For web designers, coming across an awesome WordPress or jQuery plugin can be a lot like opening up an awesome gift on Christmas morning. But once that initial burst of joy wears off, we realize that we may not need this junk at all; it’s just a burden and another thing we need to deal with. [Más…]
Of course, the web has not always had the luxury of such excess feature bloat. In its early days, the web was no place for unnecessary applications and fat feature sets; and even if you wanted them, there was no technology available to implement them with. Back then, designers had to show a healthy respect for page size and consideration for a user’s connection speed (56k modems + 1MB animated GIF = forget about it). Even image compression was not as advanced, and that encouraged even more caution in the number of images displayed on a page. These restrictions were not always a bad thing; if a designer is forced to limit the number of images they place on a page, they are naturally limited to choosing only images and page elements that are relevant and necessary.
As IT advanced and networked infrastructures got bigger, web pages got fatter. Images, audio and video are commonplace in websites. Bandwidth is hardly a concern anymore, at least when we’re not dealing with mobile designs.
In addition, the web has become substantially more interactive and dynamic, which increases the number of opportunities for richer and more interactive features a website can have. The entry level for using and implementing these whiz-bang features have been lowered with tools such as jQuery, MooTools and WordPress that cut down the required skills someone has to have in order to create awesome stuff.
All of this functionality and multimedia is a dream come true for designers; but too much of anything, just like junk food, is a bad thing.
More and more, we see websites getting liberal with their implementations of plugins; websites that get slower and slower because of too much junk that no one needs; websites that become a burden to use because there’s just too much fat.
Getting Health Conscious
The capabilities of the web have, without a doubt, shifted significantly. The Web Designer mindset needs to make equally significant shifts. It is imperative that we move from an outlook of wants, to one of needs. We can no longer afford to want that real-time Twitter feed, that large header graphic, or that (oh, please stop this already) Flash menu. Sure, many of these site features can enhance the user experience, but just as likely, there are web designers who are packing on pounds of weight on their web pages with irrelevant junk.
Of course, web designers are not the only ones to blame, or even the ones that are truly responsible for fat and bloated web designs. Clients can go crazy when they learn about all of the things their site is capable of. They can be just as guilty of being caught up in the fun of it all and wanting features to be implemented when there is no justification for doing so.
Getting Health Conscious
As a web designer, it is your job to be the health coach. Be sure that things you’re made to create have a purpose.
We need to start thinking about information overload and a healthy site focus. Functionality must marry happily with purpose, and if a site feature does not have a clear purpose that matches closely with that of the overall site, then it shouldn’t be there.
Web-based, internet-enabled interfaces surround our lives, whether we are ready for them or not. Internet connectivity is growing at a faster and faster rate. The web is in more pockets and at the end of more fingertips than ever, and the sites we design are right there along with it all.
So, now, our worries are shifting from download speeds and bandwidth restrictions, to screen sizes and more diverse resolutions. This demand for flexible and responsive designs has revealed the gluttony in the design community.
Our Dirty Secret
In a desperate attempt to deploy a site onto small-sized screens like mobile devices and netbooks, designers often find themselves stripping out page elements such as images and interactive features. Stock photography, Twitter feeds and other social networking tools, Flash objects, and other supporting multimedia rarely find their way onto a mobile website.
So, then, if we can remove these things to deliver a better user experience on small screens to the user browsing our site outside of the desktop or laptop, why are they needed for the desktop/laptop version?
Finding out that you have unneeded junk — excess fat — in your web design after you need to strip it down to fit a new medium is the wrong way to go. It’s time for web designers to move away from all of the wants and focus on the needs of a website.