Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Coming Site Competence Index

An increase in web sites has led to a decrease in average web site functionality.

The human eye scans a loaded page. We rarely process it in the sequence intended by the designer. The brain sifts for desired content, and if none is found, the visitor moves on.

Violating conventions of web site design complicates the task for the visitor. Abuse and neglect of such basic items as ABOUT, FAQ, and CONTACT leaves guests flailing and annoyed.

I foresee the rise of a compliance index, that measures compliance with various standards and awards a score or perhaps a certification. Sites passing might find themselves with a heavier weighting in search results. Think of it as a quantitative enhancement increasing efficiency.

Average page load time might be one of the criteria. Cartoonists should consider this possibility when designing sites, and making decisions about relying on notorious speed reducers like Flash.

I can't guarantee this futuristic prediction, but I fully expect it. Participating in the free networking site EntreCard has taught me to detect and avoid slow sites. Having to eliminate possible review candidates from contention because I can't reach the cartoonist has taught me how damaging it is to omit design fundamentals in comic web sites. Someone is going to figure out how to make money routing me away from really bad sites in favor of the better ones, and those who plan for it now are going to benefit. Don't count on ever-increasing chip speed to bail you out: the so-called "last mile" of cable that connects houses and small buildings to the net is expensive to upgrade and a low telecom priority. The choke point has been set, and the workaround is going to be better site efficiency.