Ten Things Web Designers Forget


Are we forgetting the basics

This post should really be called ten things that get up my nose. Many of these points will be old ground for some of you, take them as reminders. They are in the most part just annoyances that with a little work we can all avoid. I’m not totally dogmatic on this list, as in a realistic business world a I know that it is not always possible to do all these things when the economics of web development come into play. But in general we should at least be giving some consideration to these points.

  1. Page Backgrounds.

    It is amazing how many sites rely on the default browse background colour. And assume this will be white. What would it have taken to assign #FFFFFF to the background body element colour. And I’m not talking about some little backwater sites either; major corporates, web 2.0 sites and a few Web Rock Gods, you are all on notice.

  2. Tables are for Data.

    Come on guys stop it. Stop churning out sites with table layouts, you know it’s wrong. Okay it’s faster and more profitable, but you know you are just screwing the client. Tables are for data not layout.

  3. Print Styles.

    Ever printed the web page and it infact printed with only the relevant information for the page on it. No menus, no links. Just the information. Good isn’t it, shows the web site understands what you need and want. But sadly a lot of sites still don’t get it. We still aren’t using print style sheets, considering that Eric Meyer was talking about them in 2002. A base print style sheet can take 30 minutes to setup. Don’t be lazy if you know your CSS, setup the print style sheet.

  4. Call it POSH.

    Be it POSH, semantic or whatever you call it, the logical patterning of the information on the page is important. If you layout a report, you put in (well you should) various levels of headings and break the document up into a logical sequence. Why then when we get it to the web do some people decide to throw all that away. So just take the time start with the information first and and build the design around that. Use the elements as they where intended, you know the drill, headers as headers in a logical sequence. No blockquotes for indenting (yes people are still doing this).

  5. JavaScript Love.

    Try accessing a lot of sites with JavaScript turned off. As you would expect most, yes most sites are inaccessible. I know JavaScript is often enabled on the average home user’s computer. But people consider the corporate user, in some instances JavaScript is not enabled. This means your JavaScript dependant site could be totally unreadable to these people. Don’t you love the way that you have just cut out a segment of your potential audience. Biggest culprit of this to date, web 2.0 startups. You guys are just being lazy. A little bit of progressive enhancement please and you could have the best of both worlds.

  6. Allow for other Media types.

    Ever looked at the web via a data projector. Every now and again you will get a site that has no styling at all. It goes naked, in terms of CSS. What has happened is that the CSS has been set to screen only. And the browser is expecting the media type projection. It’s simple to fix, allow for media type all, as a fall back. This as you would expect is browser dependent

  7. Browser Default.

    Don’t expect the browser defaults to all be the same, they are not. As a Web Designer you should be aware of what the major defaults are. It’s a pity there is not a listing somewhere of what all the defaults are. But you should consider reseting the various key default styles. Yes I know a lot of people are doing this, but some are not.

  8. It’s a Screen not a Page.

    This mainly goes towards print designers trying to leap the divide to web design. The media you are working with is a screen, about the only knowledge you can use in the transition is the grid layout, and even that you should at least think outside the box. People read and use it differently than a book or paper. Let go of your need for font control, sure you can have some control, but in general embrace the free-form and versatility of web design.

  9. We Can Search.

    Remember that sometimes when we type in a search phrase we want to search on the entire phase, not separate words within the phrase. This is mainly aimed at corporate sites. What is it going to take to allow for an advanced search option in which we can at least search exclusively or inclusively. As users of the web, we are all know how to use a search facility effectively.

  10. Where are the Links.

    This isn’t really something that we forget to do. But what is it with people changing the way links work. What’s wrong with the underline that is default of a link. Why must it be replicated by the use of a border-bottom style, isn’t this just a bit of design ego in that the underline “spoils” the look of the letters rendering below the line. Isn’t it just easier to leave it alone and let underline render as the browser defines it. Jakob Nielsen wants us to leave them alone, not that I totally agree. Mind you Jonathan Nicol presents a good overview on ways we are making links look like links.

I bet you personally have another 10 or so personal gripes with general web design; would love to hear what they are.

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  1. 11. Politically-driven processes; decisions made for the “wrong” reasons by people who self-extend their jurisdiction into web communications with little understanding (and rarely the willingness to learn as their believe acknowledging their lack of knowledge is revealing a weakness … which is apparent to everyone anyway, so).

    12. Badly designed back end architecture; either by inexperienced system architects who haven’t developed a scalable system which then has terribly inefficient hacks and patches coded on, or really really useless system architects who can’t design a half-decent web app in the first place – resulting in slow response (usually in searches), bugs, errors, unintuitive or overly generic user processes and workflow etc.

    But that’s kinda getting OT with the whole web “design” thing; soz πŸ™‚

  2. Yes, the truth hurts…sometimes. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Funny how often people forget their white background. It doesn’t help that certain browsers *cough*firefox*cough* have started overriding the system default with white.

  4. Heh. There is no fold.

    I love hearing that people hate to scroll, that they hate to click. I even hear they hate to read. And, I often hear they hate one more than the other.

    People must really hate the Internet! Personally, I think these complaints usually have more to do with content (or lack thereof).

    Here, I’ve got an addition to #7 β€” more for developers, admittedly: “I know you don’t think my browser can handle your web site, but (please) let me give it a shot.” Many things bother me, but being locked out of a site is the worst (even if my browser can pretend it’s a different user agent).

  5. What a great article! Honestly, this has been a good read, keep these kinds of articles coming =)

  6. Did we also forget spelling, punctuation, and grammar?

    Come on, guys, stop it! Stop churning out sites with table layouts; you know it’s wrong. OK, it’s faster and more profitable, but you know that you are just screwing the client. Tables are for data, not layout.

    Normally I don’t complain – English isn’t everybody’s first language – but this time I am struggling through each sentence trying to figure out what it says.

  7. Good article Gary!
    I’m italian so i don’t complain πŸ˜‰


  8. 13) Web sites that insist on resizing MY browser window. It’s MY browser leave it alone. These sites are as bad as a popup spammers in my view. If I want my screen full page, I’ll set it that way. If I want it at 640px x 480px, I’ll set it that way.

    BTW I’m not replying to some comments, be lucky that I didn’t delete it.

  9. #11 on my list would be bad javascript that insist on popping up links in new windows. In this age of tabbed browsing, I often open links in new tabs only to find them blank because the web developer didn’t know how to craft their popup links in an accessible fashion.


  10. @Josh Thanks for the comment, of course the JavaScript wouldn’t be inline and it would be unobtrusive with a progressive enhancement. The example is just a quick and dirty implementation?

  11. 14) Whimsical use of “web 2.0”.

    my site is web 2.0-esque, but I never claim its actually web 2.0. However, get a site that has a few rounded corners, a violator, and voila: they think its web 2.0.

  12. its amazing how many people forget about background colour

    I’m working for a traditional brick and mortar company that has a web presence. The designers that I write html/css for are the most anal people I’ve ever met. Every page they “design”, is a one off design, even when they are all part of a feature section. They don’t want text to flow naturally. Rather they want me to code the page with hard breaks after each line so that it matches their comp. Oh, and the text is styled in Photoshop so that it’s impossible to make text look exactly like Sharp, Strong, Smooth etc text. Their solution is to just chop up PSD’s and use images to replace paragraphs of text. One designer told me that she hated HTML text. And I have to make her happy all day and everyday. No wonder my predecessor relied on images for paragraphs of text. There’s no winning.

    Page sizes range from over 200k to over 500k. God forbid that their users actually have dial up connections.

    Usability, re-usable and semantic markup, standards, external stylesheets etc are unheard of. The whole site is a bloody mix of table based layout, a half hearted attempt to use some CSS layout, and massive inline styles. Oh, and through in some font tags just for fun.

    Rant over.


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