Is it Possible to Determine a Website’s Success?

While there are millions of sites on the Internet today, not all of them are successful. How does one determine a website’s success? Some might consider a website successful if it makes a “Best Designed” list. Others might deem a website appropriate if it shows up in the top ten page results for Google searches. Lastly, some might judge a website’s success based on whether enough people know it and recognize it (i.e. Google, Yahoo, Facebook, etc.).

Sure, it’s important to be searchable via Google, be recognized by the public, and have a web design that is worthy of being mentioned by fellow designers online, but I think that a successful website is based on a few other things, such as: a) the website reaches its target audience b) the website’s users’ experience is at least satisfactory c) the website’s content is clearly organized.

Some web designers get caught up in the hype of creating something that will draw attention. I think that creativity is a great addition to a website but its main purpose is to reach and serve its target audience while providing them with an extraordinary user experience that includes information that is laid out in a logical way. I’m fully aware that my personal portfolio website may only reach a few people and may not be easily searchable via Google, but as long as the right people are able to find my website and have an enjoyable time seeing my work and reading my material, I would consider it a success!


HTML5 Redefined

The original HTML5 brand and corresponding logo was meant to encompass HTML5 plus CSS, SVG, WOFF, and others. Because the brand covered more than its namesake, there was some controversy among web designer and developers. Those against HTML5 being all-inclusive were web designers and developers who felt that the brand and logo were “blurring the lines between separate technologies” that were already being bundled together and mixed up.

I’d have to agree on this one. As a novice web designer and developer (and I’m using those titles very loosely), I know first-hand that HTML5 is already a pretty complex concept and field. Adding more technologies under its umbrella makes it that much more confusing. Today, I think HTML5 is more clearly defined as just that—the latest version of hyper text markup language—which works for me.

Wondering How to Properly Use QR Code?

Have you noticed any strange square-shaped mazes affixed to advertisements, displays, or brochures? If so, you’ve most likely come across QR code, or quick response code/quick recognition code, which is increasingly being used across different industries and for diverse purposes. Basically, QR codes represent information, commonly used to store website addresses. Smart phone users with Internet connectivity can capture the code, which is then interpreted into a web address.

To be honest, my organization has been taking advantage of this technology for some time. From corporate annual reports to marketing material, QR codes have been affixed (by our Creative Department) to several documents that I’ve worked closely on. However, I didn’t truly understand the purpose of it until I came across this great slideshow that not only lists practical uses for QR code but demonstrates them with actual examples.

As the slideshow’s creator, Aliza Sherman, points out, QR code has practical uses but as companies try to take advantages of these they make mistakes in the process, such as making the mobile destination non-mobile friendly or requiring the user to log in to a Facebook page to access content. The best part of Aliza’s slideshow is her closing that lists how to do QR the right way, which includes: 1) Determine a mobile-friendly destination 2) Encourage measurable actions 3) Enhance the experience 4) Provide value and 5) Be useful. If I decide to incorporate a QR code into my personal work in the future, I’ll be sure to remember Aliza’s advice.

In the meantime, I’ll keep an eye out for how QR code is being used in everyday media around me. I’m sure that with time, companies will better understand the QR code technology and formulate best practices, which will maximize its usage.

Determining Whether to Design a Mobile-Friendly Website and App or Not…

Once I complete the web design and online communication master’s program I’m currently enrolled in, there is the possibility that I’d be charged with building a new website. How would I determine whether to make it mobile-friendly? I’d need to ask the client some important questions before I got started. First, the client would need to know the audience they are targeting. If the client intends to have young children log on to their website, then perhaps a mobile-friendly version isn’t necessary. Similarly, if the website’s users will primarily be a more mature audience, let’s say social security recipients, then again the website may not need to be designed in a mobile-friendly fashion. However, if the client determines that the audience they are targeting would likely be opening the website from a mobile device, then I, as the designer, would then need to think about whether an app would be worth developing as well.

Since I’m not yet a web design expert, I don’t quite know when it’s better to build a custom app or make the website scalable to a mobile device screen. Plenty of the websites I log into on my cell phone will alert me to their apps but I rarely bother with downloading them. Why waste time with a download when I can go directly to the website I want through the browser? I guess it’s about how the user experience is affected. The few times I will download an app for a website is if I anticipate using it a lot. For example, I did find it worthwhile to download the New York Times and Facebook apps because I thought it would save me time and be easier to use than the mobile version. So far this decision has proven helpful to my everyday life.

Getting that Navigation Menu Right, Among Other Things…

I don’t think there is any one factor that is quintessential to web design or one aspect that has much more importance than another. In fact, I think each individual aspect, combined together to make a whole webpage, demonstrates just how important each one is. If you don’t have the colors right or the proportions correct or the appropriate content, then the whole website will be tarnished and that of the user’s experience, even if everything else is perfect.

Some people may believe menus are one of the most important factors in web design, and I agree to some extent. It’s like a highway without any signs or a mall without any floor plan or information booth. Without a navigation menu people will undoubtedly get lost. However, I feel that even if there is a menu in place, it doesn’t make it a successful web design. Take for example, University of Florida’s e-learning in Sakai website.

This e-learning website features a left hand vertical navigation menu, which is great, but does that automatically make it a strong website? Franklly, UF’s Sakai website is disorganized and confusing despite its efforts to incorporate a navigation menu. Its menu tabs “Worksite Setup”, “Membership”, and “Site Info” mean nothing to me nor do they relate to my classes. This demonstrates that navigation menus are a great idea in theory but need to be carried out 100 percent to be effective. And by that I mean, clearly labeled tabs, tabs that indicate that there are sub-tabs within, and a hierarchy of some sort.

For my personal website I have included a small navigation menu that acts as a header. It includes the standard tabs such as “About me”, “Resume”, “Portfolio”, “Blog”, and “Contact me” just to make sure that visitors to my page can easily access what they came to find. But as I’ve stated above—the navigation menu I’m hoping to build can only be 100 percent successful if the rest of the web design is planned and carried out thoughtfully with the users’ experience kept in mind at all times.

Maximizing 600 Pixels of Space with a Navigation Menu

With only 600 pixels making up the average browser height, web designers must design a page that’s engaging and informative with very little space. What’s the best way to maximize space? Is it best to display a large header or have a smaller navigation menu to ensure that content sits “above the fold”?

Today, web pages have moved toward the smaller horizontal navigation menus. These are quite main stream and the “About us”, “Services”, and “Contact us” are just a few of the tabs included in most of them. As Smashing Magazine’s article points out in an article about horizontal navigation, web pages should list these most basic items or a user’s experience can be diminished. While the tab content is quite standard, the menu style doesn’t have to follow any particular set of design rules. In fact, there are several ways to make it stand out without looking like a cookie cutter layout. Here is an article from which lists 20 amazing headers.

As the examples above demonstrate, horizontal navigation menus can be artsy or simple, large or small. However, to maximize space, it would be wise to keep the navigation menu somewhat scaled back so there is room for content above the fold. UF’s E-Learning webpage is a good example of this. There is a clear navigation menu with plenty of space for the most important content to sit above the line. I wouldn’t even call this a scaled back menu. It is quite wide and there is a lot of empty space but I think it was created this way to create some balance and does the trick nonetheless.