Firstly, that's something I'm not. However, it's also something the internet is not as well. This is a problem.

I have noted unconciously, until recently, a slow change in the internet. As the years have gone by websites have increased in complexity. Complexity is not in an of itself a problem. It is nice to have a complex setup, such as this blog, which enables users to do things simply. Complexity of that kind is good. It is complexity of a different kind that isn't. Namely, the web page itself.

Years ago web pages were extremely simplistic. There was very rarely anything beyond grey backgrounds, a few paragraphs of text, a hyperlink to the info-mac archinves, and one small 3k image of the person running the webpage. This was ideal for the time as anyone with a 14.4k modem was living in the lap of luxury. Slowly the capabilities of the internet were expanded, and with them webpages grew and blossomed.

Complexity of the function of web pages exploded. Whereas previously very few web pages were anything other than personal web pages or directories of files for download, now we had review sites, shareware developer home pages, news sites and more. It was still primitive, but that didn't last long either. After seperate, dedicated phone lines were no longer required to surf the sea of information, the internet created a huge demand for excellent web designers and pushed forward into the dot com boom/bust.

However, somewhere in that explosion all the good web designers vanished.

Don't believe me? First take a look at Google. In my mind, it is the epitomy of everything a web page should be. It is simple to use and navigate, while at the same time hosting a very deep and vast set of functions. When the web page loads there isn't any confusion as to what's going on. There are no distractions. There is only Google, a few options, a friendly search box and the "Search" and "Lucky" buttons. There are no ads, no special offers, nothing to clutter the page. It is, in short, a very orthogonally designed website.

Now take a look at Amazon. I'm not going to argue that Amazon isn't extremely functional, because it is. The features it attempts to grant the user do their jobs and do them well. Amazon is not the most famous online store for no reason. However, the website can not be said to be simple.

Before I cut deep into Amazon's web design, I will say that they are hardly the worst website out there. In fact, they are quite probably above average. This does not change my opinion that their website still leaves much to be desired.

When you load the Amazon web page you are immediately assaulted with options and advertisements. In the center of the screen are suggestions of things for you to buy. On either side of the search bar are a penguin and a golden chest screaming to you for a click that you might see what special deals they offer. There are tabs which are not immediately intuitive as to their function. Long lists of categories stream down the left side. Were you to try and assimilate everything on the very first page, it might take you fifteen minutes.

For someone first visiting the site, this can be extremely daunting. Lets say they wanted to find a toy. If they were intent on browsing for one, they're probably going to look confused at the screen for a moment as they try and figure out what is going on. Looking near a common center of attention, the search bar, they find links to deals, new releases, top sellers.... of what? What are these things? This person wants a toy, and if they click on these things thinking they might find one they will only find more confusion.

After some looking, they will probably find the "Browse" menu on the left. Unfortunately, toys are not listed immediately and must be scrolled down to be found. The whole time this is done ads and suggestions take up the other 3/4ths of the page, begging for attention. Just now I scrolled right past the toys, even though I knew exactly where it was, because of the distractions.

Similar insanity continues when you actually click on the toys link, but lets focus on the actual search.

If I search for "Transformers" the actual list of items is repeatedly usurped by sponsored links, and squished by categories, listmania and other oddities on the left. Clicking on a actual item isn't terrible, until you scroll down through the rest of the page and another array of confusing features without much organization presents itself. Thankfully the option to buy is situated in the primary area you first view, although accompanied by options to add it to any number of lists.

To be what I should have been in the first place, terse, the Amazon web page is not simple in the least, especially for someone who has never tried to navigate it before.

I'll repeat myself and say that Amazon is well above average in terms of its design. For all the complexity, it isn't a hideous abomination of web design as several of my college's web portals, a number of lesser online stores, and news sites are. The sheer amount of disorganized and useless clutter that can be found in so small a space as a web browser is staggering.

Web design, I believe, is largely a lost art. Much like Hollywood versus independant film-makers, we can not look to the large businesses to make the best stuff (with rare exceptions). There is an eloquent simplicity and depth to saucylittleone's livejournal, a straight utilitarian forcefulness to the Angry Christian Liberal, and my blog (simple as it is) contains more clutter than I care for.

I'm thinking very seriously about designing my own web page. I have a pretty solid idea for the main index, it's more the functions thereof and what I want to accomplish with it that need to be addressed. I want to avoid the "Lets throw in every last bell and whistle!" approach.

The major things that would be features of this webpage would be video game reviews (in depth, as in more than just a set of ratings and a justification for them but really nitty gritty details), this blog, a forum, and maybe a wiki to store all of the extremely technical and pointless knowledge of video game mechanics I uncover.

One of the chilling factors on this project at the moment is the effort. I'm not sure I'm prepared to spend the time managing, updating and generating content for the site. I also don't know a whole lot about finding web hosting, and the best thing I know for domain registration is whatever I can find via Google. Anyone with more extensive knowledge who might share said knowledge is kindly asked to impart said wisdom in the comments for this post.

In any case, I think I went more technical and less philosophical in this than I meant to. I'm not going to edit it though, because I'm lazy.

1 comment:

jocelyn said...

Ask me about this stuff. I host two websites, and my pal Ben (benjancewicz [at] gmail [dot] com) could recommend hosting.