A key danger in website design is over-ambition. We need to design a website we can professionally manage.I travel a lot. And when you travel a lot you discover a lot of important things. You learn the answers to crucial questions such as: Why is a dog a man's best friend? Because a dog always welcomes you home and a dog thinks everything is a great idea.
Right now, as I write this, our dog, Bran, is lying behind me. When I throw a glance at her, she responds immediately, gazing admiringly. "You work too hard," she seems to be saying. "Have a break." Outside my window, Frodo, our cat, sits preening himself. When I catch his attention, he stares back at me. "Open the window," he seems to be saying. "Like, now."
Websites are generally designed by dogs. There's a lot of optimism. The dogs look at the website and think of it as an endless attic. No matter how much stuff you into it, there's always room for more. The dogs approach each design step with a 'have gigabytes, must fill' enthusiasm.
Dogs think it's great fun thinking of all the cool new things you can do. They love picking colors and moving things around. They love choosing small font sizes and grey text; coming up with new ways to navigate.
Dogs are very egalitarian, particularly when it comes to navigation. They never want anyone to be lost anywhere on the site. So they create all sorts of navigation, ensuring that no matter who you are, no matter what your interest is, not matter what page on the site you are on, there will always be a link just for you.
If dogs had their way, then every single link on the website would also be on the homepage. In that way, everybody would be one-click away from finding everything they ever wanted to find. That would just be so cool.
Dogs love content. As far as dogs are concerned there's no such thing as bad content. Dogs will always give you 100% effort. And if just one person out of 7 billion is interested in this piece of content, then dogs want it published.
Dogs are fascinated by technology. All you have to do is say words like "portal" or personalization" or "new content management system
", and the dogs just start yelping and jumping all over the place. Installing new software is just like going on the biggest, baddest walk and finding the juiciest, smoochiest bone along the way. It's a dog's dream.
And then cats have to manage the website. The dogs let everyone publish and the cats are certainly not going to review all this stuff. The dogs created an architecture where everyone can find everything and now nobody can find anything. The cats shake their heads.
The dogs thought the mystical, magical search engine in the sky would solve everything. The cats know that's like two-month old pie in the garbage can.
Sure, we need dogs' enthusiasm, but we also need to bring the cats into the planning and design meetings.
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.