I recently responded to some questions posed by the National Auctioneers Association regarding good website design. These are my thoughts.
> What are the essential elements of a good website?
Good websites are viewable and accessible from any computer or device using any browser or software. I think a site should look the same on a Mac running Safari as it does on Windows running Internet Explorer. I think sites should require as little additional technology like Flash or Java as possible. I design using XHTML and CSS because it’s light and doesn’t require any additional components. A good website shouldn’t have advertising or require or even suggest that the user navigate away from that site.
> Which websites do you like?
I like the newer, standards-based websites like WordPress, Facebook and mozilla.com because they’re clean and elegant and don’t have anything moving or making noise without specific requests from the user. They don’t have confusing navigation like drop-down menus that reduce accessibility.
> What are the goals of your company’s website?
Our company’s site aims to be as simple as possible to allow anyone to place bids on any item from any device. We acknowledge that most users want to find items within auctions, not information about us, so that’s the aspect on which we focus the users initial attention.
> If you could give any advice to someone considering creating a website
> or revising their existing website, what would your advice be?
For an auctioneer looking to create or redesign a website, it is important to make the correct assumptions about the intentions of the users. I believe users want to find auctions, so the most important part of the homepage or first page of a site should be the calendar. If the user is seriously looking for institutional information like the auctioneer’s history or contact information, he or she will be more than willing to click a link to navigate to that section. Also, the Internet is the most powerful marketing tool. The auctioneer who pictures every item and describes it on the website will always be more powerful than the auctioneer who types a paragraph listing the items for sale and posts a picture gallery.
> In your experience, what is the biggest mistake someone could make
> regarding their website?
The biggest mistake someone could make building a website is to use Flash without offering an alternative content delivery mechanism. Also, a user shouldn’t have to do anything other than load a page to get the content. Mouse-overs and drop-down menus only make it harder for the user to obtain content and may even obfuscate the navigational structure of the site.
The gospel according to Aaron.