In looking at many web sites, I've come up with an informal list for a web critique. These questions approach some of the most common problems I often see. In special cases, there may be a very good reason why a web designer or implementor has used a technique or effect mentioned here, so all of these questions should be taken in the spirit that they may have a reasonable affirmative answer--but that answer better be good.

  1. Why have big graphics? What is the point of costing your user time and money by requiring them to download a large graphic image? In particular, why would you make them do this without their prior consent and choice?

  2. Why use graphics for words? If you do have graphics on a page, why would you use graphics to display words? The HTML FONT element allows you to set the size and color of text (for capable browsers). Certainly, you would want to use graphics for the special font used in a logo or brand name or icon, but why use graphics to display words when it is not necessary? Moreover, even if you do display words with graphics, why not use the Alt tag to allow users with non-graphic browsers to see the same thing?

  3. Why have a different logo on each page? Why not re-use your company or product logo from page to page so that users who have enabled the memory cache on their browser won't have to download the logo from each page? Why have so many variations of your company logo or brand name throughout the web? (In one web, I counted more than five variations on the company logo, yet each variation served the same purpose).

  4. Why have a different background on each page? The use of the Background attribute of the HTML BODY element can allow you to create a unique look and feel for your web. Why would you want to change this background for every page of your web? This causes users to have to download each new background, and each new background gives a whole new visual cue to the user. You loose the benefit of having a common look and feel for all your web pages.

  5. Why use old metaphors? Why structure your Web so it looks like tv screens or uses "back" and "forward" metaphors for movement (like a VCR or a slide show)?. Hypertext allows you to use associative linking so that users can have the choice to access information just at the time they might want it, rather than in a pre-defined sequence. (One web I encountered used the VCR metaphor to an extreme: it showed a picture of a VCR player and used that as the repeated icon on all of its pages).

  6. Why call your web a "home page"? Are you really creating just a single page to give information to your users? Isn't what you are creating a web of information, associatively linked? If you are creating Web-based information for an institution or a corporation, you shouldn't be creating a "home page." This term implies that you will create a single, gigantic file that contains massive graphics and too much text to see all on one screen. The term "home page" generally refers to the default page that a browser displays when it accesses the web site. For example, CNN's home page is, but the people at CNN do far more than just maintain that one file.

  7. Why do a "bait and switch" if you offer a text alternative to your web? If you provide a text-only alternative to your site, why would you provide any links to pages to graphics on your site once the user has chosen this alternative? You can provide alternatives to users of text-only browsers by using the Alt attribute of your HTML IMG elements. Users who want no graphics often turn graphics loading off. If you are not going to do it consistently, why provide a graphics-only alternative at all?

  8. Why not get to the point? No doubt you can't be psychic about what your users will need to see on any given page of your web. But why not get to the point of your site or the purpose of any given page right away? Hypertext allows you to layer information, so why not place any asides or related comments in other pages that the user can access if they need that information? For example, do you need the full text of your legal notice on the home page of your web? Why not provide it in a separate file for people to access if they wish?

  9. Why not focus on your unique contribution? If your site is about, say, used automobiles, why provide so many links to Internet information? Why not get right to the strength of your site and provide coverage of your subject area in depth? Why provide so much information not related to your area of business or expertise? (I've seen many sites, where I couldn't figure out what area of business or expertise a company was focusing on.) If you are are a major telecommunications company, why provide a soap opera on your web? What benefit does it give your customers?

  10. Why use all the buzzwords for no reason? Why provide market-speak to your users? Do they really care that your products and services are "interactive, intelligent solutions"? What are your projects? Can your users discern what their benefits are to them easily and quickly?

  11. Why be cheesy? Why use overly-cute graphics and language which is dumbed-down so much it would insult an eight-year old? If your site is meant for children, clearly identify that; if meant for adults, why not give them the impression that you expect them to be intelligent, busy people who are accessing your web to find useful information for their interests? Why try to make the web look good just in the conference room when the boss approves it rather than appeal to users' needs?

  12. Why not identify the location of your service or company when it is important? If you are providing a web for a restaurant or store that is involves physical contact for the transaction, why not tell the user where that store or restaurant is, including the city, state, and possibly the country? Users of your web may come across the page showing the menu for this wonderful restaurant or the catalog for the fantastic store, but then be faced with the identification: "find us on Main Street!" What city? What state? What country? Why not tell people where you are if you expect them to find you?
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2020-03-19 · John December · Terms © December Communications, Inc.