Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rule #4 - Keep your toys to yourself

There is a tendency on many sites to clutter up the home page with stuff that is of no interest to readers. Counters. Awards. Things the author cares about, but no one else.

The key point here is focus. Your web site has a purpose. Each page has a purpose. Everything should contribute to that.

This is not to say that you can't have fun with things. Take awards, for instance--I have nothing against those, and have a few myself. But they're all stashed away on an awards page; those who are interested can look, and those who don't care don't have to deal with it. Awards really don't belong on your home page.

Counters are another sticking point. No one cares how many other people have been to your web site. If possible, get your access counts from your server's logs. If those aren't available, use a hidden counter, although remember that even those will require an additional internet connection, and will slow down the loading of your page.

And then there are the people who collect animated gifs. These are incredibly distracting. I'll have more to say on these shortly. For now, I'll only say that most of the animations I've seen are pointless, cute but no more. They are confections. As Bruce Sterling once said, no one ever cried over the beauty of a cupcake.

Advertising is another kind of distraction. Think about it: Do you really want to go through all the work of attracting someone to your site, only to suggest that they might be happier somewhere else? Many advertisements offer hidden counters as an inducement, but they're not worth it. And you get to advertise your site as well--except that it takes thousands of hits on your site to get an extra hundred hits through the advertisement. You can assume, at least, that many people leave your site to follow an ad, and they may never return. I'd suggest that you don't bother with advertisements; they're not worth it unless you're getting a lot of money.