming best practices are forever changing. What was standard practice just 5 years ago no longer matters as much, if at all. Here are three examples.
In the early days of the Internet, you were ahead of the times if you had crazy things like images on your website. Most sites were just endless paragraphs with blue-underlined links on them.
The average user’s monitor was very basic in the number of colors it could display – the limit being 256. But then, 40 specific colors were reserved for the computer’s use, so the established number of colors that were considered “web-safe” was dropped to 216, which became the web standard.
As time progressed and monitors were able to display MILLIONS of colors, the web-safe mantra remained in the mind of many web developers. The 216 web-safe color pallet design mindset was so strong that even today some designers feel the need to ask about this and continue to design around it. To which I simply answer, “Don’t worry about it. If you can get a hex color out of it, you can use it on the web.”
You know the sites … fully-immersive, multimedia-rich, experiential sites with a lot of animation effects and audio in them. Very cool stuff when it was at the height of its popularity. But again, time moves on. Site visitors became less interested in the showmanship of websites and simply wanted to get the information they were looking for. Flash sites just weren’t accomplishing this task. Plus, patience became something that website visitors didn’t have as much of anymore, so waiting for a massive site to load turned people away.
Flash still has its uses, though. Small site elements, a non-essential animation here and there; it can add nice touches. Basing an entire site on it, however, should be avoided at all costs. Oh, and if you haven’t heard, Flash doesn’t work on most mobile devices. Mobile device usage has been on the rise and this trend shows no signs of slowing down.
Designing for “Above the Fold”
I’m somewhat torn on this one. The concept of “above the fold” goes back to the days of newspapers … where you’d want your most important stories and content above the fold of the newspaper, because this is where the content received the most visibility. Makes perfect sense – right?
After the Internet was invented, and websites began to be created with design in mind, this concept was modified to mean keeping your most important stories and content visible on the screen before a user had to scroll. Again, this makes perfect sense. This was also during the time that just about everyone had the same 14 -inch bulky monitors. Monitors which, at best, had a resolution of 800×600. Folks with big, fancy monitors could view sites at a whopping 1024×768 resolution. It was super easy to design for that. Now, we even have tools to show you exactly where the “fold” is for your site, as well as a breakdown by percentage of people using various screen sizes.
But wait, this is based on desktop usage. What about all of the varying tablet and phone sizes? How can you possibly design for that? You can’t, plain and simple. There is no magical line that will work for every possible user interaction.
Through user-centric design, you can make sure that visitors are presented with your content and message in an easy and manageable way. There aren’t many sites out there anymore that don’t require a visitor to scroll to get to something. Plus, users pretty much know that a web page is scrollable.
Do you want to put your most vital content at the very bottom-right of your site? Of course not. However, there is a lot of potential screen real estate to be considered. Making the most of all areas of your site will keep your visitors engaged.
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