Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Modern Web Sites are Stupid!

Sometimes I have "inner debates" with myself.

For the faint of heart and delicate of mind, I should give advance warning that my Inner Self tends to be a "potty mouth." Consider yourself warned.

Today's topic of discussion revolved around whether I am simply "getting too old for this," or am merely blunt enough to point out how stupid and dysfunctional it can be when the world allows "hot trends and coolness" to override common sense and functionality.

I'm talking about web sites. Specifically the current trend in "new look" web sites that seem to have been de rigeur for a couple of years now.

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You've seen them... and you've probably visited them.

There's some big huge GIANT image up top-- usually pretty "artsy" or "cosmic" or "hip"-- and about three words visible on the page.

So I get there, am thinking to myself "That's really pretty... but where's the actual CONTENT?"

Well, it's a splash page...

Sure. Fine. Let me splash on, here.

So I'm sitting there, looking at the pretty picture, trying to figure out what to do next... moving the cursor around on the page, trying to find a "hot" spot to click on. Which, in due course, I do.


Which just refreshes the page, because it's part of the CSS that when you click on the main image, it takes you back to the home page.

This is where I start to think I may be "too old" because I am on a web page that doesn't look complicated at all, yet I am not sure what to do next. In and of itself, that's annoying... because I've actually been using the web for more than two decades and it's sad that I evidently haven't learned anything...

I was raised with a school of web design that taught that your most important "real estate" on a web page is "above the fold." Which is tech speak for "what you can actually SEE when you land on a web page, before you start scrolling."

These days, I seem to be increasingly faced with... nothing... above the fold.

As it turns out, my path forward is hovering the cursor over the words that look like graffiti, spray painted on the building in the very "artsy" image. A drop down menu magically appears. How... "interesting"... the words looked exactly like they were "part of the picture."

How clever.


So I click on "Our Services."

Guess what?

I get to another page that's just a giant freakin' picture and nothing else. It's all I see.

Yes, I am now hip to the fact that I will have to (probably?) scroll down to find the actual content of the web site.

So what's the big deal? Why is this pissing me off?

Because you are wasting my time, having to figure out how your web site works. At the very least, put some site navigation up top, in plain view! Remember that bit about where the "most valuable real estate" on the screen is? That's where it goes.

I'm not kidding about that. I spent a long time in the IT industry, specifically studying-- in lab settings-- computer users' eye movements, when sitting in front of a screen. I can gaurum-frakking-tee you people's eyes do NOT start at the bottom right corner to see if you need to "scroll down" to see more.

But I built an AWESOME web site! Can't you see how AWESOME it is? Can't you feel my AWESOME-ness oozing from my web site?

Sure I can. At the very least, you have an "awesome" sense of your own awesomeness. Unfortunately, you are just too "awesome" to understand that your sense of awesomeness actually has little to no bearing on how real human beings use the Web.

But here's the thing-- I don't give flying fuck how awesome your web site may, or may not, be. It is functional? Unless you happen to be a dark and depressed artist with deep dedication to remaining in a state of perpetual starvation for the rest of your life-- in which case you really don't give a phuck-- your order of operation should be whether your site is functional and has good usability first, and is "amazing," second.

Here's the other thing: when Google suggests that your web site has "the answers" I'm looking for, you have approximately two seconds, during which I (and 90% of web users) determine whether or not it's worth looking at the site. If the answer is "no," you'll be rewarded with a "bounce," which is web-speak for using the back arrow on my browser. If I can't tell what your web site is "about" in those two seconds... "goodbye!" And then you can sit there and wonder why your site gets 50,000 hits a month, yet nobody ever seems interested in your product, service or whatever.

Because I really like metaphors, here is one for you:

That giant picture splash page with no navigation and a "cleverly hidden" drop-down menu? Think of taking your clothes to the dry cleaner and being told you have to solve a Rubik's Cube before you can hand in your clothes. You probably wouldn't go to that dry cleaner again, because their place is a pain in the ass.

Part of the problem with "modern" web design is that it has become super easy to build an amazing and "professional" looking web site, thanks to widgets and drag-and-drop technology. In and of itself, that's not the problem... the "problem" is that people no longer need to learn "structured programming" in order to build a web site. This has resulted in a myriad web sites being built "bass-ackwards:" People choose their amazing and beautiful web site design first, before they have actually sat down to create the content they want to share.

The result? A bunch of web sites that look like people paid $1000s to have custom built... yet are functionally a disorganized and virtually unusable clusterfuck.

Phrased as another metaphor, build the bones (content) first and then "dress it up" with an amazing wrapping, rather than "buying the dress" first, and then seeing if you can make the bones fit it.

Last time I was seriously pissed off at web design (in a "global" sort of sense) was when people first discovered Flash. And every new web site suddenly had to become a pissing contest of "Look at how good I am at coding with Flash!" And my response was something like "F**k you, and your Flash!"

This article was inspired by real events. One of which was shopping for web templates and realizing just how many are all about "looking good," with little to no attention given to the actual displaying of information.

1 comment:

  1. I know exactly which kind of website you are talking about, grrrrrr! How about the "one-pager"... All links scroll to a diff slice of the same page. Those annoy me, too.


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