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More Web Design--The Power of Boringness

I have recently completed what is, probably, my most boring website--of which I am, I believe, justfiably proud. It is the Los Encinos State Historic Park site at

The plain brown and white layout was inspired by Victorian newspapers, though I did not try to make it look like I was trying to reproduce one in web form.

There are some features of this site which I would like to offer as a possible example for amateur designers who have found themselves saddled with the responsibility of creating a website for your hobby group.

Be sparing with color: The site has a very simple color palate. White, brown, dark blue and dark gray--and that's it. Color can be your friend or your enemy, but the fewer colors you use, the more friendly it will be, and you can never go wrong with a white background.

Don't waste space The "header" information is very thin, so that the majority of the page is available for content. This means that key content can go "above the fold". "The Fold" refers to the bottom of the viewer's screen. Tests have shown that a signficant number of web users will not scroll down to find key information, so keep your important stuff near the top.

Make your menu predictable: The menu, expressed in single or double words, is on the left bar, and there are only a few choices. Always put your key navigation on the left menu or along the top of the page. This is where people expect to find navigation, and if you get creative, and think you have a better idea, your users won't know where to look. Give them what they expect.

Make your links stand out: One thing users expect is that links in the body will be blue and underlined. When ever possible, do this. If you MUST use a color other than blue, make sure you underline the links. If you chose not to underline the links, make them blue. If it is a link, and it is not underlined and not blue, your users will probably have a bit of work to do to decode your system. You should never make your users work harder than absolutely necessary.

If it is not a link, NEVER underline it and NEVER make it blue.

Note that the blue and underline rules don't necessarily apply to the "core navigation" menus on the left and top.

Be sparing with images. Images help to set the tone and define the content of the site, so they are very important. However, if you use too many, they fight with each other for your users' attention and slow the loading of the page.

Set aside a clear bit of real estate for news: If your site has changing content, such as news, give it a home where it can live without disrupting the design as it comes and goes, and also where people can find it. A good header for a news section is, well, "News".

Note however, that if you aren't willing to commit to keeping the information current, then don't post news. Nothing undermines your credibility faster than old, and especially REALLY old news.

Be sparing with text: This is one area where I may have bent the rules a bit. This has far more text than I usually include on a home page. However, in this case, I decided that telling people about the place over-rode the need to keep it succinct. I did, however, edit the text down considerably from earlier drafts.

Don't hide key contact information: The home page is a great place for your address. if, in this case, contact information is complicated, you may want to bury it under a "contact' link that says "for this, contact A, and for that, contact B".

Push your mailing list: If you want people to join your mailing list, make it as simple as possible.

That's it for now on this topic.
Related Posts:
Common Website Design Mistakes


Walter, I would not call the site "boring"; I would call it lean and efficient. As a site designer, you know that the best websites are the ones that tell the viewer what he or she wants or needs to know with the least amount of fuss. And the site does so in a way that's visually attracts the viewer. That's just what your Los Encinos site does.

Thank you Daniel, that's very kind of you to say.

I used the word "boring", because many novice designers feel that, to make a site clean and efficient lacks visual appeal, and is therefore boring (I include my younger self in that group). I hope I can go some way towards convincing novice designers to start with simplicity rather than to succumb to the siren call of colorful background, animations and "daring" navigation structures.

Walter, I really like the insertion of short video taken at a past events to give you a feel of what one can expect at a future one. Would you please address how to do this (ie type of software to use, what special things to do to site to be able to show video clip, etc.)

Thank you.