There is a different Google out there – trust me

Whilst most UK Googlers don’t yet see much of a difference, in the US Google has made a few minor alterations to it’s interface. Most of the time when you go to http://www.google.com whilst in the UK, you will be automatically redirected to http://www.google.co.uk – however you can get to the .com version using browser search boxes (most modern browsers now have an inbuilt tool at the top right allowing you to search from a selection of search engines). Here’s a very brief comparison of the look’n’feel of the two main pages.

Quick web design tips: Image size and optimisation

Optimising (or optimizing) images is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get the size of your web pages down. Not optimising images remains to be one of the most significant problems on the internet. Reducing image file size benefits all users, as well as for the increased popularity in mobile devices, making your site small in filesize will make it appear faster and more user-friendly: a better user experience after all.

Top 10: 1990s bad web design (and early 2000s)

Web design has come a long way since the original 256 colour dithering of late-1990s web design and the myriad of weird and wonderful things it brought with it. In the late-1990s and early 2000s personal homepage were on the rage with companies like Tripod (Lycos) and Geocities (Yahoo) offering 5 free webpages with free site building tools. Here’s a top ten list of bad web design elements that we’d hope and pray no longer feature on sites ten years on:

Password masking – the debate begins (Reflections on Jakob Nielsen)

Jakob Nielsen is a highly regarded usability expert. His recent Alertbox article (I’m sure he wouldn’t want to call it a blog post) entitled Stop Password Masking, is certainly going to cause a stir in the web community. He proposes that masked passwords (when you type in a password field on the web it only shows bullets or asterisks), are essentially not user-friendly. I for one do not see the web community suddenly abandoning masked password fields. There’s a familiarity with them, they’re like PIN numbers on ATM cash machines.

Web redesign: Why bother?

Starting a website redesign project before establishing clear goals and objectives, is a bit like driving a 1987 Ford Fiesta through a mountain range with iffy brakes and no steering wheel. The road will be bumpy and before long you’ll have a sore head and be rusting in the forecourt of a Little Chef. If you can’t confidently answer ‘Why bother?’ then a web redesign is probably only the tip of your problems my friend.

Ceefax predicts mobile web: Jakob Neilsen declares BBC world’s best headline writers

The latest article by Jakob Nielsen, the living legend of usability who publishes regularly on a web developers’ treasure trove and graphic designers’ nightmare of a website, declares the BBC News website as the epitome of great web writing. This is true, and a well established fact, that the headline writers at the BBC succinctly encapsulate a story in such clarity in the space of four words that viewing their RSS feed you never need to read a newspaper again (sort of). What I found more interesting though was the off hand reference to Ceefax as the historical evidence that the BBC has always been good at writing effectively and efficiently.

Quick steps to improving readability (Reflections on GCD post)

As well as a couple of simple steps to take to improve readability of sites (below), this is just a short post to flag up an article I found recently by Gail Diggs at GCD Marketing: When “Bad Writing” is Good. Essentially, the old rules of copy writing are “thrown out the window” because of the way that users read text on screen in short, scanning ways and are often impatient to find the next web page to read. This compared to the paper-based format of ‘leisure reading’.

Usability and SEO of hyperlinks and link text (Reflections on Jakob Nielsen)

Jakob Nielsen is proclaimed as the guru of web usability, analysing and writing about usability and SEO methods any web designer, developer or author can apply to their site. He is both adored and panned by the web community for his insightful and informative, but hideously designed website*. Ranked very highly in the community, his work (when you ignore the shameless promotion of his pricey conferences, reports and books) quite often presents a particular argument followed by a very short counter-argument.

Beware the fold – Designing for netbooks

Web designers need to be more aware of the popularity of netbooks as cheap, low-tech, laptop notebooks. This popularity has suggested that a significant proportion of web users are quite happy with low-power processing (hence longer battery life) in order they can check their email and favourite websites on the move. This has spelt an end, or if not an end then a fork, in the ever increasing screensize theory.

Fixed width or full width websites?

I recently read an article on A List Apart called Fluid Grids. This got me thinking on how many websites use fixed width columns and how many used full window width to display content. Certainly when the web was young, the design of many websites (quite often personal web pages) were full width, expecially with the typical resolutions being 640×480 or 800×600 if you were lucky. The lack of screen space meant that to have any area dedicated to ‘airy’ white space would result in lines of text comprising three words. Since then, we’ve had more screen space to play with and then the dilemma of to fix or not to fix lurks around every corner.