Sunday, July 4, 2010

Web design warning signs: #3 - Focusing on the latest technology without addressing fundamentals

Web design companies often sell you on the big picture and latest technology. And you really can’t blame them. They are trying to differentiate themselves against their competition and establish themselves as thought leaders. This could include the development of user personalization features, complex data capture or reporting, widgets, social network integration, iPhone apps or flash-based tools.

Good web design takes work – whether that be understanding the customer, creating clean, logical code or optimizing sites using sound SEO practices. Keep in mind that for Web design companies there is little margin in simple web sites and even less in the minutiae that goes into good Web design. Design firms make most of their money on the upfront design, or more complex data and eCommerce-driven projects. Just as a car salesman will try to sell you on top-end features and options, so will a Web design firm try to heap on a number of technological bells and whistles you may or may not need.

A significant Web design warning sign is if your design company focuses too much on the latest and greatest features and technology without first demonstrating a command of the basics of good Web design, which includes many of the items we discuss in this series: usability, navigation, SEO, relevant use cases and quality content. Complex sites take longer to develop, increase the risk of downtime and are much more costly to maintain. In some cases, they can negatively impact usability, navigation or even SEO – especially if they don’t match your audience’s needs and level of sophistication. For example, if you are going with a more complex web site, be careful how often and where you use Flash or JavaScript. Search engines have trouble spidering content displayed by both technologies.

We’ll talk more about assessing your online needs as we conclude this series, but always make sure to carefully think through which feature sets will meet your customers’ needs as you consider any Web project. It’s important to take a phased and informed approach when moving from simple to more complex features, making sure you’ve fully considered the cost, benefit and potential drawbacks of more advanced Web technologies.

Read the full series: Top 10 Web Design Warning Signs


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