insight

What's wrong with this site?

While working through the process of designing and building this site, I decided not to fix a couple of important aspects that might be considered "wrong"—or at least less than ideal.

First: the navigation. Throughout the pages of this site, you'll find reference to the ideal Web site navigation as being simple, clear and intuitive. But mine's not.

Requiring the visitor (you) to decipher the somewhat esoteric labels for my content in order to navigate the site is just plain bad design—isn't it?

But I've done it for a reason. I've done it to illustrate how a site's interface must teach its visitors how to navigate. If you're reading this, you've either found your way to this page by chance, which is unlikely, or you've learned how to navigate the site to get here—and hopefully enjoyed the experience of exploration.

It's that process of learning that I wanted to show. Even when a site has an absolutely clear and obvious navigation convention, it must be consistent across the site. There's nothing clearer than a text-based link that says Home, but if it's not in the same place on every page, your visitors will become confused. The more consistent a site's navigation convention is, the easier your visitors will be able to move around the site. They will be engaging with its content, rather than its structure.

Which brings us to the second "problem": browser (in)compatiblity.

Prior to the current iteration of this site (rebuilt with XHTML and CSS), this section was an invitation for visitors to upgrade their older browser in order to improve their experience of the site.

Web developers have realised that there's a better way. Instead, we build sites that can be accessed by all browsers, on all platforms. Older browsers may only display the text content of the site, without presentational styling, but they're not excluded. In fact, a greater number of visitors are invited; those using PDAs or even mobile phones can now readily access this site's content.

So if you're seeing a pretty boring looking text-only version of this site, and you're wondering why, now you know.

The invitation to upgrade is still there—the sooner the old browser versions disappear, the quicker Web sites will become easier and more rewarding to use. But it's a bit more of a choice, now. No visitor is penalised because of their choice of browser. Everyone's welcome.

Your site can be similarly friendly, efficient, and fast.

And that will be good for you and your visitors.

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