Good Web sites

This chapter is about the most important question in CoreDogs:

What makes a Web site good?

This lesson’s goals

By the end of this lesson, you should know:

  • It’s important to know what makes a site “good.” Otherwise, you won’t know what to build.
  • A good site helps people meet their goals. It helps the people who use it, the people who own it, and the people who build it.
  • Some Web problems are easy to spot, like text that’s hard to read. But…
  • Site goodness is about more than look. It comes to down to helping people reach their goals.

In CoreDogs, “people” includes humans as well as us dogs.

My answer

Here’s what I think. That means me, Kieran, the dog writing this.

A good site helps people meet their goals. It helps the people who use the site, the people who own it, and the people who build it.

Three stakeholders

Notice the three different types of people: users, owners, and builders.

Each one is a “stakeholder.” That is, each has an interest in the site being good. Each one has goals. A good Web site helps them all meet their goals. The more it helps, the better the site is.

People who use a site have goals like buying an MP3 player, or learning about core Web tech. A good Web site helps users do these things quickly and easily.

People who own Web sites have goals, like telling customers where a business is located, or earning customer trust. A good Web site helps site owners meet these goals.

Webers – people who build Web sites – have goals, too. Like making a site easy to change. A good Web site helps Webers meet their goals.

Renata
Renata

OK, there are users, owners, and builders. And they all have goals. But they won’t all want the same things. What happens when their goals conflict?

Kieran
Kieran

Good question!

The short answer is that users are in charge on the Web. Owners have to make a site that is worth using.

We’ll talk more about this later.

A bad page

Sometimes it’s easy to tell when a site has problems. Check this out.

Bad page

Figure 1. Bad page

The page is cluttered. The text is hard to read. The colors are ugly. There are spelling mistakes. Yuck!

But site goodness isn’t just about look. It comes down to what people want to do with the site. Suppose someone wants to find out how to get to a store. But the store’s Web site doesn’t have a map, and the address is hard to find. The site has a problem, no matter how good it looks.

An exercise

Here’s a page.

How good is this?

Figure 2. Google

Is it any good?

You can’t judge a Web page without knowing what the page is for.

Google’s home page is for one thing: searching. Here’s what people do (more or less) when they search:

  1. Think of a search term.
  2. Type it into the search box.
  3. Press the Search button.

Here are some ways the page helps:

  • When the page first displays, the input cursor is in the search field, so the user can start typing immediately:

Cursor on page load

Figure 3. Cursor on page load

  • Autosuggest. Here’s what happens when I type “cored”:

Autosuggest

Figure 4. Autosuggest

If I’m looking for CoreDogs, I don’t have to type the whole word.

  • When I have finished typing the search term, I don’t have to reach for my mouse and click the Search button. I can just press the Enter key. My paws are already on the keyboard, so this action is a little easier.

The Google page is plain, but quite good, because it helps people search quickly. For searching, the behavior of the page (e.g., autosuggest) is more important than the look.

CC
CC

But what about the look of the page? Isn’t that important at all?

Kieran
Kieran

The page is plain, and that helps users search.

But remember, there’s more than one stakeholder. How could a page’s look affect other stakeholders?

CC
CC

I don’t know… Oh, wait. The look sends a message about the site and the company behind it.

Kieran
Kieran

Right!

Site owners want to tell users things, like what the owner does, or what benefits the site offers. The look of a page is part of the page’s message.

Check out this page fragment, with the text pixelated out:

funbrain.com

Figure 5. A design

You know the site is aimed at kids, just from the colors and drawings. The page is telling you something, just through the look.

Here is what Funbrain.com really looks like:

funbrain.com

Figure 6. Funbrain.com

The site’s designers have done a good job matching the look of the site to its owner’s goals.

A page’s look can send unintentional messages as well. Remember this one?

Bad page

Figure 1 (again). Bad page

If you saw this on the Web, what would you think about the person who created it? Hmmm…..

Summary

  • A good site helps people meet their goals. It helps the people who use the site, the people who own it, and the people who build it.
  • Some Web problems are easy to spot, like text that’s hard to read.
  • Site goodness is about more than look. It comes down to helping people reach their goals.

Where to now?

This entire chapter of the Foundations book is about what makes a Web site good. We’ll look at it from three points of view:

  • Users – people who use the site.
  • Owners – people who pay for the site.
  • Builders – people who create and maintain the site.

For each stakeholder, we’ll talk about:

  • What their goals are.
  • What actions they take to reach their goals.
  • How Web sites help them do those actions.

We’ll look at two cases:

  • CarlysSchool.Com – a Web site for a human obedience school.
  • WanderingDog.Com – an online store specializing in portable electronics for dogs. MP3 players, cell phones, paw-held games, and such.

We’ll also start working on eMe, the Web site you’ll make for yourself.


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