Web Design

I’ve been hard at work this summer on a website for ISU’s Writing Program, which is now functional, though still developing, at isuwriting.com. In order to brush up on my web design work, I picked up Letting Go of the Words. While this book is chock full of good advice, I’m really suffering over one particular point: What does one put on a good home page?

I know, this seems simple.

Redish takes a rhetorical approach. (Smart!) On the home page, “people have to

  • find what they need
  • understand what they find
  • act appropriately on that understanding
And they  have to be able to do all that in the time and effort that they think it is worth” (p. 29). Redish advocates, of course, “letting go of the words.” That is, get rid of any text you can possibly get rid of–advice that I’m pretty sure I’ve read before in Steve Krug‘s spectacular book Don’t Make Me Think. (Makes me think of Tufte and chart junk, to be honest.) Here is where it gets tricky: “Home pages can be content-rich, but they must not be wordy” (p. 30). That’s tough!

The solution, perhaps, is really well-designed visible rhetoric. This immediately makes me think of a graphic header. However, in the template I’ve chosen for the isuwriting.com page, there isn’t space for a header. Anyway, a big header that appears on every page takes up room that I’d prefer to devote to content. So what are other ways to get across the purpose and organization of the site without inputting a bunch of text?

Frankly, I haven’t figured it out. Here is what the isuwriting page looks like today (below), though the link above may have been updated since this post. That’s a lot of text, but it’s the best solution I have right now. At this point, I’ve concluded that the need for that explanatory text outweighs the negative consequence of driving readers away. I figure that, in this specific case, someone who isn’t interested enough to read three paragraphs isn’t my target audience anyway.

I’ll have to keep working on that whole alienating impatient readers thing, I guess!

Work Cited

Redish, Janice. (2007). Letting go of the words: Writing web content that works. Boston: Elsevier.

Interested in more on web design? Check out the English 351: Hypertext category.

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