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One Year Anniversary Review: Web Design

I’ve reviewed my writings over the past year for WordPress Tips, Tricks and Techniques, Designing WordPress Themes, Accessibility and Usability, and the basics of Web Development, which brings me to the more generalized category of web page design.

As I explained in Designing WordPress Themes, designing a blog or website using WordPress is more complex than just designing a website in general. The programming code produces dynamic content, which means the web designer must design indepth as well as on the surface.

I’ve collected a vast repository of resources and websites within information, tutorials, and utilities to help me with my web page designs and I shared many of those in CSS and Web Page Design List of Resources. As text editors are a requirement for editing WordPress templates, Plugins, and Theme elements, I provided a list of Free Text Only Editors to help you find one that works for your needs. I also use Javascript bookmarklets in my browser to help me test web page designs and structure, so I did some research and found “More Must-Have Bookmarklets Than You Can Swing a Browser At”, which included helpful web design bookmarklets.

I also believe that you shouldn’t have to recreate the wheel every time you design, so I put together a helpful list of HTML, CSS, PHP, and More Cheat Sheets, which consistently is the most popular article on my site.

Color is critical to the look of a web design, even if the only color is white and black. In “Designing a Rainbow – Sexy Hot Colors”, I researched a wide range of helpful articles and utilities for mixing, matching, planning, and testing your web design color choices.

I wrote about design philosophy, new techniques in web page design, and a wide variety of web design elements and issues. I also ranted occasionally, especially when it came to bashing so-called web designers and web professionals who host pre 1999 web page designs that don’t meet current web design standards or accessibility laws. In “Boycott Ugly Table Designed Blogs and Websites” I let some of my frustration fly:

If you are blogging about website design, development, standards, or techniques, and are using a table-based design, why should I trust what you have to say? You aren’t meeting web standards, your site isn’t browser friendly, and it certainly isn’t valid for accessibility standards.

I hate visiting sites by web page designers, web hosts, or other web services and finding them designed with tables. It just proves they don’t practice what they preach or they are taking shortcuts by having their site designed by old versions of Front Page or some other do-it-for-you web design software. These are the experts, so maybe I have high expectations, but I expect experts to show us their best expertise.

If you own or manage a website, practice what you preach and make sure your site meets web standards and validation. Live by your own examples.

To highlight the fact that designing to meet web standards and accessibility standards and laws is actually good for your web page design and SEO practices, it’s just plain useful. In “Usability Isn’t Expensive. It’s Practical. Usability is Useful.”, I wrote:

Accessibility is the development of a website or blog to be accessible to everyone. This means that the design must meet web standards and pass a range of validation tests in order to be compliant with many countries accessibility and equal opportunity laws. It also helps the website owner/administrator to have a website that can be viewed and used by the disabled, blind or visually impaired, those using cell phones, handheld computers, web-TV, and older and newer browsers. In other words, accessibility means designing a website that can be seen and used by everyone and anyone.

Usability is the ability to use the website. Yes, designing for accessibility lets the disabled and those using non-traditional methods of viewing websites use your website better. Usability is actually more than that. It looks at how users use your site.

As Johansson explains, good tests for website usability comes from real life situations. What are people looking for? How are they looking for the information? Where will they look on your website for that information? Have you made it easy to find? Can they move around on your site to find what they need, or even more information than they thought they were looking for?

In “Beauty is Only Skin Deep: Designing Blogs For Feeds, Search Engines and Audience”, I wrote about the new challenges facing web designers today. It isn’t about designing just for pretty or function anymore:

The goal of a good web page design is to get into search engines, first and foremost. After that, a good web page design must withstand the tugging and twisting required of different browsers interpreting the code in order to display the page. This includes the ability to have the entire pretty style of the page stripped away to be read in a text browser, feed reader, and aloud by a text reader. At the very end of the list in good web page design is pretty, even though it is the first part of web page design that people begin with.

Web pages are showing up in feeds, cell phones, handheld computers, televisions, and more, and web page designers need to design for everything, not just for the monitor or browser.

There have been a few things I crowed about that turned out to be busts. One of my biggest failures was the thrilling announcement that at last a web page layout structure had been created that would work without hacks. I made a big fuss over it in “The Holy Grail of Web Page Layout – Without Hacks”. The next web design I did, I used the hackless holy grail layout by A List Apart and hit the wall, splat. It didn’t work. I tried every trick I knew, including hacks, and it still wasn’t working. It’d work in one browser but not the other, and I’d fix it in one and it would fail in the other. I returned to the article and found hundreds of comments by people failing, too. So much for taking things at face value in web design theories.

I ended up going to my faithful web design and browser testers at Positioniseverything to find the closest almost hackless layout template that fit my needs. The hardest part of a web page design is the architecture, and that is where browsers test designer’s conceptions meet reality and often fail. For the bones of my web page designs, I trust those who have tested their solidity extensively, and build my designs upon their skeleton.

Web page design has come a long way since I began with my simple text only site. Javascripts, PHP, Java applets, Flash, all kinds of bells and whistles are now on the web design cart for you to choose from as you design your web pages. Still, there are some rules and guides you should follow if you are starting out on this path. In “Web Pages That Suck” and “Portals, Splash Pages, Guest Books, Midi Songs, Traffic Counters, and Other Web Duds”, I wrote about what makes web pages stink and suck and what once was the fad is now the bad:

Unfortunately, people are still using these out-of-date, hated-when-they-popped-up fads. People are still asking how to add visitor counters, guest books, and splash pages. I continue to be assaulted by music unrequested on web pages, even some big corporate sites!

Fads come and go, but quality lasts. Part of keeping up with the Internet Joneses is to understand what worked and what didn’t work in the past to get a handle on what will work in the future and if it will work for you.

I’ve written so much about web page design in general, for this review, I’ve broken up the list of articles into related topics, and there may be a repeat link or two because some topics cross borders. Enjoy!

Articles About Web Page Design in General

Articles About Layout and Structure

Articles About Graphics and Images

Articles About Design Elements

Articles About Site Validation

Articles About Web Design Psychology and Philosophy

Articles About Web Design Inspiration

Articles About Learning Web Design

Articles About CSS, XHTML, PHP, Javascripts, and Web Standards

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

Member of the 9Rules Blogging Network

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