Tag Archives: Design

2008 U.S. Presidential Election: Candidates’ Sites Compared

I figured it was about time someone compared all the candidates’ websites.

This post is more of a gallery, as I’m not reviewing the designs in depth. I am, though, including a few bullet points below each design’s screenshot.

My favorite designs are probably (in order) BarackObama.com, JohnMccain.com, and Dennis4President.com.

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Pro Blog Design – Before and After

Michael of Pro Blog Design launched a new iteration of his blog’s sidebar on Friday. Since I knew about the planned update a couple days in advance, I snagged a screenshot of the old one before it was replaced. Stop looking at me like that. Wouldn’t you go and take a screenshot of a cool design if you knew it was about to change?

I’m sure you can guess what I’m planning.

Now that the new sidebar is up, it’s time to compare it with the old one. Below is a side-by-side (or sidebar-by-sidebar? :D ) comparision.

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Right vs. Left Sidebar

In a two-column layout, where should the sidebar go? Should it be to the left of the content, or to the right? This is an important question to consider.

First of all, what are you going to put in the sidebar? Is it going to be for navigation? Are you going to use it for extra, less important things, like widgets and blogrolls?

I’ve found that navigational sidebars are more effective when placed on the left, rather than the right. Meanwhile, sidebars with less important things should go to the right, as you want people to focus on the content more. I find a left-hand navigational sidebar more comfortable than one on the right, don’t you? Maybe it’s the whole reading-from-left-to-right thing.

So, remember this:

  • Sidebars that are mainly navigation should go on the left because it feels more natural to look for navigation there. If you have a lot of navigational links, it might be a good idea to put them in a sidebar.
  • Sidebars that are mainly less important things should go on the right, which distracts from the content column less. If you don’t have many navigational links, and you can put them in a horizontal navigation bar near the top, you’ll probably want to go with this option.

What is Web 2.0 Design?

“Web 2.0″ is kind of a ridiculous term. It’s array of meanings is so broad that it has virtually no meaning at all. Take a look at the Wikipedia page if you want to see some attempts at defining it.

The term “Web 2.0 Design” has a little more meaning. It refers to an actual style of design.

What is a Web 2.0 design?

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21 High-Impact Designs

I’ve been looking-through design galleries again…

Today’s design roundup, 21 High-Impact Designs, will cover highly visual designs that really grab your attention as soon as they load. As usual, they’re the kind of really cool designs that you can just sit and look at for 15 minutes.

Okay, are you ready for the designs?

Put on your 3D-glasses and let’s continue.

Actionhead Studios

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The Three “Hotspots” In Your Web Browser

Do you know what parts of your web browser’s chrome get the most attention (among “average users” anyway)? The are

  • The “Back” button
  • The scrollbar
  • The tab bar

Traditionally, people have argued that you should put important elements (e.g. navigation) near the scrollbar or the Back button, as they were previously the most-used parts of the browser.

Nowadays, the scrollbar isn’t as big of a focus point, as scroll-wheel mice are fairly common. I have one, and I can’t stand using a “plain” mouse anymore.

The Back button is still used a lot, but, personally, I don’t use it anywhere as much as I used to. Since switching to Firefox a few years ago, I’ve used tabs to avoid using the back button as much as possible. If I need to keep going back and forth between a page of links and the linked pages, I just open the links in new tabs.

What does all this mean? Observe the diagram below.

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When Should You Use AJAX?

AJAX, or Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, was probably the most-hyped web programming technique in the last two years. It’s no surprise, as it enables you to do a lot that couldn’t have been done just a few years ago.

AJAX is being used in more and more places, often when it doesn’t need to be…and when it shouldn’t. With all the talk about how you can use AJAX for everything, the real question is when should you.

You should use AJAX in places where it will improve the user experience. One example is with polls. Why should a full pageload be required just to vote in a poll (or view the results)? That’s a waste of your users’ time, and a waste of your server resources.

Do not use AJAX for loading your main content, though. It’s not a good idea. I’ve seen a few sites that have tried it, and it doesn’t work that well. You have to come up with extra solutions for search engines, because they can’t understand your JavaScript trickery (you thought the dreaded “text-only version” link only applied to Flash sites? ). You also cause problems for people using some browsers (Safari, IE5, etc).

Basically, you want to use AJAX for things where an extra pageload would be irritate the heck out of everyone. Suppose you have a star-rating system, like on Netflix. Wouldn’t it be horrible if you had to sit through a page refresh every time you rated a movie? Use your own judgment.

Simplify Your Search?

Here’s something interesting to think about: Should you simplify the design of your search fields? Looking at various sites, like IMDB and Amazon, I’ve noticed that a lot of sites feature drop-down boxes allowing you to pick what areas of the site to search (in the case of Amazon, Books, DVD, Electronics, etc). Here are a couple of examples:

Then there are sites that move this feature to an “Advanced Search” page.

There are two arguments about this:

  1. It makes it easier to find things by offering more power up front.
  2. It confuses people to have too many options.

I kind of like having the extra functionality within reach when I’m searching, but that doesn’t mean everyone else does. However, I absolutely cannot stand sites that force you to make a selection, rather than having an “all” option. It’s not like it’s difficult to create a search system that can look in all areas at once.

What do you think? Is it better to have the dropdown, or not? Why? Of course it really depends on the website, and the audience.

How Many Images is Too Many?

It depends. Theoretically, the less images on a page the better, as your pages will load faster (and put less strain on your server).

There are two types of images. There are template-level images and post-level images. Template-level images exist in your blog’s header/footer/sidebar template, and therefore appear on every page on your site. Post-level images are part of your content, and they belong to an individual posts.

In your template, you should have as little images as possible. When you create a design, you want to keep the essential images to a minimum. Use tiles, well-optimized image blocks, etc. As of this writing, this blog’s design consists of two images (the logo and the tiled edge image). Once you have your mock-up of the design, figure out the best way to break it up. You want as little images as possible, and you want to keep them as small (as in kilobytes) as you can.

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WordPress Theme of the Month: Visionary 1.1

Visionary is this month’s highlighted WordPress theme.

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