Making the Web Look Good

This week’s readings really stressed the necessity of making your website look good to visitors of varying backgrounds. Once again, I came to the realization that I have long taken for granted the layout and structure of a good website. That seems to be a recurring theme for me as I go through each week’s readings. I’ve grown up on the internet and think I have a strong idea of what looks good on a site, but when I read books like Ellen Lupton’s Type on Screen and Rebecca Hagen and Kim Golombisky’s White Space is Not Your Enemy, I have to take a step back and think about why I prefer certain sites over others. Is it the color? Or maybe the overall flow? The text structure, maybe? These questions never crossed my mind before I started this course, but now I can’t look at a site without examining what makes it work. Who knew design could be so important? We’re historians, the facts shouldn’t have to be dressed up in a fancy design…or so I thought. Now I’m quite sure that if I want my personal website to be worth looking at, I’ll have to reassess my views on the importance of design.

I really liked Lupton’s book as it provides specific tips and techniques about how to enact specific actions to my site. An example would be her explanation about how to change the appearance of a hyperlink. There are a few options ranging from changing the color of the text, underlining that text, or even changing the cursor when it hovers over the specific text. Little tips like that abound in this book and they’re quite useful. What I found most interesting about this reading was the fact that people from completely different backgrounds interact with the web in a myriad of ways. This is extremely important when considering the layout of my own site. It’s easy to think of the ways in which I interact with the web, but I’m only one person amongst millions, so I don’t qualify as the vast majority of web users. What works for me may not work for someone who didn’t grow up using the internet, or maybe someone who knows the internet’s capabilities far better than me will think my site is backwards and outdated. It’s clear to me that when I create my site I need to think beyond just what I like, but also consider the various ways someone could interact with my site. The last thing I want to happen is for someone to get so fed up with my design that they don’t get a chance to engage with the content.

While Lupton’s book stresses specific techniques, Hagen and Golombisky do the opposite. White Space is Not Your Enemy was the perfect complement to Type on Screen. It’s easy to become enamored by all of the cool stuff you can do to your site and have the desire to try it all. But, as Hagen and Golombisky note, simplicity is key. You don’t need to change the color of a hyperlink while also underlining it and changing the cursor. One cue will do. The authors make a strong point when they say that those new to creating websites are prone to using too much pizazz (my word, not theirs). I’m definitely in the category of “guy who is new to web design and wants to try everything.” These books played off one another perfectly because they present ways to increase interactivity with a website, while also reminding you to keep it simple and neat.

Hopefully, at some point, I’ll be able to take these design lessons and apply them to my site, specifically my Portfolio. After reading these books, I felt the strong urge to tear down my site and start anew. As I worked on my Portfolio last week, I didn’t have much rhyme or reason to what changes I made in the CSS. It felt like I just kept making more and more changes and adding in more and more sections with minimal results. Now I’m left with a whole bunch of code that doesn’t have a clear hierarchy. I plan on simplifying that code so I can actually see what changes I’ve been making.

For anyone reading, I do have one question: how did you go about getting that W3C validation badge on your site? I went to W3C and ran the test on my site, but I wasn’t able to get a badge for it. Is it supposed to give you a code that you enter into your site as a hyperlink? I’ll be working on figuring that one out, but thought I’d throw it out there and see if anyone had some advice on that note.

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