A web developer, colleague and friend of mine Jeff Johns recently talked shop with Editor and Publisher's Jay DeFoore as he lent his expert opinion on some recent newspaper website redesigns. The article highlighted several websites and Jeff, an online producer and web developer for Allentown Morning Call or MCall.com and Jay Small director of online content and operations for E.W. Scripps Newspapers gave their perspectives.
Jeff Johns offered these 5 personal thoughts on web design in general:
1.) Make the user feel like they are part of the experience, they know what they want and how they want it. Let them customize, customize, customize. The more interaction in my eyes the better.
2.) Step away from packing as much info on one page as possible; you have an entire site to use. Put your main "HOT" topics up front, rail items you want to promote, some user features, and you're done. Let the user see enough to get interested and be intrigued to find more throughout the site. You can pack a lot of cool links in one rail item as long as your present it correctly.
3.) Have an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed for everything. Whether you think people will use them or not, having a feed for all possible news on your site will never hurt you. Even if people are leeching it on their site, the user will still end up back on your homepage once they click the link. It's a great way to reach more people.
4.) Integrate more interactive/flash type projects. Build stuff people want to use or play with, which will also bring them back.
5.) Hire the right people. I see a lot of places where people are not in the correct positions. Every newspaper.com Web site should have Web developers, not just graphic designers. Graphic designers are needed but not as much as Web developers.
I particularly found number 5 to be the MOST IMPORTANT tip for any company competing in the online space. Development teams need people who have the correct background and can see the big picture by staying on the cutting edge of technology and business which leads to new ideas and eventually product development. Many times if these types of guru's are not in place within organization thus the first instinct of the business unit might be to partner or acquire, rather then create something new. Number 3 which highlights the importance of offering RSS syndication for just about everything is something that cannot be overlooked in Web 2.0. Excellent job Mr. Johns, keep up the remarkable work.