It takes a lot of time to redesign a website. If you can't do it yourself, it costs a lot of money. If it's not broke, don't fix it is usually good advice. However, sometimes you need to look at your site through someone else's eyes to see if it can be improved.
Cherryfield.net will be offering courses in website design and maintenance, many of which will be free to those hosting sites on the Cherryfield.net server. There will be courses this winter in Florida, and next spring in Maine.
Some of these courses will also be available on-line. This is the first sample.
Let's look at the example of the Town of Cherryfield. They wanted to update their website. The facts were wrong and the pictures were old. This seemed to be just a simple update, not a redesign.
However, when I looked at the website, I noticed a couple of other problems. The biggest problem was that it was hard to navigate the site. On the first (home) page you seemed to have to scroll forever, past banners, signs, and old pictures that you didn't want to see over and over again, just to find buttons to get to other pages. The other problem I ran into was that the pages used "applets" (little snipits of programs which perform special tasks) -- they are often used to add pizazz to a website. The problem was that these particular applets caused some browsers trouble displaying the pages, or even caused the browsers to crash (disappear from your screen after some kind of error message).
Having a fancy website doesn't do you any good if people can't see it!
I liked the basic red, white and blue theme of the website and I thought the flag surrounded by blueberries made a great logo for Cherryfield. I hope someday to learn who created it. (I did clean up the image a bit, but it could still use more work. It had been saved as a JPG instead of a GIF like it should have been, but that's another lesson...)
I basically kept the same pages, but added buttons in the same top-left location on each page. The particular applets on this site didn't really do much useful: The scrolling banner could be replaced by an animated GIF instead of an applet. Another applet highlighted buttons as your cursor moved over them, but this can be accomplished without an applet.
In addition to putting buttons on the top left of each page, on long pages I also put "text buttons" at the bottom of the page so you didn't have to scroll back to the buttons at the top.
Take a look at the before and after versions and see what I'm talking about:
You see your website on your computer, but remember, the important thing is how other people see it on their computer. They use different browsers: Internet Explorer, Netscape, Opera, etc. Depending on their monitor, they may also use very different screen resolutions.
You need to test your website by viewing it using several different browsers and at several different screen resolutions. (You also want to try using "large fonts" as well as "small fonts" -- people who have trouble seeing their screen often turn on "large fonts" which cause trouble with many web pages.)
Sound is another issue. Some people hate it, but some nice sound that doesn't go on for very long can leave a positive impression with people who view your page.
What did we learn from these ramblings?
For an example of buttons which are highlighted as you move your cursor over them, check out the buttons on the PMYC website. I consider this a simple, but elegant, website. What do you think?
Come back, we'll be adding more lessons.
Even better, host your page on Cherryfield.net and come to our classes to discuss your pages.
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