redesigning the website

September 29, 2009 ·

i took a spin of the recently released google fast flip (i know i'm late to the game, it's all about sidewiki now) and it got me thinking of how bothersome going to websites is these days. as fast flip rethinks how we read news, i believe a rethink needs to happen on how we view web content.

here's where we are in 2009: sites are all about stickiness and page views. ad supported sites deliver an incredibly cluttered experience for their audience, and the advertisers. a page is peppered with all manner of navigation, info-buttons, promotions, ad units (multiple), forms, calls-to-action, links, columns, and every-which-way to serve up the content in tiny slivers. the result is pretty ugly. the hope is that the more you readily see, the longer you will stay on the site because something might grab your interest.

it's all too much, really.

beyond the visual look of the site, it's about structure and experience as well that need an overhaul. content isn't seamless and integrated, it's linked out (still on site though). articles are spread over multiple pages. there's a lot of scrolling to get through a page in it's entirety (which means it's mostly ignored). social tools are rare. content types are siloed (video player vs. integrated with the page).

it can be quite onerous to navigate and enjoy.

i come at this from both an advertiser and audience perspective. as a site visitor, i'm being bombarded and am overwhelmed with the plethora of (mostly) garbage a site is throwing at me. as an advertiser (or agent thereof) i'm not getting the value out of my ad placements i could or should be.

yes, people wanted more at their fingertips so sites put more there. but they missed the 'more' part they should have focused on - more intelligence in structuring it, laying it out and presenting it ('it' being content). there's certainly a fine line between just enough and too much on a given webpage. more often than not, it veers toward the 'too much' camp, often wildly.

as an advertiser, i've seen the value of ad spaces on websites deteriorate over the years. you've got banners in inconsequential locations where they are out of the viewer's periphery, and a cornucopia of ad units littered across the page fighting to stand out. yes there's some new impact ad units that are starting to become more common, but that's not changing the standard much nor is it solving the experience.

here's some initial thoughts on what i'm thinking that would make for a good site design

  • a site 'capsule' that is properly sized to maximize the user's browser window and usable space (vertically and horizontally)
  • the centerpiece acts as a 'content' player so all media types are viewed in this window, not separately as is with text (main content), video (players), and photo (albums) now
  • little to no scrolling (no more 'fold')
  • ancillary content area served based on user interest, habits and inputs (not throwing everything under the sun at them)
  • navigation that is tidy, concise and expandable to be more robust when interacted with
  • 1 or 2 meaningful, integrated ad positions that are noticeable and have value (still accommodates custom units and over-the-page)
  • powerful search capabilities (a must in these content rich times)
  • strong social integration (a must in these social times)
maybe i'm off on this or alone in it, but i feel we need an overhaul or at least rethink how we see websites as experiences. right now, they're a cluttered mess and advertisers are not seeing the value they should. maybe it's not as drastic as outlined above, but work needs to be done.

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