Confessions of a web designer

22 June 2009

The other day I was going through my bookmarked sites when I came across a site I had designed a number of years ago.

If I am honest the site isn’t very good. If I am brutally honest I might even say it is rubbish.

It’s not that it looks awful – there are a lot of sites occupying cyber space that look a lot worse (there are lots that look better as well). It’s not what you see that looks rubbish, it’s the bits you don’t see.

The site was designed over five years ago, when I was just starting out in web design. A lot has happened in five years. I have read books, articles, tutorials, etc. And guess what: I have learnt a lot about web design and development.

So what is wrong with this website?

    1. Built in tables

When I started building websites I used tables. Building websites in tables is like using an Excel sheet. You end up with hundreds of little boxes housing text and graphics. The result is a page that is much bigger than it needs to be. Then one day I discovered CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and I said goodbye to table-based layouts. The best way to build a website is to use CSS. There are lots of other reasons why it is better to use CSS. Rather than outline them all here I suggest reading this article – 13 reasons why CSS is superior to tables in website design– if you are interested in learning more.

    1. Navigation has too many options

Maybe it’s just me but I hate going to sites where there is an overwhelming number of navigation options. My personal preference is to keep the main navigation to about six options. This might mean having other navigation options displayed elsewhere on the page but these options are less important. Navigation is crucial to a website and it is one of things I spend more time on now than previously. Obviously navigation options are one of those things that are seen (if it isn’t then your website is in urgent need of a redesign) but there is good way of coding a navigation menu and then there is the way I used all those years ago.

  1. Not optimised for search engines

If you have a website you want people find it. And that means showing up well in the search engines – particularly Google. The are plenty of companies out there who specialise in SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). I do not claim to be a search engine master. But one thing I have learnt in the past five years is that a lot of basic SEO is, well, basic. Some of this goes back to using CSS and building websites using the proper HTML tags. The websites I build now have a better chance of being found in search engines than the ones I used to build.

What about your website? Does it look good on the surface? But what is it like under the hood? If you think your website could be improved then please get in touch and start the ball rolling.