Monthly Archives: February 2013

Beyond all hype: The 3 simple things
to get right with your company’s homepage

O.k. I’m sure you don’t need just another of these How-To-create-Your-Killer-Homepage-Today guides, as web portals appear to be fed with all day. I also don’t believe that any kind of magic or spiritual inspiration is required. Once you combine, match and melt down all these hundreds of pages of guidance, it (almost) always comes down to the same few priciples.

Fighting irrelevance and ambiguity

There are uncounted homepages of businesses of all sizes and industries, who cannot answer every visitor’s most pressing question: Am I right here?

Lots of homepages cannot tell if the business is an investment bank, a pharmaceutical or tool manufacturing company. Non-telling images along with ambiguous headlines, such as Beating The Competition In Every Single Field do not demonstrate anything but corporate PR hybris.

So always makes sure your homepage appearance immediately reflects your industry and value proposition to any visitor stopping by.

Avoiding the Paradox of Choice

This is the opposite extreme (and a widely discussed issue): A website trying to be everything to everybody and thus leaving alone the most relevant ones, overwhelmed and helpless. Hey come on — you’re not Yahoo! or some other general web entry-point. Instead admit your visitors some intelligence and trust them to be able to figure out, if your company’s offering is right for them or not.

Have your homepage provide descriptive entrance points (ideally no more than 4, with one pre-selected a.k.a. The Power Of Defaults) leading prospects deeper into your site, where you provide them the means to refine their search, so you can guide them to the relevant infomation much more reliably as a one-size-fits-all homepage could ever do.

Catering to the wrong half of the visitors’ brain (in all the wrong places)

You likely have learned at school already, that both halfs of the human brain take care of different aspects of your daily life: To most people their brain’s right half is heavily involved handling body perceptions along with the more emotional data to be processed, while the left part caters more to the rationale.

Since, just as with your eyes’ fields of view, the processing of visual impression crosses and overlaps, which is why it has turned out to be wise to place visual information more left in the viewer’s field of vision, while adding the facts (e.g. product USPs to its right). If you like, visit Amazon to learn how to do it.

And now: Have fun adding impact to your own site.

The Grassroots Dilemma, The Return Of Browser Wars And
The Death Of The Plug-In

With sullenness I look back to the early 2000s when webpages always required ”specific engineering“ simply in order to display properly in certain vendors’ webbrowsers. And it was only a couple of years ago, that the market had consolidated and standardized enough to start fading out that practice. All strictly for the birds.

It indeed has been beneficient to online production, that web standards (much different from their associated markets…) have only used to change slowly over time and that chances are good, web content will display properly for the time being, from the date it has been sent live.

Though, unfortunately, over the years the arising argony caused by interest conflicts, political games and bureaucracy at W3C, the standards giving institution for the web, created more and more resentments among the more practically engaged part of the online creative community. It just hat become too obvious, that the old standards (more often than not from an entire decade ago) were not to keep up with the functional requirements of today’s advanced web applications.

That said, the absence of a credible authority sparked the uprise of open opposition by ambitious revolutionaries, putting themselves and their daily needs at the heart of their very own web standards revolt.­­

As enlightning as the ideas of these freshly founded ”working groups“ are, just by their nature, these concepts lack any kind of official recognition. With a groups core members (often just 1 to 5 people…) by chance even refusing to name a final publishing date or even a version-system for their so-called ”standards“, from a creator’s perspective, it is more and more becoming impossible to publish online content which can be reliably assumed to work for most of its prospective users. ­― So, who cares at all?

The part, which makes the topic worth discussing, is that (after years of rather slow, incremental improvements and despite the missing assurance about the outcome) browser vendors just seem to have waited for a chance to add tons of brand new funky bells ad whistles to their widely adopted software – in order to show off their superiority over any anticipated competitor. But, just as with the standards revolutionaries themselves, every company also tries to add their own approach for deploymemt. Along with unique features to each webbrowser-product, the most advanced developers shall eventually be lured away from the competitors’ software – in pretty much the same way Microsoft wasted billions pushing its free Internet Explorer webbrowser in the late nineties.

The current result now appears only too well-known to year-long web developers: we go back in time and again start to engineer every webpage template separately for any software-client in question, including the upcoming new mobile ones. And to really get the results right, the required adjustments add to development costs by at least a third – which, of course, may be fun for web agencies, but much less for their customers – companies simply needing these websites to run their business.

After all: Is there anything in it for the avage web user with this game? Sure. Since most revolutions, despite considerable collateral damage, use not to go all-bad, there are clear end-user advantages involved:

  1. The death of the plug-in: It already today is very unlikely you will need to install additional software only to properly display an average webpage’s content, such as sound, video, animation, immersive imagery or even 3D objects.
     
  2. Easier-to-handle forms: Web forms will start verifying your input already as you type and assist you to easily enter appropriate values, especially on mobile devices.
     
  3. High performance content: Previously unseen display quality for web content will become common to an amount as it has only been available to high-end computer games just a couple of years ago.

So please prepare for the most innovative technical changes to online experience since the late nineties, and watch out for those just wanting to cash-in on you for plain eye candy that will likely available to a selected few only anyway.