Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rule #6 - Don't try to be cool

Being cool generally means that your web site isn't so cool. "Cool" generally seems to mean distractions, self-promotion, and such. A lot of it is counter-productive.

The human visual system tracks to motion. This is why blink is so evil, and why animated gifs are distracting. At first, these things sound great: "I want this to be noticed!" The question is whether you want your reader to see anything else on your page. Every blink, every movement, is going to draw attention away from everything else. And if you use these to draw attention to something adjacent to them, such as text, their mere presence will be extremely annoying when the reader is trying to read what you want them to read.

Background graphics is another way for coolness to interfere with your website. Most backgrounds, even lightly textured ones, reduce legibility of plain text. Different browsers--even different versions of the same browser--differ considerably in the amount of contrast displayed in a background, so what looks OK to you might not be legible to someone else. Solid colors that contrast strongly with text colors are really the only way to ensure legibility.

It should go without saying that high-contrast or extremely busy backgrounds are really very un-cool. It should go without saying, but there are some really hideous backgrounds on the web that totally destroy their pages.

Understatement works surprisingly well on the web. Remember that when your page comes up, your reader will be completely focused on it. So know what it is that you want to say, then say it and be done with it. If you've done your job well, you'll get your point across. If you haven't, no amount of cool is going to compensate.