Some Critical Reflections About Web Design

If you've visited my site before, and took the time to click around and look at some of the documents, you'll have noticed that this place isn't really state of the art. I use HTML 4.01 Transitional code, and some snippets of scripts available as examples somewhere.

The main topic is (almost) always content, and I always see that my documents are easily legible. I also try to make navigation as easy as possible.

For a couple of weeks now, I'm surfing the web looking for new information to feed my recent project: a collection of links to official sites of musicians and bands.

There is one thing catching my eye with a lot of sites of (especially) younger musicians and bands. They more and more use those new technologies like Macromedia Flash Player or Fluxure. I have to admit that I'm deeply impressed. There are some sites making a very smart usage of these new technologies. But unfortunately there are also a lot of examples which imho are really disgusting.

Let me explain why some of the sites I visited are disgusting for me, and what makes them so disgusting.

Window Size

Most of the sites using the Macromedia Flash Player also use rather small windows. That seems to be different with those sites using Fluxure. Why do those web designers use those tiny windows? Tell me if I'm wrong, but as far as I know, the vast majority of internet users are sitting in front of a 17" monitor (1024x768) nowadays. Even 19" flat screens are now becoming affordable for soho usage. Can anybody explain to me, why those sites seem to be optimized for hendheld PDAs? There are sites using the Macromedia Flash Player and though use the full screen size of the monitor. Hence there are no technical restrictions detering the web designers from using the full screen mode.

Font Size

One of the consequences of those tiny windows is the usage of 8pt or even smaller fonts. As you might have noticed when reading my URL, I'm a hepcat born in the middle of the last century. So I'm obliged to use glasses for reading things like the instruction book for my Motorola V50 mobile phone. Can anybody explain to me, why those web designers use those tiny fonts? When I visit a musicians' site, I expect to learn something about this musician. One way (apart from the sound samples, which are highly appreciated) is to read their biography, which most musicians offer.

Let's resume. The musician took some time to collect his files or even write down something completely new. The web designer did some work on arranging the text. And finally the visitor moves the mouse pointer to the upper right corner of his screen to click on the X to close this awkward window.

If I happen to stumble over a plain HTML document using a very small font size, I press Ctrl+Plus (I use Mozilla Firefox as a browser) to magnify the font. I press this combination as often as necessary, until the text is easily readable. Try this with Macromedia Flash Player! You've to open your drawer to get your real magnifying glass!

Color Contrast

Sites of the same color seem to be all the rage. Take a look at this example of the German bass player Gunther Rissmann. (Forgive me Gunther! It's just an example!) Dark orange on light orange; looks nice, doesn't it? But try to read the text on the Welcome page only. Ok, it's German, but don't worry, you'll have difficulties to read it anyway. (btw: Gunther is already re-designing his site.) I found a lot of examples working the same way.

You like another one? Look at Chris Kase's site, and try to read his CURRICULUM / BIO. Light grey on dark grey; isn't it beautiful? Perhaps he should try a 4pt font on this. Looking at those sites I feel like: "It's nice that you visit my site, but please, don't bother me any longer."

You ask for any felicitous examples? Please have a look at the site of German singer Lisa Bassenge. Ok, it's of the same color too. But the text color is white, so one can read it without the help of a magnifying glass. And everything works. Click on one of the digits below Lisa's pic, and you hear music. The navigation is dead easy, clearly arranged, and always in front of your eyes.

Here is another fine example of using Macromedia in full screen mode, I found today (March 2). American bass player Michael Blanco. I love this site!

Another example pleasing my eyes (and ears). Again it's a bass player's site; does it mean a thing? Visit Markus Fischer's site and enjoy!

February 16, 2006 | I found a really outstanding site just recently. Karina Pugliese from Argentina created a wonderful web appearance for the dance/music project Uqbar Tango. She also used the Macromedia Flash technology, but look the way she did it. She really uses it as a tool to make her imaginations visible. A very tasteful layout, nice colors, clear fonts, easy navigation - this site is perfect!


I really hate those sites offering some kind of a puzzle for navigation. Oh look, those funny bubbles! Let's move the mouse pointer to one of the bubbles to see what's hidden behind. Oh, here are the links! But I was looking for the biography. Let's try the blue bubble. No, these are the sound samples. I'm fully beside myself when those "bubbles" are even combined with some squawking midi files. That's (sometimes) funny when you touch them for the very first time. But then...

Here's another (disgusting) example I found on March 18, 2005. Visit the site of percussionist Damon Grant. Click on bio and music, and try to read the text. Vou have to highlight the text to cover the background picture, and make the text legible. The page uses less than one third of my free screen space. And listen to the pling-plong of the navigation. It's nicely done, the sounds are excellent, but anyway - there should be an on/off switch available.

Answer back, musicians!

I really want to encourage all musicians to answer back. It's your web appearance, not the appearance of your web designer! As I said before: If I visit a musicians site, I want to learn something about the musician.

If I really like the design of a site, I can click the link to the web designer's site, placed humbly at the bottom of the site. It's ok if she/he uses a font size smaller than 10pt for this link ;-)

Addendum (4/20/2005)

I really hate those Links pages listing URLs only without offering any kind of description. I admit that I click thru all these links hoping for the chance to reveal some musician I didn't yet now. But often enough more than 50% is of no interest for me. I'm not amused! If I wasn't looking for new input for my link collection project, I wouldn't click a single one of those links.

© Mar 1, 2005, edited Mar 2, 2005 | Mar 16, 2005 | Mar 18, 2005 | Apr 17, 2005 | Apr 20, 2005 | Feb 16, 2006

Copyright © 2005 by hepcat1950 TOP last update: February 16, 2006