“You Want Me To Go Where?” (Making Your Linking Text Count)

Sweating at a workoutI was at my workout class this afternoon and had a little epiphany about linking text and how valuable it is to give clear instructions and use it wisely.

Did I mention I was at a workout class?  🙂 It was one of those where you are lifting weights to the beat of the music, which takes your mind off the hideous torture that it is to lift weights (but I digress…).

Every time we had to change what we were doing, the instructor would call out instructions.  Sometimes she would say something like ‘here we go!’ and sometimes she would say ‘Let’s take that up for a clean and press’.  Now – which do you think was easier to follow?

Let’s assume that I was on this website at this workout for the first time. Would I know what to do with ‘here we go’? Not necessarily.  It is non-specific, non-directional and non…well, anything, except I knew I was suppose to do something.

But when the instructor calls out ‘Dead row – let’s do 4!’, I know exactly what my next step should be.

And that’s what good linking text does for your website user. Good linking text says ‘find out more about what our clients are saying’, instead of ‘click here’.

How about this – if they haven’t read the paragraph of text in front of the linking text, would a user still know where it was going to take them?  Linking text should be a call to action.  ‘Click here’ makes me want to say ‘Oh yeah? Make me’.

What does your linking text say to your users?

(BTW – if you are in the Kingston area and want to know what kind of exercise class made me think about this, check out Omega Fit Club – Group Power.  Love it!)

Javascript menus – poof!…they’re gone!

I recently was approached by a business owner who wanted to redesign their website.  They had actually done a fine do-it-yourself job up until this point, but were ready to take it to the next level.

One of the things that I noticed in my initial assessment was that the main navigation was handled with javascript.

There are so many javascript libraries on the internet that it is easy to find one that will do neat effects with your menu, but resist the temptation.  Here’s why:

current site with javascript on

This screenshot shows the navigation on the side, because I’m browsing with javascript turned on.

current site no javascript

Poof! I disable my javascript and the navigation disappears.

Most of the cool effects that designers use to rely on javascript for can be achieved with css, and there are lots of websites to help you with out there too.

The lesson learned is that if something doesn’t function, it becomes worthless.  When it comes to your website’s navigation, it is pretty important that it functions! If you must use a menu driven by javascript or flash, the very least you should do to satisfy your ‘non-javascript-or-flash-users’ is to provide an alternative text-based menu on your website.  Your users will thank you.

The all-Flash website – to do or not to do

I came across this little gem today while doing some research for something else (isn’t that how it always goes?) and couldn’t resist the opportunity to share.

flash website flowchartIn case you are wondering, I’m not against the use of all things Flash.  I love Flash for moving things, galleries, adding the ‘wow’ factor, etc – but not for entire sites.  In fact, I get a little ticked off sometimes when I see a site entirely built in Flash that could easily be rendered in HTML/CSS with little or no loss of …well…flash-i-ness.

You can read the entire (short) article that holds as true today as when it was written in 2006.  In fact, you can see in the comments that it has continually shown up in conversations over the years, because people are still asking the question.

The simple bottom line is that plug-ins, such as Flash, require the user to actually have the plug-in before they view your site – how rude!

Some people prefer to browse the web without plug-ins or with plug-ins disabled to avoid the longer download time or the annoying moving graphics that distract them from the real content on the site.

Others are using devices on which plug-ins have been disabled (think iPhone…) or blocked.

Whatever the reason, consider the user of your site when planning your platform.  Unless the majority of your site’s users are going to be creative-types (we love Flash and always have it enabled because it does such cool stuff!), think about dialing it back a bit.

Update April 6/10 – I was reading a blog called Nine by Blue where I read a great example of why a website shouldn’t be built entirely in Flash.  Here’s the tell-all paragraph:

The individual pages don’t have corresponding unique URLs. All content loads on a single URL — www.heartlandcafeseattle.com. This means that search engines can’t index the content as they don’t have URLs to associate with that content. In addition, the content can’t be shared on social media. The site has an events calendar, but if I saw a cool event there and I wanted to post on Facebook about it and invite my friends, I’d have to tell them to go to the home page, then click events in the sidebar, then click…  Why is this? Well, the site is entirely in Flash. It absolutely doesn’t need to be in Flash. The site could keep the exact look and feel it currently has and be in HTML.

(from Nine By Blue “Should Restaurants Care About Local Search, accessed April 6, 2010)

Hopefully the restaurant in question sees the blog and changes the site, but if nothing else, it is a great example for the rest of us of what happens when you choose ‘flashy’ over ‘web-savvy’.

Adding Copyright Info to Your Website

Adding copyright to your website reminds users that the content on your site was created by you (it was, wasn’t it?!?) and that you own the rights to it.

Because websites are generally created over time, the copyright information contains two years – the year that the information was first published to the internet and the year when changes were last made.  Many websites simply update the last date to the current year in January, but it really shouldn’t change until you put new content on your site.

Besides reminding people about who owns the content on your site, your copyright information helps users to know that you are adding new material to your website.  A website with the current year’s date in the copyright seems much fresher than one that is dated even one year prior. Internet users expect web content to be refreshed and updated regularly.

Life in 140 characters

Summing up life in 140 characters has become a challenge and skill (that’s 66 – but this is a blog, so I don’t have to be done yet!).

Using Twitter and Facebook to communicate with the world has made me think about the necessity of getting right to the point, saying what you mean to say and getting out of there. These two particular portals have now trained me to think in smaller bites of information.

All this led me to think about site architecture on websites.

Too many times, I see websites that are all about the owner and not the user. By this I mean that the owner or developer pays the most attention to information or content that is important to them and spends seemingly little time on presenting the information for which the user is most likely looking.

Perhaps a better approach would be to start out thinking about what the user is likely coming to the website for and then building a website that serves that purpose.

With that in mind, the next two websites from CarricDesign will feature bold, easy to follow choice paths right from the home page. If the implementation follows as it is being designed to work, these websites will be different and set apart from their competitors, simply because they will make it very easy for users to find the most commonly sought-after information first.

I can’t wait to see how this affects the usability and user-ship of the websites!