Path: Home Page > [Services >] Websites > Websites Background
Almost everyone is making websites nowadays. So do I. Have a look at the pages below and decide if you would want me to design your website. I have learnt to avoid the pitfalls that make websites difficult to read, abominating or repulsive, or will make the reader choose something else instead.
The website you are currently reading was designed, created, uploaded, and is continuously maintained by Qomputor Education Datasystems AB. Although I favourize a similar layout on all pages, it may sometimes vary when I try out new ideas.
The Swedish Post Office's Hybrid Mail System, a semi-electronic, semi-physical alternative to ordinary paper mail, was to be presented to the EU, and the Post Office chose to present it in the form of a website. I got a raw text from the Post Office and made all the illustrations and created the environment of the site myself. To tell the truth, I got a few, not very uplifting illustrations to redesign. Below you see the result.
Before the “treatment” it looked like this. Not very beautiful, no more than a sketch.
After my “treatment” in CorelDRAW it looked like this. Some difference? A discrete, hopeful background means a lot, as does cohesively selected colours. All the pictures of the presentation were created using the same colour range, the same typeface and the same background. This gives unity to the presentation.
Företagsuniversitetet is part of Stockholm University, aiming mostly at selling coursers to companies. They wanted to start supporting distance tuition for the "PC-Support" course, a course that I wrote, by the way. I was put in the brain trust, and after some time we concluded that everything would be best run across the Internet. I designed a website, full of information for the participants to work with between the actual lectures.
But the participants need a push now and then, in the form of electronic letters, to keep them going at full steam, and to make them read a little extra before the next lecture. This I realised in the form of a Visual Basic program that reads the curriculum and sends customised letters to all participants. In this way, most of the work with distance tuition has been automated.
I got one comment from a Web bureau: "Wow! How nice and simple! Straight on target! You don't see that very often. And best of all, it works!!" A man with experience, it seems.
This customer wanted a blue theme with round shapes and colour fades. I designed a page based on four standing and reclining concentric ellipses with various diametres, with the main element, the ball, repeated along a diagonal, falling from the upper left corner. The page is divided into a left pane with buttons, and a larger, right part where all the information goes. The left pane is one big, clickable picture, because it loads faster than a lot of separate button images. The main page has the Earth as a background image, to not disturb the download of the four buttons in front. They download in only 10 seconds, but their alternative text appears in about one second. The result was a fast page, enjoyable to the eye. (The annoying banding in the colour fades does not occur in reality.)
Anna Norrby is an opera singer and moderator. She wanted an elegant theme with a velvet left frame. The whole site is in various dark blue tones. It uses the well-known layout with with a left frame with links in red, and a right frame holding the dynamic information. The background of the starting page is based on one of Anna's own water-colour paintings. There are some music samples included, in wav format for the conoisseur, and in mp3 format for those with limited bandwidth. Thanks to the good preparations, the whole site was ready and put on the Internet in only 12 hours.
Who has made better drawings than Leonardo da Vinci? His sketch of a giant cross-bow was used for background in this website suggestion to a customer who wanted brown tones and thin lines. Everything looks like it was hand-drawn with ink. The typeface on the page, the quite unusual Zapf Calligraphic, was chosen because it went very well with Leonardo's style. Sober and classical.
If I would ever be asked to make a website for a Japanese Sushi resturant, I would hand them this proposition. Beautiful, with subdued colours, and an attempt to keep the buttons and bars in the same colours as the backgroumd. Also, the fonts have a hint of Japanese in them, without being too hard to read. (Should someone knowledgable in Japanese discover that the background is Chinese, I regret that. After all it's only a proposition.)
You probably recognize this one. It's the website you are reading right now. I've put it here for the sake of completeness only. A traditional website with buttons to the left, with a minimum of knick-knacks. Frames have been employed because they facilitate usage and lend structure to the website.
The Information Quotient Says it All
A good structure, easy overview and an Information Quotient that makes it possible for us to grasp the page in one glance. The fine thing about hyperlinks is that it is possible to present fairly simple and structured information, and link it up to larger amounts of information.
When you first set your eyes on a web page, you must start to filter:
If there are too many Information Units this automatic process will not start. Instead you will begin quite randomly at the upper left and the stupidly plow through the page, hunting for a loose end to start at. If the layout is too bad, or there are too many Information Units you will never succeed, and instead choose another site.
Information Quotient (IQ) = (kpix*(1,310,720/your_resolution))/iu
|Many Portals (e.g. the early versions of the Swedish “Passagen” and “Torget” in 1998, Swedish web sites raised to the skies by the media) had IQ's between 4 and 5; way too intricate to grasp. The trend continues with Swedish “Spray”.|
|The website of the Vatican www.vatican.va was 16.26 in 1998, and was a pleasure to read.|
|Sparse websites, having an IQ over 30 are too empty and insignificant. They simply carry too little information.|
Traps not to Fall In
The worst sin to be committed on the slow Internet we have today, and probably will have to live with in a foreseeable future, is to have too many or too large pictures.
I always try to, if not minimize the amount of pictures, to minimize their file size. A page containing some 25 pictures, which take 15 minutes to load will make most people bored. A page should be designed with the modem user in mind, not the one with a direct network connection. A picture could be manipulated in many ways to become “smaller.” Mostly, we are talking about advanced image processing.
My default is to have smaller thumbnail pictures in the text, and use links to full size representations of the pictures, for those who want to wait. It gives everyone a chance.
Many people choose black, blue or red backgrounds without restraint for their websites, mystic background pictures or use text with a colour of such low or strange contrast with the background that it can be read only with great difficulty.
It is obvious that our eyes are made for reading black characters on a white background, which is something we have been taught since childhood. Changing this just because you can have blue characters on a violet background, doesn't really increase readability.
It is possible to have background pictures, but they should be low-profile, low-contrast and interfere with the text as little as possible.
The user must be able to comprehend that he is actually moving within the same website, as he flips the pages. That's why it is important to use the same environment everywhere. The same typeface, the same colour combinations and the same background pictures everywhere.