Written by Wanda NL
ColumnThe magic word in web design at the moment is XHTML/CSS compliance. Web standards are a big blessing, and managed to bring correct representation of web content to new levels. But three factors are putting a hand brake on creativity among these W3C compliant web sites.
The 3 major factors limiting creativity are: Wordpress, Flickr and XHTML/CSS showcase sites with there way too strict validating policies like CSS Beauty or CSS Mania. This bunch of 'inspiring' big shots seduce all web designers to walk the same direction and cause every blog like site to look the same nowadays. Do you have a site like this? Follow Wanda as she cleans up your horrible uninspiring looks in 7 steps.
1: Get rid of tags!Someone thought he or she should help Google a little by adding keywords to every article, both in a separate listing, and by highlighting words with a internal search link. Since the author chooses the keywords himself it is a way to manipulate search results. So I bet Google and other search engine engineers incorporated a keyword filter into their robots to remove this nonsense. You must make a decent way to navigate categories of articles on your website, not be a lousy librarian trying to mimic what search engines do better anyway. People either find your story with a site like Google, or navigate the recent-article list when they are frequent visitors, either through bookmarking your site or through a RSS feed. No one clicks tags!
2: Get rid of your tagcloud!One of the nastiest inventions to navigate your website is the TAGCLOUD. It is a logic following to your librarian job of adding tags. Tools like Wordpress and Flickr offer a way to visualise the tags you added as a tagcloud. Depending on the frequency a tag is used it is shown bigger in the cloud. Sure the first who made tagclouds created a fun indexing system for his stories. But nowadays everyone seems to make a cloudy index, most of them never used by visitors.
3: Get rid of date-stamps!Do your visitors really need to know when an article is written? Do you want to show that you do not write new stories that often? Probably not. The idea of internet is that it is one big heap of information. Google digs up 10 year old stuff as easy as yesterdays newspaper. People copy your text to other websites. Authors update text as they like wiki style. So showing a publishing date is worth less on the web.
Your CMS will keep track of publishing and modification dates anyway, so when you need to know when things were written, you can access that information perfectly yourself. So please get rid of date-stamps. If you really need to show publishing dates, do it with a small line of text, and not using a square with a small 3 letter month notification on top and a big day number below. And do never make it look like a notepad!
4: Get rid of permalinks!Off course you have to make sure every article can be seen on a separate page with a unique, non changing URL. But do not call it that way and do not make a button saying 'permanent link' for it. There is probably enough clutter on your page already. The few that want to make a permanent link to an article will find the necessary URL themselves, or copy it from the search engine they used to get to your story in the first place.
5: Get rid of signs!What is the use of showing that your page is valid XHTML, uses valid CSS, is W3C accessibility compliant, has an RSS feed? Nothing at all. It just messes up your footer with a lot of logos that probably do not match your own style. So just (try to) make it valid! If you really need to, tell people about it in your colophon. A web browser will show your visitors if there really is a RSS feed by the way. Oh, and remove the 'digg this story', 'del.icio.us' and the like signs as well.
6: Stop showing comment authors!If you decide that you want feedback on your stories and put a virtual toilet door below every article, I believe that action itself is questionable already. But remind yourself that the accidental tourist coming to your site is not interested in the persons behind these comments. If you describe your life: OK, let family and friends spam your site with nonsense! If you try to be informative or journalistic: get rid of those names, their smilies/icons and other teenager stuff below your texts. Or better: remove the restroom door completely.
7: Get rid of Flickr!We all want to show our pictures. Some of us want to make an easy photo album for family pics, travel logs or other personal stuff: go ahead and use Flickr or a similar service. Do you pretend to be a professional with a similar professional web site? Create your own means of showing off your work. A Flickr section in your website is not giving it very serious looks. And pretty please do not choose Lightbox or other slow Flash scripts either!
8: Fazit!Do not take this article too serious. We just found out some of you do. Which probably means you are unfamilliar with the word "column" and you start interpreting this story as exact science. Which it is not off course! We are just holding up a mirror. Happy webdesigning!
Adding all bad things together: my super compliant validating XHTML/CSS blog!