• Web-development philosophy

When it comes to Web development, I have strong opinions. Here is my perspective:

A Web site's purpose in life is generating revenue. (At least, that is true in most cases.)

Flashy gimmicks that don't work reliably will cause some of your potential customers to abandon your site, thereby diminishing your site's revenue potential.

How many times have you visited a Web site that doesn't respond when you click on something, or has a menu system that doesn't work right, or or displays cryptic error messages? If you're on the Web as much as I am, such things probably happen to you several times or many times each day.

When you experience a problem with a Web site, do you take the time to read the site's "recommended browser configuration" information? If you're like most of us, you don't have time for such things. If you can't get the information you need right away, you move on!

Your Web site shouldn't drive customers away!

You say you want your Web site to have glitzy effects like pop-up windows and unusual navigation gimmicks? Keep in mind that effects like these won't work with some kinds of browsers and with various browser configurations. A Web site like this is sure to lose some site visitors almost as soon as they arrive. These people came to your Web site because they had a potential interest in your products or services. These people could have been your customers, but you've lost them because your Web site misbehaved!

Here's a recap of the aggravation I experienced on the Web today. I deal with annoyances like this pretty much every day of the week. If you're on the Web a lot, you probably do, too.


I wanted to peruse the on-line template library at a printing company's Web site, but the site hung three or four times. I gave up and moved to another printing company's Web site.

I tried to pay my credit-card statement on line, but the credit-card company's Web site hung after I clicked the button to finalize the transaction. After playing around with the browser settings, I finally got the transaction to go through. The problem was that somebody else had been using my computer and had configured the browser to reject third-party cookies.

I visited a freelancer Web site to try to find someone to do some work for my company, but the site hung repeatedly. I left this site and found another freelancer site that works better.

I'm shopping for a new car, and I tried to use a major auto company's Web site to "build" a car on line, but the site misbehaved so badly I abandoned it.

I tried using a browser-based interface to check my e-mail, but I was flying blind because none of the navigation images (buttons) showed up on the screen. (Normally I use a Windows computer, but I was using a Macintosh computer this time. So many Web sites don't work properly for Macintosh users! It seems most Web developers don't realize there are Mac users out there.)

Do you want your potential customers to experience these things when they visit your Web site? I think not.

Browser-specific features — ridiculous!

In my opinion, there is almost nothing more annoying than the "This site is best viewed with XYZ Browser, Version X.XX" message that greets us on the home pages of many Web sites. How arrogant of the Web developer to think his or her precious creation is so important that any of us will actually take the time to install new browser software just so we can navigate that particular site! And how very silly and un-businesslike is the company or organization whom the site represents.

Coding special effects for browser neutrality — costly, time-consuming, flawed

Theoretically, it is possible to create a Web site with special effects that work with many different browsers and browser configurations. The key word is theoretically. For a Web site that uses flashy gimmicks, etc., writing code that actually works with many kinds of browsers and browser configurations CAN BE DONE, but doing it is expensive because it takes a lot of time to write the required code and to test it. And, even if you pay a highly experienced Web developer to do the required coding and testing, there are probably some browsers or configurations that won't work, simply because it's virtually impossible to test for every conceivable browser type and configuration.

Stick with the basics to avoid alienating customers

The best way to ensure your Web site works for every site visitor is to rely only on basic Web technology.

What is basic Web technology?

When I use the term "basic Web technology," what I mean is technology that has been around since early Internet days. HTML is the most basic of basic Web technologies, and creating a Web site that relies solely on HTML is the safest way to go. However, HTML alone will constrain you to creating static Web pages. These days, most people want or need to have a site that operates dynamically, to some extent. For this, HTML generators like ASP (Active Server Pages) and JSP (JavaServer Pages) are a good choice — but be sure to do extensive testing before going live with the site.


JavaScript. JavaScript code is handled differently by different Web browsers. If you use JavaScript on your site, be sure to test the site with several browsers before deploying it. Don't ignore the Safari browser, which is used by many people with Macintosh computers.

Cookies. Yes, I know many if not most Web sites use cookies! That doesn't necessarily mean you should use them on your site. Why? Some people configure their browsers so cookies won't work, because they have concerns about privacy.

Some Web developers will tell you the use of cookies is required. In most cases, that isn't true. The dirty secret is that many Web developers like to use cookies because using cookies makes it easier to handle some kinds of programming tasks. (NOTE: If your Web site relies on a service that requires the use of cookies, then of course your Web site won't work for a site visitor whose browser is configured to reject cookies. For example, if your site uses an e-commerce system that requires cookies, your site won't work for site visitors that have cookies turned off.)

Flash. It's probably okay to put some Flash animation on your site to promote your products and services, but I don't recommend relying on Flash to operate your site's navigation system. If you do this, some people might not be able to use your site at all.

Ad servers. If your site is designed to display ads that need to be retrieved from servers that aren't under your control, your site will be vulnerable to deficiencies in the other server's performance. For example, if the other server hangs when your server tries to retrieve an ad, then your site will hang, too. Your site visitor will become annoyed and will probably surf away to another site.

Your Web site doesn't have to be boring!

It is possible to develop an appealing and attractive Web site without using special effects. Great photos, beautifully designed artwork, a layout that's pleasing and functional, and well-written content will keep your site visitors interested in your site.

Why do I feel so strongly about these issues?

You might be wondering why I am so passionate about the issues described on this page. Well, aside from the aggravation I experience daily on the Web, there is another reason why I have such strong feelings about this subject. It relates to client satisfaction. If I develop a Web site for you, and if that Web site is adorned with snazzy doodads that don't work for some of the people that visit your site, who are you gonna call? Me, that's who! And I really don't like having unhappy clients!

So — if you want a Web site that's loaded with special effects, I'm not the Web developer you should hire. On the other hand, if you'd like to have a nicely designed, functional site that relies on basic Web technology, works reliably, and contains well-written content, then by all means give me a call so we can discuss your project.

If you want a Web site that generates revenue
Consider subscribing to my point of view.
Using basic technology that's tried and true,
I'll create a great Web site for you.

If you want a Web site that's highly embellished
That's not the kind of work that I relish.
Another freelancer will take on the task.
Many are ready and willing — just ask!

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