by Selwyn Bergman of BMSC-Online
Graphics, Music and Animation
As you may have noticed from the introduction and by looking at this website, that I'm no big fan of wonderful graphics, fancy Flash animations, and background music. When I designed this website, I spent time thinking about what this site would be used for, over and above what it would look like.
From my own internet surfing habits, I realised that the general appearance of a website only leaves an impression for a few minutes, thereafter it was something else that determined whether I stayed at the website or went somewhere else. On a similar note, I'm sure that you've also visited a site where the graphics, Flash animations, background music and full multimedia experience with all the flashing lights and ringing bells really impressed you, and you've walked away thinking to yourself "WOW! What an amazing website! But what were they selling again?"
It's been said before and I'm going to emphasise it again: The main reason that people surf the internet is to find information, not to find entertainment.
So keep your graphics simple, and make sure it doesn't distract your users from what you want them to remember.
An article on planning a website wouldn't be complete without mentioning Website Validation. There are still quite a few websites around that are designed for one specific browser that runs on one specific operating system, which has to be set at one specific resolution, and the browser window has to be maximised in order for a visitor to view the site.
Imagine you had a store and the front door to this store was only 30cm high: Would you be happy if all potential customers didn't enter your store simply because they were taller than 30cm and couldn't fit in through the front door? The same applies to websites - theoretically, you shouldnt be satsified if your website only works for one combination.
With all the different hardware setups your visitors can possible have, with each setup being able to run a range of different operating systems, and each operating system being able to run a variety of different web browsers, you stand a low chance of correctly guessing what your next visitor will not be able to view. While it isn't possible for a website to render perfectly in all scenarios, an organisation called the World Wide Web Consortium (or W3C for short) is attempting to standardise the web so that all websites can work in all combinations. If your website is built according to the standards laid down by the W3C, and the person viewing your website uses a browser that also complies to the W3C standards then they should have no problem viewing your website.
A website that has been validated often carries a logo (or several logos) similar to those on the right. To test the validation, you need to simply click on the logo and it will show whether the page is valid or not. While validating your website is a good step towards ensuring that as many people as possible can view your website, it isn't an absolute necessity as the companies that make the most popular browsers are "lenient" and allow some web design mistakes to pass without notice.