Nobody starts off to build a code-heavy, bloated website, so why is it that so many end up there?

One reason is the ‘what-if’ factor.

Here’s what happens:

Little things grow into big thingsIn the initial meetings, everyone agrees that this new website should be lean and user-friendly. The website, so the story goes, will be geared towards loading quickly (great for those on dial-up connections and mobile browsers…and everyone else too, really, although those speedsters don’t often think about their monthly bandwidth caps), and keep the user in mind at all times.

Ah – how refreshing!  Making a website for a user.

The design stage is fine – everyone agrees on the easy-to-use navigation that helps users find their information quickly.  Who could say no to that? By arranging your navigation in some sort of hierarchy that makes sense to your users, you can help them find what they want quickly.  Will they look at everything on your site? Maybe not, but they’ll leave your site having had a good experience (versus being frustrated out of their tree) and are more likely to come back again or recommend your site to others (yay!).

“But wait!” someone (who was in on all the other conversations) says.  “What if the user doesn’t know to look at the top right hand corner for the home button? Let’s add ‘home’ to our main navigation so that folks will know where to find it.” And so it begins.

Without any testing or feedback from actual users, those involved in the project start to have little panic attacks that their users won’t be able to find their way back to the home page (despite the logo-linking, the upper-right-hand-corner link and the secondary navigation link at the bottom of each page). Well, if they won’t look for ‘home’ on the website, who can trust the user to look for ‘contact us’ (which is the purpose of every business site – NOT!)? So ‘contact us’ gets added to the pile. While trying to solve all of the possible ‘what ifs’, the website creators fail to notice that most of their users would find all the links just fine and they wouldn’t have to wade through all the squaddle (just made that word up) that comes from having so many choices presented.

As the development progresses, little things get added here and there that don’t add true value to the user (“Let’s move this picture to the right.” “Let’s make everything open in a new page.”). It could be argued that we create bloat byte – by – byte rather than all in one grand chunk. It becomes more difficult to argue against every little change, so the developer gives up and gives the customer what they want even though it isn’t what was agreed upon at the beginning, nor does it do the website any favours.

So – watch out for the creeping bloat by evaluating everything that you do when building the website – whether it is adding a feature or a text link and ask yourself ‘Does this make the website better?’ and ‘Does this give the user a better experience?’.  Vigilance will keep your site lean in the code and make for a smoother user experience.