Web designer says keep it simple

AUCKLAND (10/13/2003) - The tourism industry's Internet gateway to New Zealand gets a low mark from Irish Web design specialist Gerry McGovern.

McGovern says the Tourism Board site is an example of one bursting with "beautiful pictures of New Zealand", but intolerably slow to load as a result.

"The psychology of people on the Internet is impatience," says McGovern, who gave audiences in Auckland and Wellington the benefit of his nine years of Web experience last week. The main message was that designers need to scale back their ambitions and build sites with a maximum home page size of 50k bytes.

"The New Zealand tourism site is 112k bytes and took me 15 seconds to download." McGovern says countless studies have shown that computer users have little tolerance for processes that take longer than a second.

McGovern, who makes a living running Web design workshops around the world, believes successful Web sites are those that understand the publishing process. Publishers are willing to spend money on content, and limit the amount they foist on subscribers.

That realization is coming to many large organizations, according to McGovern, who says there's a growing trend to abandon content management systems in favor of employing editors with html skills. Their mission is to create quality content that enables site visitors to obtain the information they seek, or perform some process, as quickly as possible.

"No one's on the Web for fun; it's a very functional place," McGovern says.

He wonders what drugs 90s Web designers were on when they set out to create "sticky" Web sites. "Who wants to get stuck?" He's also a strong advocate of not attempting to reinvent the wheel, a point illustrated by comparing newspaper front pages from around the world: most feature the same basic layout. Similarly, Web design is gravitating toward a standard three-column layout with navigation aids on the left, main content in the middle and snippets on the right, and black text on white.

Forget, as well, about dreaming up original names for site features: how many airports call their departure lounges "woosh" rooms; or who attempts to call an exit anything but an exit.

Nor is McGovern a believer in animation tools like Flash, saying they remind him of "fifth-rate TV ads."

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