Instead of a single article on one topic, this issue will consist of several thoughts that, while not complex or in need of lengthy explanations, are important nonetheless.
Making a Splash Without a Splash Page
Several years ago, lots of site owners were enamored with the concept of a home page with swirling, scrolling and spinning graphics fitting of the opening of the 10 O'clock news. Instead of displaying meaningful information and intuitive navigation as a first impression, site owners chose to put "Splash Pages" as their home page. Glitzy animations, created by Macromedia's Flash program would capture the visitor's attention, and surely impress them...or so they thought. Site visitors would happily sit through a 20 second download, then watch a 1 or 2 minute "movie" before they could get into the actual content areas of the site... right?
Attention spans have decreased... with the average Web site visitor now only giving you 3 seconds to convince them that your site has what they're looking for. Unless you're an entertainment company with an established brand it's a safe bet to assume that "Loading Flash Movie" is not what they want to see. Even sites like Disney.com, Pepsi.com and MTV.com have learned to include navigational elements as part of their opening animation.
Bottom line: A Splash page with nothing but a gratuitous Flash animation is worse than a speed bump... it's a road block. If you have one of those as your home page, you NEED to have your developer remove it. If you still want the impact of Flash animation, have them embed compelling Flash content within your home page, along with navigation and content that they (and the search engine spiders) need to find the stuff they really came to your site to find.
(By the way, a Splash Page doesn't need to be built in Flash to hurt you. A main landing page with nothing but a big graphic, no HTML text, and a "Click Here to Enter Ssite" will accomplish the same effect, and as an added bonus could pretty much render you invisible to the search engines, as well. )
Blinded by the Flash
Several years ago, when traditional advertising agencies saw themselves potentially losing revenue to bona-fide Web developers, they decided that they could develop Web sites, too. While capable of developing beautiful graphic images for print or media, unfortunately the vast majority of them possessed absolutely no understanding of how the Web actually "works." Unfortunately, that lack of understanding produces great looking sites that remain low in (and even invisible to) search engines, display improperly on many browsers or operating systems, have an absence of all the best practice usability features, and contain virtually none of the back end functionality that will enable the site become the incredibly powerful tool it could have been.
What most agency clients end up with is a very expensive, but incorrectly constructed online brochure. But it sure looks nice! Kind of like paying the HUMMER price for a Ford Explorer... without an engine.
Bottom Line: If your site was built by an advertising agency, you NEED to have an experienced Web developer (one who understands functionality, best practice Web design, AND marketing) take a look at it and show you the 15-20 things that, like most agency sites, need a best practices tune-up.
One exception to the above: A bunch of Milwaukee's Top 50 Advertising Agencies and Creative Firms actually use Trivera as a Web development partner on client projects to make sure that part is done correctly. Contact us to see if your agency is among the handful that "get it."
I've Been Framed
Several years ago, when bandwidth was low and download speeds were slow, many Web developers built sites using an architecture known as "frames." Using that technique, your site's home page would actually consist of several pages, all embedded in frames within the main page. Typically, a navigational scheme (a Logo, menu buttons, etc.) would be contained in a frame across the top or down the left side. A main content area would be in another in the middle. Maybe some address and copyright information would sit in a footer in a frame at the bottom. And another frame on the right might contain some other content or links. The goal was to allow a visitor to browse through the site, without having to re-load all the buttons or graphics every time they accessed another page in the site. If done properly it was a great concept.
However, with cable modems, DSL and wireless broadband all now providing tons of bandwidth to the masses, downloading a bunch of buttons and logos and other graphics isn't the challenge it used to be. Newer HTML techniques make pages within non-frames sites load faster. From an architectural standpoint, frames are no longer necessary.
But when you consider the fact that all the search engines now search your entire site and individually index every single page, including those that were designed to come up in a frame, using frames construction can now hurt you. A searcher from Google could potentially be sent directly to a page from your site that was never designed to stand on its own. The visitor might find themselves staring at a full browser window with nothing but your navigational buttons. Or they might see nothing but a page of content, without any way to get to your home page...or even see your logo or company name!
Bottom line: If your site is still using frames construction, you NEED to have it rebuilt in a non-frames construction. How can you tell? If a scroll bar shows up anywhere in your site other than top to bottom along the entire far right, it probably uses frames. If you're not sure, send us an email (email@example.com) with your site's URL, and we'll let you know.
The Common Denominator
Over the ten years we've been in business, we've seen Web technologies emerge and then fall into obsolescence. We've seen Web sites emerge and fall into obsolescence. And we've seen Web developers emerge and fall into obsolescence. The best thing you can do for your business or organization is select a Web firm that has been around long enough to know what works and what doesn't work... and do what they recommend.
by Tom Snyder,
President and CEO, Trivera Interactive