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Site design/development – form and function:

Site design/development – form and function:

Having designed and coded a lot of websites for a lot of different clients from a variety of niches, a common problem with each project is something that should really be natural to the project in the first place. The idea that form follows function. This problem stems mostly from the fact that clients are usually not web developers/designers. The most overlooked areas seem to be those in usability and bandwidth efficiency, in other words, page load time.

Web Fonts

Sometimes non-developer/non-designer clients love not-safe-for-web fonts. This becomes more of a problem when they specifically request that a webpage looks exactly like something they have seen somewhere before - could be some printed material or even another website. The truth is that no matter how you think about it web developers are limited in options when it comes to web fonts and other related media.

We shouldn’t just use "all" available techologies just because they are available. A good example is sIFR (Flash embedded fonts), because these can cause serious load time problems. Even with @font-face our hands are still tied because we are limited to only free fonts due to redistribution clauses in font licenses.

The last resort is to use images to replace all of the good quality content that should be on the page. An alt tag only does so much for search engines so we are really shooting ourselves in the foot in the form of Search Engine Optimization by using this method. What is the purpose of producing a website that *looks good* if no one is going to see it in the first place?
I personally agree whole heartedly that good design is not made by what you include but by what you do not include - assuming of course that you know exactly what you are doing.

Page Titles

Another problem with clients in general is that they may like to use their page titles as cheesy marketing devices rather than for keyword optimization. In a perfect world, I am much better off using a page title like Logo Design & Web Development, Victoria, London because those are the key phrases that I am looking to get visits from. Again, what is the purpose of making it look good if no one is visiting?

Background Images

A designer should always be aware of typical screen resolution sizes and plan accordingly. A background doesn’t need to be elaborate or textured and in some cases it definitely shouldn’t be. While the background may look *really cool* it is entirely possible that you are in fact doing harm to the experience by: (1) increasing load time by a lot or, (2) distracting from content that a visitor should be paying attention to.

This can not be over-emphasized because it really is one of the most important issues to consider when designing a web page. You never want to direct a visitor’s attention away from where they should be looking and with proper background usage, we can actually point them in the correct direction. For instance, you’ll see a lot advertisements in magazines where something as subtle as lines in sand can be directing your eye attention to a specific phrase on the page. It is entirely possible to harness those same techniques on a website and this should definitely be considered if we must use background images.


Not all javascript effects are bad, in fact if used correctly they are amazing and can add a real value to the UI. Some designers just don’t know how to use javascript correctly, though. I’ve been on a few projects where a substantial amount of good information is hidden from a user’s view for the sole purpose of using javascript fade ins/outs.

The last thing we want to do is hide something we need the user to see from their eye line. Another downfall of hiding information is that there is a possibility that hiding enough will actually start to harm your search rankings. Because of this (and because some users have it turned off) there absolutely needs to be a no javascript backstop on the page where ever it is used.

The Conclusion/Solution? Go "clean"

The key really is quite simple. Communicate as much as is humanly possible with as little as humanly possible - Go Clean!

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