We have been building websites since 2003 and there is one thing that never ceases to amaze me. What is it about the web that sometimes makes even the smart and astute glaze over and falter over simple, common sense stuff?
Let us take ‘domains’ for instance- the website domain is an extremely important aspect of a business that could well be worth a fortune. It is extremely important to keep your internet properties secure and ensure you own your domain, as the loss of a domain can virtually ruin your entire business. I recently spoke to some of my clients regarding this issue, and asked them if they have all checked if they own their domains. They replied in the affirmative. And business leaders that they are, I was sure they would have, too. But I was in for a surprise when I returned to base and did a quick check. A good number of them had unwittingly left their businesses exposed and vulnerable, when a few simple precautionary steps were all they needed to keep it secure.
I have often noticed, people outside the IT industry generally seem to have this perception of websites as some “digital” hocus pocus stuff that runs on complicated technology that is outside the purview of understanding of untrained minds. It is surprising that normally intelligent and clever people, who are experts in their own professions, have an altogether different approach when it comes to grasping the media of the web. They just seem to create a ‘mental barrier’, filtering out the unfamiliar bits and keeping their vision focused on what they can see easily.
Well, I would say creating a good website is more or less like getting your message clearly across to old Mr Magoo. Your task is to convey information effectively to an audience, who can only see the surface bits of your creation. They only see what is clear and evident to them on the outside, and follow the paths they can find easily and without assistance. It should be remembered that they are not always able to dig in deeper and see the larger picture. So, the only way to prevent them from stumbling is ‘simplicity’- simple, accurate, well expressed content with an easy and logical path, and easy navigation that would help them find their way around your site.
However, this somehow is a point that people from the creative industries- journalism, copywriting, PR etc. – just seem to miss. They can look at a brochure and talk the hind legs off a donkey. But put the same material on to a website and there is silence!
What needs to be understood here is- even in the web world you are dealing with the same old elements of communication, words and pictures as in the print media; but with the difference that it needs to be presented in a more simple, concise and quickly comprehendible manner to an audience who are not used to seeing it presented on a medium that is not quite as familiar to them as the good old medium of the pen and paper.
Just see to it that you don’t get intimidated by all those terms and jargons and the ever so serious sounding ‘digital’ expressions (I personally have never liked the use of the ‘digital’ term because it implies some sort of machine magic that is beyond the levels of comprehension of the non-tech-savvy individual).
All you need to do is treat your website with the right approach and you will find your website hits the right note with your audience, without anyone telling you it is complicated stuff.
I once had a Motorola phone with a menu system so bad that I could not as much as figure out how to send a simple text message. I was struggling with the technologically handicapped contraption, when Mr Jobs came along with the smart invention of the iPhone. And needless to say, the navigation is such a breeze and just about anyone can operate it without having to call up technical support for sending a simple s.m.s.
Like with all designs, ‘simple’ is the key here…and the very same principles apply to the web, too. As it says in the old project management cartoon, what chance does the audience have of understanding what you have to say, when you are not sure of what your web project is supposed to convey.
When you have a complete understanding of what you are working on, it is easy to keep things simple and there is no need to hide anywhere. Whatever you have created can easily be placed under the spotlight, and whatever you have to say will be conveyed to the intended audience in all its depth and clarity. If you have a message, it will be seen, heard and understood; and will not be lost or masked behind any of the technological boulders strewn around to block your way.
Thank you Mr Jobs!