Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Website Design, Smart Writing Techniques, and a Ranting Lemming

Sometimes inspiration strikes, but it's aim is a little off. The Lemming was - inspired? - yesterday afternoon, and created a horror from the pits of 1990's websites:

'Kids, Don't Try This At Home:' An Affront to Aesthetics

I doubt that any company actually committed so many blunders in one place, but you've probably seen something like this:

Visit us again: 
brand-new website
coming soon!

Later, after the frenzy had passed, the Lemming realized that something like that didn't really belong on a 'business' blog. Not in that post, anyway:
Normally, the Lemming would have a micro-review of something helpful, interesting, or strange. That's not going to happen today.

Instead, the Lemming's going to rant about website design, SEO as an exercise in common sense, and why being clever isn't always being smart.

Website Design: The K*I*S*S Principle

The Lemming likes bright colors, loves to tinker with digital doodads, and thinks splash pages look cool. But the Lemming wouldn't design a financial consultant's webpage with a bright yellow background, navigation buttons that play excerpts from the 1812 Overture's cannon section, and an animated splash page displaying trout fishing in the Yukon. Remember, the Lemming likes bright colors, and has nothing against fish. Or the Yukon.

But those features violate the K*I*S*S principle. Actually, the yellow background doesn't - it's just a poor color choice for a 'serious' website, and that's getting in the psychology end of design.

Odds are pretty good that you've heard of K*I*S*S:


And, no, the Lemming is not calling you stupid. The acronym KIS doesn't spell anything - and that's another topic.

Basically, the idea of K*I*S*S is that if something isn't needed in a website: it should be left out. That doesn't mean that websites should be dull. If something's (really) needed, to focus a reader's attention: it's needed.

SEO isn't Complicated

The Lemming's been over this before. The 'secrets' of SEO aren't secret. They're also pretty simple:
  • Don't hire an SEO 'expert'
    • Unless your supervisor insists
      • Those five-martini lunches - - -
  • Remember that search engines read text
    • Not pictures
  • Write
    • Clearly
    • As briefly as possible
    • Using the simplest words possible
      • Your readers are smart
        • That's not the issue
      • If you're writing about houses
        • Write "house"
        • Don't write
          • Condominium
          • Domicile
          • Habitation
          • Whatever
          • Unless that's what you're writing about
            • Or you're pretty sure that's what your audience will look for
  • Your 11th grade English teacher was right
    • Tell your readers what you're writing about in
      • The headline
      • The first sentence
    • Odds are, your readers are looking for facts
      • Not fluff
  • Use bulletized lists
    • Like this one
    • Where possible
  • Put the important information in text
    • Not pictures
      • Okay: not entirely in pictures
  • Being 'clever' isn't being smart
    • Maybe keyword-rich gibberish in white text on a page's white background is 'clever'
      • The Lemming's yet to encounter someone who says that's a good idea and
        • Earns money from results
        • Has some experience with
          • Web design
          • Marketing
That's it for today. The Lemming plans to be back Friday, with - let's see, what does the Lemming's weekly schedule say Friday's post topic is - - - Right: The Lemming will post about "Whatever."

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