Last month, I was invited to “Reasons to be Creative”, a design and tech conference held at the SVA theatre in Chelsea. While I ended up having to cut my time there short, I managed to see two sessions I had planned on.
Up first was Content First!, A lecture by Jeffrey Zeldman. The talk addressed the need for a new approach to web design by putting the viewer first and using small screen or mobile web design as inspiration.
As an example of content “don’ts”, Zeldman pulled up a screenshot of the homepage of the East River Ferry, notifying passengers of delays. He pointed out that the site, intended to aid the viewer, was oversaturated with unhelpful content; including the phrase “East River Ferry” displayed about 4 times in various heading weights while the actual delay notice was small and buried beneath.
Another example offered was that of a movie review site that used the same text size for all its content, including its long list of links; which could be found on every page. Zeldman explained that not only was this a problem in content hierarchy, but also an unnecessary amount of links. Maybe this was helpful as far as SEO marketing was concerned, but a headache for the actual target – the viewer.
But the viewers are learning to fight back against this anti-user behavior; changing text size or colors for legitimate concerns (e.g., bad vision, color blindness) or people using apps like instapaper for easier mobile readability.
So does that mean the web is dead as we know it?
Praising minimalist web design (like the famous “Minimal” Blogger template) and new techniques like responsive design and progressive enhancement, Zeldman says it doesn’t have to be. A company may want a page overrun with SEO content or a few camouflaged ads, but this will only hurt them in the end. At the end of the talk, Jeffrey boiled down the talk into four major points (pictured above) as well as his this parting advice: put content first and scrubs away the unnecessary extras – the result is a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.