P.Mean: What makes a good website (created 2010-04-07).

Someone posed a series of questions  about what makes a perfect website design. I am not a big fan of "design" and tried to make that point in my responses.

a) What (to you) makes a good website? Quality content

b) What do you hate most about websites? Websites that are "designed" meaning websites with lots of glitz and gimmicks.

c) Do you have a website? Why or why not? What kind of website? Personal or business? What kind of business? I started a website about Statistics at my old job (www.childrensmercy.org/stats).  It was just useful information to supplement my job there as a statistical consultant. When I became my own boss, I continued doing this (www.pmean.com). For what it's worth, almost all of my changes over time have been to simplify the design. I used to have a color scheme, and kept text in neatly ordered tables. But it just got in the way. Now it is black text on white background for 99% of my material.

d) If you do have a website, what do you like and/or dislike about it? It is hard to keep things consistent across the entire site. It is also hard to build good cross references from one page to another. But I do enjoy writing for the web and it offers me quite a bit of visibility within my discipline.

e) If you could own a website today, would you? See above.

f) How much would you be willing to spend to get it developed (most if not all of your wants and desires for a dream website)? $0. How could someone else write my content for me? The only thing they could provide are frills that just get in the way.

g) Please send me a few links of your favorite websites, and brief description about why you like them? I'm not sure that you would want to know my favorite web sites, because they are pretty geeky. I have a monthly newsletter about statistics and each issue, I try to highlight one of my favorite websites. Go to www.pmean.com/news/Archive.html for examples. The one thing that is almost always a turn-off for me is advertising. I am very reluctant to recommend a web page that has prominent ads on it. Once in a while, a site is so good that I still recommend it, like www.skepdic.com, but I really hate ads.

I added a clarification a few hours later. My original answer was a bit harsh. Design has its place, especially for sites that intended to promote a corporate image. Certain layouts, fonts, and color combinations can work for or against that corporate image. But even then, I would keep things minimal. There was a nice article in the Statistical Computing and Graphics newsletter about website design that drew an analogy to Shaker furniture. The Shaker philosophy is to avoid adornments. Anything that is part of the furniture has to have a function. If it isn't functional, eliminate it.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. This page was written by Steve Simon and was last modified on 2010-04-07. Need more information? I have a page with general help resources. You can also browse for pages similar to this one at Category: Website details.