Site design - Introduction


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This tutorial is about the overall design of the site and its user interaction. It is not about graphic design.

There is no magic code to making good Web sites. The requirements of each site will vary, and so will the design. However, it is a mistake to think that it is impossible to make a site that is both accessible, and feature rich.

A large number of poor quality Web sites are produced that cause problems. I am not talking about sites that look bad, I am talking about sites that do not let all people view them. Not through password protection, and not through putting the site on a local-only network. I am talking about bad design.

A variety of browsers still exist. Some older browsers are still used. Many people deliberately use browsers with limited capability in order to increase browsing speed and reduce vulnerability to exploits or viruses. Many use browsers on devices with limited capabilities or significant restrictions (such as phones). Some people still use slow modems. Some still use their battered old computers. These badly designed sites prevent access to these people and browsers and in many cases do not have a good reason to do so. Some are even produced by so-called professional companies. See my list of computers and browsers for more details of what people use.

The Internet is sometimes called 'the information superhighway', and as we are told, it is all about communication. Communication of information. 'You can talk to people around the other side of the world'. But sometimes, Web site designers and creators exclude people who may be living next door, simply by failing to acknowledge the flaws in their design.

Simply think of it this way, if you have to put an "upgrade"-to-another-browser or download-plugin button on your page for people to view it, then you have not designed it properly. The solution is not for people to change browsers or modify browsers or download plugins or even enable scripts. The solution is for designers to design their sites properly so any browser can view them.

I have devoted much of my Web development to seeking out the best solution to incorporate downward compatibility into Web sites and, not to my surprise, I found the solution to be simple. You can still use fancy features. You can still make your sites look pretty. Downward compatibility is already built in.

The next few sections tell you how to design sites that everyone will be able to see.

This section was inspired by a fantastic article by Peter Seebach. It is mirrored here, just in case it ever goes offline.

Last modified: 15 February 2011

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This site was created by Mark "Tarquin" Wilton-Jones.
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