Posts Tagged ‘web design’

The Tail Wagging the Dog – Creating the Plug In & Extras for the Website

March 8, 2009

When asked to give this speech – the one that I’ve decided to blog and then do the PowerPoint for – yeah – that one – several of the other EDs asked me to talk about the backend of the website.  Backend – I mean the ugly little code and databases that each of us need to make our website interactive for our members.  This is where it can get a little complicated – and you will probably need to have paid help in developing this part of your web presence.  I don’t mean to give a plug for our web host & all round awesome backup help – but Topnetwork has been a great part of why our members have used the website so extensively.  Also – apparently I push him to create better programming since I’m so demanding.

Before launching a new website or reworking your current site -survey your members.  Surveymonkey.com is an awesome little site that allows a cheap and easy way to survey members whether it’s a 3 question survey for a seminar or a 50 question membership survey.  (I wouldn’t go over 50 questions ever – no-one has that kind of time).  This is how we discovered our members like the little networking events, wanted a brief bank (although they haven’t used it yet) and LOVE the list serve.

So – they asked for it and we built the website for them – one little problem…our tracking statistics for the site doesn’t work, so I don’t know really where people are going (more on that problem later on marketing), so as to our website – who knows where people are landing.

Brief Bank – we have one that members can contribute to, and if someone offers up a brief – I put it in.  Do people use it?  Nope – they continue to ask for the same briefs from the list server.  It’s a long slow learning curve.

List Server(s) – Members love it – it’s one of their favorite things about their membership.  We have an expert witness list serve and a general list serve (for those questions who don’t fit in the section list serves or expert witness list serve).  I know some SLDOs have captured the list serve, but at this time, we have decided not to capture it.  The answers are sent to the inquirer – not to the whole list serve – so just having the question on a database seemed kind of lopsided.  One downside is that everyone gets put on the list serve when they join and have to take themselves off – which can mean a lot of technical support on our part.

Member Directory – Apparently – and I say apparently because it happened before WDTL was foolish to hire me – we stopped printing the membership directory and put it all online.  This confuses the heck out of some of the less technical of our members and they still call me and have me look up other members online for them – but for the most part it has been a good thing.  We were green before our time.  When you visit our site, wdtl.org and go to member services, the membership directory is right there.  This is run from the main database that not only runs our member directory – but is also the back end for registration as well.

Online Registration – this was my first project as the ED for this crowd.  I can’t tell you how much easier it has made my life.  Attendees for seminars can either send me a check and I’ll enter them online or they can register themselves online via a credit card – which is then emailed to our accountant through a secure site.  This saves countless amount of time and effort to track payments and let’s me see in real time how many people are at each event.

Test Anxiety

March 6, 2009

I can’t stress testing your website before launching enough…test, test and then test again.  I learned this ugly lesson first hand when I launched a company website before I had the testing department look at it.  Opps – it had broken links and misspelling and I looked like a fool – so test the site several ways before launching.

First – test it in several different popular browsers – it can be done in one shot at browsershots.org.  A quick run through will show how your website looks to your users depending on their browser.

Second – Have at least 5 different people do a set number of tasks, and while sitting on your hands and taping your mouth so you don’t interfere or give them hints – watch how they accomplish these tasks in your site and whether or not your navigation is clear or even apparent.

If you were feeling really frisky – send your website through a validator and it will check to see if your html or other markup language fits current standards – it’s an eye opener.  You may think it’s pretty but validators often find errors that need to be fixed so that it doesn’t hang up people when they are trying to download the site.

Pet Peeves about Web Pages

March 6, 2009

I can’t give hints about web design unless I let you into some of my pet peeves – and I would LOVE to hear about yours as well.

If you ever have 5 minutes to kill and want to be entertained by some of the worst webpages out there – go to webpagesthatsuck.com.  As my southern ED friends have encouraged me to soften any blow – Bless their little hearts – those webpages – they do suck…probably beyond anyone’s imagination.  Go to the site, look around and promise not to emulate any of those tactics.

Ok – pet peeves (and I have been guilty of these things as well – so I’m not claiming innocence)

  1. Splash Pages or Flash opening pages…maybe I’m just ADD – but I do not have the patience to wait while your splash page opens and I get to wait along with a cute little flashing dog that tells me how long this is going to be..nope – moving on.
  2. Click on the logo page – nope, I’m not going to…next vendor
  3. Audio without my permission.  I hate going to a webpage and have Taylor Swift’s latest start blaring.  Not that I am against Taylor – I just choose to listen to music while I work or while I surf and I’d rather pick my own.  Worse is when the music or noises are just loud and I’m trying to be discrete, i.e. Christmas shopping while my kids are in the room.  They know immediately where I am by the stupid noise – don’t do this to me.
  4. Flashing animations on a page – Yes, Yahoo – I am talking to you.  I hate reading my email while an ad with a dancing girl is going on on the left of the page – it’s annoying, it’s stupid and it gives me a headache and makes me avoid my Yahoo account.  Why would you scare of visitors or keep them away from the content with a dancing ad?
  5. Pages that aren’t complete or under construction – If the content isn’t there – don’t link to that page.  You can tell people that more content will be there in the future if you need to have a place holder, but I think not linking is the kindest of all.
  6. Yicky Backgrounds & Neon Fonts – I know you love flowers or rainbow gradients but for my old eye’s sake – don’t make them your background.  Think zen – think simple – think one color for the background and one or two colors for fonts – and make sure they are readable.  Make sure there is plenty of contrast between text and background for those of us who have a hard time reading neon on neon – I’m weird that way.

Basics of Good Web Design

March 6, 2009

This should have probably been the first post – but I’m working my way backwards through my presentation for the upcoming DRI SLDO ED meeting (enough initials for anyone?)…so here goes – my highly opinionated version of good webdesign (to be followed by my pet peeves of modern & not so modern web design).

  1. Easy Navigation – Before you even start to build a page – please, for everyone’s sake, draw out your navigation either in a diagram or hierarchy format and play with it, move it around.  I usually write each page out on a sticky note, put it on a large piece of paper and then I have various novices to the site or to the subject come and tell me where they would go.  You are going to be very bored with this after a while – but it will save you a lot of hair pulling out later.
  2. Consistency of Design – nothing is more horrid than going to a front page and then the design elements don’t carry forward to the other pages.  Pick a look and stick to it all.  You wouldn’t change the logo for organization on every printed piece, so why would you change it for every different page on your web?  Top that all off – it irritates me – and as my fellow ED’s will tell you – I’m not pretty when irritated.
  3. Quick on the Draw – how many times have you been to a website and it takes FOREVER to load?  Do you stick around?  Probably not. Make it fast loading is a good website – which means graphics should be clean & small, code should be clean and minimize the multimedia.
  4. Short Attention Span Theatre – The best advice I ever got for web design when I worked for a dotcom was that people have gotten used to webpages being succinct because we have evolved into having short attention spans, thanks to all of our various devices that demand our attention constantly….thus writing for the web should be snappy and short.  Messages should be clear and to the point…and so I’ll stop right now with this topic.  You get the picture.

See – web design isn’t that hard – just stick to these 4 points.