Just a note or two on why my site is so Plain Jane :)
A few notes on site usability, indexing and Global Internet issues

I have been asked this question often, since I am a site designer, as to why my own site is so simple looking. As one would think, I would use my own site as a "showcase" for my design skills, however I don't do that, and have been questioned on it repeatedly, so I decided it was time I put my rational for such a "Plain Jane" approach down in print. :)

The first reasoning is very simple, high intensity graphics.

Nearly the entire site is loaded with large images, or pages full of small ones, way beyond the typical rule of 20 thumbnails per page, of course it does, it's an Art Gallery, so no surprise there, it's what is expected.

That means however, that some kind of trade off had to be made for load time and speed of delivery, to compensate for that, so no bells and whistles are even possible, or the load time would suffer for it.



For most sites I build for others now, they are not under such constraints as a rule, and I have a bit more leeway with  the "interesting" bits and do use them, as needs and client wishes demand, some have many such bells and whistles but a few are just as Plain Jane as my own, for the same reasons, as they are other artists and the like, and have to deal with the same issues I have to contend with.

However, even without such constraints, I have found the somewhat, Plain Jane approach, over all, to be the best way to build a site, period, given a choice.

Ok, Why ?



Ease of Use

All the studies, as well as my own personal experience and feedback from my viewers, clearly prove, that all the fancy bits can be considered nice eye candy in some cases, but they do not really influence the viewer all that much, other than, most often, in a negative fashion.

Example: Having a flash header is neat ... once! Having it repeat itself the whole time your trying to read the page however, is a bother most people would just as soon do without. It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway, if you surround the words with such things, as far too many sites do for advertisements, you can annoy the viewer to the point of their being distracted.

Flash toys are a good thing, that is often taken too far and used too much, to the point it where it becomes counterproductive.

All the java drop downs and massive CSS style sheets, for menus for example, are fun,  you can do all sorts of neat stuff with them, but they are considered a pain to work with in practical terms by most viewers.

This having to hit the menu get a java or CSS drop down for example, and then move the mouse to scan the secondary drop downs, and hope you don't move the mouse too far off of it, as if you move it too far, the menu will close right back up. Given the line size of most of these being no larger than say a 10 cpi font, this can become a real challenge.

Don't have absolute control on the mouse cursor and slip off of that tiny space ?

You are forced to reopen it and try again. A few times of this and it's .. good-bye to your viewer, as it's too much of a pain to get the thing to stand still long enough to get to the pages .. at all.

Simple navigation has become a challenge to the viewers motor skills and fine hand eye coordination, which somewhat defeats the purpose. It shouldn't be hard to click on a link in order to navigate.

( as a note: with the largest growing group coming online being Elders, at 65 and up, this will be even more of an issue as time goes on, as their needs demand a simpler, less fine Motor skills demanding way to navigate )



Less is more and a few numbers on broad band VS dial up

More stuff, more and more stuff seems to be the trend now a days, however more stuff = a slower site, which is the first no no of site design. The list of "things that annoy your viewer" is long, and the top of that list = slow load speed.

Consider a few numbers, not everyone is using broad band and blazing away at high speed, even if here in the Untied states, that percentage is growing, it's 67% at the moment in the US, according to the last census, however it means, 33% are still using dial up, often due to the fact they live in an area where the phone lines are still not dsl capable, this is especially true in the global marketplace.

As unlike here in the states, there is not the major push to put in dsl capability in the phone systems, so the number of dsl users drops to about 20% overall outside of the US, meaning 80% of out county users, are still using dial up, with no choice in the matter what-so-ever so having all the splash and dash, that takes forever to load up ... can cost you business on the global market.



Translating into other languages and other considerations for the Global market

If half the sites information carrying capacity is on java, or flash, images etc., you have just cut off a large part of your site from any viewer who does not read English. Translating a web pages text into another language is simple however, if the information is not in text, there is nothing the translation programs can do. So the site becomes a nightmare to try and figure out what the information is, to a non english reading viewer. A full 2/3's of the world, who have internet access, do not speak or read english. In fact, the largest number of people, speaking a native language, do so in Mandarin Chinese. So the site must be translatable, which means the bulk of it must be in a simple textual format.



Hourly rates and over all costs

Here in the US, there are almost no hourly fees for access to the internet, its open access, all the time, anytime, for an affordable flat rate, in most cases. That is not the case out of the country on the Global marketplace and the costs are much higher.

"The most significant factor of cost, is telephone call charges to dial the service provider. This is high in many countries, even for a local call ,but even more of a barrier is the absence of nationally available service in most countries, which effectively serves to cut off the majority of the population from low-cost access to the Internet"

Asia and Europe are the only two regions that are coming even close to matching our price base and connection speeds, everywhere else the cost is very high, often provided by much slower connection speeds, example in Africa, having a 14k modem speed connection is commonplace, were as we here in the states, consider such things obsolete.

The Digital Divide as it's called, and its based entirely on price and access, in over 26 counties, Internet access is 100% based on satellite connections, where it is available at all, which increases the cost and hourly rates.



So, if you get rid of nearly all the things that people consider annoying, or that cost load time, which for a good deal of the world still translates into a much higher cost in order to access it, what have you got ?

You have pretty much what you see before you, a simple, easy to read, view and follow web page, that loads fast for the sake of the viewer, and is easy for the search engines to index, which means the site will be properly cataloged and found for it's keywords, meaning further, it will succeed in its purpose, to be found and used, by anyone in the world, this is the whole point behind being deliberately Plain Jane.


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