Simplicity wins over users

The 2011 Webby Award winners have just recently been announced, and due credit has been given to many of the great sites out there.

The Webby Awards are interesting to me because not only do they select a winner in each of their categories, but they also indicate the people’s choice – what you and I would choose as the best in each category. With my particular interest in usability and front-end development, the category which I found particularly interesting was the one for Best Navigation/Structure.

The Webby Award in this category was given to Hidden Heroes, a really well done site. The navigation is colorful, fun to use, and is complete with an entertaining clicking sound when you roll over it that becomes a bit addictive after a while. But – it’s flash-based. AND, only works if you have flash.

The people’s choice for winner, Zappos, is a completely different kind of site. This shoe and clothing site, packed with content, opted for a navigation which isn’t as colorful, and in comparison to the Hidden Heroes site, is almost boring. But you know what? It’s SO easy to use.

Hovering over each category, a sub-menu appears in a very clean, clear display, laying out the site’s content for you. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for based on the type of article, you and do a search by brand as well.

My only minor criticism of the site is that this menu uses javascript, and the same effect could have been created using high-level CSS. However, unlike Hidden Heroes, when the javascript is disabled you’ll find the Zappos site still works.

Well done to the users who voted for the Zappos site for best navigation, not falling for the trap of voting for the flashiest option with the most bells and whistles! But then again, who better to choose the best-designed option for usability than the users themselves?

May 10, 2011 at 9:24 am Leave a comment

Learning to let go… (or, why are you still supporting IE6?)

I’ve been around long enough to remember developing for browsers like IE4, IE 5.5 and Netscape, and the pain that was associated with the experience as well. I can also remember how relieved I was to be working on IE6 when it first came out – my love for it grew as the same rate my hate for its predecessors did: very quickly.

But that feels like a lifetime ago – we’ve moved on to new versions of IE, as well as Firefox, Chrome, etc. As our technology as developed, browsers have evolved to meet those evolutions… you wouldn’t dream of using IE 5.5 right now, so why would you develop for it? I can’t see why the argument should be so different for IE6.

Yes, I know – your client is resistant to change, or perhaps happens to be a big corporation who doesn’t feel like upgrading every staff member’s machine… But if you’re in this industry then you already know it’s all about progress and innovation, and clinging on to IE6 like an old childhood teddy bear is hardly going to be of any benefit to anyone. As of this past July, even Microsoft is no longer supports Internet Explorer 6. So why are you supporting it? It’s time to wean the world off, for everyone’s benefit -

What’s in it for the client:
1. Without the limits of IE6 you can provide a website that is that much more professional and avant-garde, if that’s what is called for;
2. Less development time without worrying about IE6 bugs
3. Consequently less costs

What’s in it for you:
1. Less development stress
2. Faster development
3. The opportunity to actually put those new innovations to use (HTML5, CSS3, a myriad of JQuery tools, etc…)
4. Your own professional reputation as a leader rather than a lagging follower in a constantly changing industry

I’m aware that some have begun to charge clients 20% of the total project cost or more just for IE6 support, and I completely agree with this practice. It encourages the client to abandon IE6 support, saves you time, and if you must be put through the torment, at least here is an additional profit in it for you.

Of course some exceptions can be made and each situation needs to be accounted for individually, particularly if you’re creating sites intended for developing countries or zones that are lagging behind technologically. But otherwise, I believe it’s time to move onwards and upwards.

August 10, 2010 at 4:40 pm Leave a comment

The case for accessibility

By ignoring accessibility and usability issues on your website, you are limiting your visitor pool, and depending on what kind of site you have, you are effectively limiting your client/customer pool, profits and growth.

Continue Reading August 2, 2010 at 11:44 am 2 comments

I’ll have a website, well done, with Javascript on the side please…

Javascript should be used on your site like your wasabi is used on your sushi: just a tad for flavor.

Continue Reading July 27, 2010 at 10:25 pm Leave a comment

Dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s… (or, Why you need a QA team)

The importance of a Q.A. team, and why you should stop reading and get one right now if you don’t have one already.

Continue Reading July 25, 2010 at 10:25 pm Leave a comment

Hello world!

Hi there! And thanks for visiting.

Hopefully you’ll find the articles on general web development topics which I intend to post here in the future as enjoyable as I’ve found writing them. Please do comment and let me know if you have any thoughts, ideas and feedback.

Thanks again and happy coding :)

July 25, 2010 at 9:52 pm Leave a comment


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