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Todd Bertsch : Web Design Has Changed Part 1: Bells & Whistles

Web Design Has Changed

Part 1: Bells & Whistles

By Todd Bertsch

Google search: Web design has changed

Did you mean: Web design will change more?

Since the inception of the internet in 1991 we have seen a flux of technologies come and go. We've seen tremendous growth in bandwidth. Gaudy Splash screens. Welcome to...intro messages. Browser compatibility issues. Internet Explorer dominate the browser world. We've see very annoying blinking banner ads almost give us heart attacks. More splash screens. More swoosh logos than Nike could ever take credit for. Ok, admit it. You know you've had the wonderful opportunity of designing one of these. We've seen java, javascript, dhtml, css, and of course flash emerge as popular tools for creating cool, and some not so cool, web features. YES, web design has changed considerably since the inception of the internet.

Then along came Google. Who? Yeah, that's what I said 6 years ago. Who would have thought this "bare bones" programmer looking website, would have changed the way we do business. The way we design and publish web sites today.

Well, it has! And it's only the beginning.

With "search" becoming the most popular activity among online users today, you can see why most online purchases begin with a search.

Web design has changed and will continue to change. As everything does in this hi-techno world we live in. But "organic search" (ranked listings in Google), I believe is going to be around for a long, long time. FREE advertising, somehow appeals to the exec types. They see how a high page rank and listing in Google can decrease their online marketing spending and increase there overall ROI.

This is all fine and dandy you say. But how does this impact me as a web designer? Well if your not privy to it, you'd better be.

I'm fortunate enough to be part of the train as it's taking off. And you must jump on if you want to continue to be a successful web designer. The role of web designers has changed. The programming or coding experience that once made us immortal in some small companies, is quickly becoming a "developers" job. Even Macromedia's Flash MX, is being designed for more of a programmer than designer these days.

If we don't be careful and stay abreast of everything that's going on in the internet world, we will become obsolete, as unfortunately many companies have found out already. So I have three small words for you.

SEO — Search Engine Optimization

This is not entirely a new concept. It's been around for awhile. However the amount of people using search to find the products or services they're looking for has risen in mammoth form. This is what the future of web design is going to be based on. The days of HEAVY graphic sites are going to be extinct. Back to the basics. Form over function. What is the internet really about? Why do people logon? What are they looking for? The internet has come back to it's original roots. INFORMATION. Not a glossy brochure. Can you say SPLASH screen again...sorry!

I don't mean to appear against graphics. I'm a TRUE graphic designer in every sense of the word. I live and die by the graphics. However, as a Senior Web designer I see the rules of web design changing very quickly. People want to find results to their questions or problems, quickly without all the BS. That's where "search" comes into play. Besides an ALT tag, there's nothing else we can gain from an image in "organic" (FREE search listings) right now. Technologies always change and I imagine someday spiders may be able to crawl through a flash movie and or a binary image. But in the near term, this is not happening.

Web design is being stripped to FAST, CLEAN, text heavy, link heavy and content heavy designs. Be prepared to eliminate those javascript rollover graphics and replace them with relevant labeled text links, surrounded by relevant copy. Be prepared to sacrifice your graphic headers with screen text followed by short descriptive copy about that page. Be prepared to remove your javascript code so spiders can crawl easily through your site.

Be prepared to have a lean mean site that is spider friendly.

This does not mean that we need to remove Photoshop from our tool belt. I wouldn't know what to do with myself. But for each web design project we do need to step back, and develop a plan that will integrate graphics, content and navigation in a manner that will be user friendly, search friendly and of course make the client happy.

As always, we will continue to evolve and adapt as fast as splash screens splashed in and splashed out. Just be prepared to accommodate that client that asks for their site to be lean and mean for Google search. If your not ready...they'll "search" for someone else! •

Next: Search Engine Optimization »

© 2005 Todd Bertsch. All rights reserved.

Todd Bertsch received a Bachelors degree in Fine and Applied Arts, with a concentration in Graphic Design, from the University of Akron. More »