The Design Center, DT&G Web Design & Review  

Are they reading?

... or are they surfing

Fred Showker

You can do the leg work...
      If you want, you can spend hundreds of hours... you can go all over the web and see hundreds of pages of what various so-called experts describe as "design" for the web. You'll be amazed at how many never even touch on design! They're all wrapped up in html and gifs and frames and shockwaves and lots of mind polluting clutter. Evidently they either don't care, or didn't know that html and gifs have nothing to do with designing for the web... or any monitor for that matter.

We've been cruising the nets - hundreds and hundreds of hours. I gathered over 400 pages just preparing for several conferences -- more than 25 megabytes of reference material. I'm flabbergasted at what some so-called experts are passing off as "design".
      (I mean have you ever heard of an "outdent"? Hello... is anybody home? If they're talking about hanging indents that's fine... but not necessarily recommend for good design!)

The frightening part is that many readers will come along, read it and take it for gospel. I'm not even going to mention URLs ... for fear that you'd go there and accidentally read the darn stuff.

Tools are tools...

Sure, designers need to understand the tools and the limitations of this new medium. And, let me say there are some excellent training sites out there. (We'll give you those later.) But html and gifs are production matters. If you want to learn those, sign up for Lynda Weinman's Hands-On Training courses.

Of course, along the way, I'm going to show you some html goodies and graphics tips -- how can I resist. But we (you and I) will concentrate on WHY rather than how.

It's About Information Architecture

Architects don't have to know how to use a mortar trowel.
      The fact that a trowel is used to lay bricks is of secondary importance to the design of a building or facility. I don't ever remember any noted design mentors mention how to use a waxer... or how to find the format menu. Do you?

Design is design --if the handbook on the shelf says "designing a web page" then talks about html, you may need it... but it isn't a design book.

Some will take me to task for this essay. That's good. And, I do not want to discourage you from exploring every designer's site on the web. You need to do that in order to broaden your own experiences.

What I will do is ask questions. Lots and lots of questions. If you can provide answers, then you're on your way. If not, I will.

If you'd like to argue, or contribute, I'm just a click away. Please note just which page you were on.

The Hits Myth

... how many "hits" did you get today?

In 1995, Apple Computer said your site needs 5,000 hits a day to be considered successful. I think that's a gross statement -- and in 1995, perhaps it was true. I don't want 5,000 hits a day, do you?

In the first place, if these are real readers, and they truly glean something from your information, your servers will be on their knees, or crashing down.

If you get one percent response, that's 50 emails per day. Think about 5,000 hits a day -- there are 1,440 minutes in a day -- that means 3.472 "hits" per minute. What does that tell you? Sure if you're Playboy or Adobe or Wired you can bragg about all your hits. You get millions. Yet what does that mean?

First, let's back up. What are "hits"?

The mass marketers and web merchandisers want you to use the number of "hits" (or "views") as some kind of gauge to the success of your site. Some want you to believe that you're talking to some authoritative voice, yet they are so new to the internet that evidently haven't discovered what hits are.

Hits actually tell you very little about what's happening. They're grossly overrated. Each time a server senses a user mounting an item it's counted as a hit. Sounds good doesn't it. In reality by "items" we refer to anything that is called up by the visitors' browser -- the page, graphics, maps, Java scripts, etc.

If you have a page that has sixteen items on it then once someone arrives at that page, the server registered sixteen hits. We've seen pages with as many as 200 items. (This page has about 25 or so.) So, you see it's very misleading.

I think what many of the mass marketers had in mind was that for 5,000 hits, hopefully some of them will be quality people. I certainly hope so. (By the way, some pages recently tested in had more than 200 items which will register as "hits".)

It's about relationships

What I would rather develop is meaningful relationships.
      I've been so thankful for the thousands of listings in my guest book and comments pages in the Design & Publishing Center. Sure, some are just there for the prizes. But the overall majority of guests register some comment that tells me they spent some time there and went deeper into the content. Others post a question, or suggest a topic I cover in DT&G. Many even say: "Thank goodness, I've finally found something I can use!" That's the reward. It's also testament to the techniques we'll be discussing in WebDesign Review.

Well conceived relationships begin with a memorable event. Now, you need to ask yourself how you can design the web layout to be memorable. What visual stimulus can you provide that will stick in the readers memory... and make them return later. Ask yourself...

Next: Will they remember?


Fred Showker toured with DGEF (Dynamic Graphics Educational Foundation) from 1989 through 1995 conducting seminars throughout the U.S. on Creative Layout Techniques, Web Design and Newsletter Design.

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