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Make your website suck in 10 steps

Monday, 19 March 2007 technology

I’ve preached to the choir for some time on standards, plug-ins and JavaScript best practices. I thought I’d skew the angle a little, work the reverse-psychology and give everybody a few tips on how to make a website really blow chunks of meaty crapness.

1. Mono-browser compatibility

The first step should be aiming all your design goals at one browser. By this I mean making sure you don’t take any cross-browser quirks into account and definitely not bending to fix them.

Going over everything 20 times in every browser that’s out there is a waste of your time where you could be following the rest of this tutorial.

Targeting the least popular browser also makes users recognise your flair for independence.

2. HTML and standards

Rules are meant to be broken. HTML is just a set of rules that outline a mark-up language so make it your job to butcher both the letter and the spirit.

Why use code like this:

<p>This is a <em>paragraph</em>!</p>

<p style="text-align:center;">This is another.</p>

… when you could code like this:

<P>This is a <i>paragraph</i>.

<P align="center">This is another.

3. Framesets put hairs on your chest

Because you’re reading 1994 tutorials, remember that framesets are the ultimate layout guide. Use them to partition up the page and make everything really blocky and think of using them as a contest to see who can use most frames.

4. Speed kills

Making your pages fast to load shows weakness. Showing your users that you want everything on their screen as fast as possible tells them you are [too] desperate for them to read your content.

To remedy this hide all your content by default and using a JavaScript timer to show a loading bar and show everything after 20 seconds. The same effect can be utilised with Flash or even just the server if you can sleep the httpd’s thread per request using a server-side language.

5. Plug-ins show maturity

If you can extend #4 so that the page never loads unless you have some obscure (or even popular) plug-ins, you’re on the road to a winner! Loading the whole lot through AJAX is certainly a good start. People without plug-ins and JavaScript don’t deserve to see your content.

6. Pictures say a thousand words

So dump 90% of that writing and replace it with a few pictures. If you can do this for all the navigation items too, you’re only going to help your users understand what the site is about!

The bigger the pictures, the more you’re saying, the more your users respect you. Be sure to use a decent format too. JPEG, PNG and GIF are good enough for all the other commoners on the internet but why should you settle for that? Show users your independence again by using BMPs.

7. Music says a thousand and one words

Why settle for just pictures and a few words when you can heighten the entire experience with your favourite tunes? You want to be careful that you hide the player (a plug-in, obviously) as best you can. Otherwise the user might find it and accidentally turn it off. We don’t want that.

8. Interstitial breaks == power

Split your content over multiple pages and insert adverts on even pages. This way you get more page views, more hits and keep your users knowing that you’re the boss of them. They will respect this power.

Equally, splash pages help people realise where they are. Nothing says “hello” better than a big screen saying so.

9. Navigation

Remember that life is a journey with one end destination. It doesn’t matter where you end up because it’s constant — it matters how you get there.

Remind your users of this as they attempt to navigate your site. The more pages you make them go through, the more you’re showing them of your site. If you can, keep this regime changing so they never forget it.

The holy grail of navigation is one that will hide itself and need its own process of navigation just to get going. Plug-ins are a must.

10. Content

Content is the least important part of the website. Your users can get content from any of a billion different websites but they chose yours for the design. It’s important that you don’t waste time proof-reading or spell-checking things before you push them out the door. Your users will respect this time management strategy and notice that the saved time has helped you improve your site.

You want your users to be people just like you, don’t you? Therefore your target audience is you! Don’t try and accommodate your other users by explaining things — just assume they know exactly what you do, saving you time and effort!