- The update to the best-selling Creating Killer Web Sites by David Siegel
- Updated information covering new tricks and techniques for use with the latest browser releases is integrated throughout the text
- Four-color, stunning design and examples of the best Web sites
Table of ContentsForm Versus Function.
Laying Out Pages.
A Page Makeover.
A Personal Site.
A Gallery; Creative Design Solutions.
A CSS Primer.
On Friday, January 8th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed David S. Siegel to discuss CREATING KILLER WEB SITES.
Moderator: Good afternoon, David Siegel, and welcome to the Auditorium! We're thrilled to have you with us to chat about CREATING KILLER WEB SITES. Before we begin, do you have any opening comments for the online audience?
David S Siegel: Hi, gang. Surprise! It's me, Kevin Costner! Dave's, uh, tied up right now, so I'm going to take questions on acting and being a general stud in Hollywood. Fire away!
Chris Miller from Jenks, OK: While adding multimedia content (flash, RA, even static pictures), you obviously increase the download time. What would a good "target time" be to shoot for when building such a page?
David S Siegel: Hi, Chris. Okay, it's me, little old Dave Siegel. Kevin asked me to take the developer questions, but we're still waiting for any glamour and lifestyle questions you may have. In general, I go for about 20-30k per page. More only if you need it, and less if your audience is impatient. Dave.
Marco from New Rochelle, NY: How would you like to see the Web progress if there were no bandwidth issues?
David S Siegel: If everyone had huge bandwidth, everything would change, and I mean everything. It's a big discussion, but imagine a world where no one has a computer on his desktop: no disk drives, no CPUs, et cetera, just connectivity. Lots of exciting things coming down the pike!
Virginia from Los Angeles, CA: What can a designer do to reduce "bailout" on the home page?
David S Siegel: Virginia, everyone is trying to get people off the home page. To do it well, you need to focus on customer groups, not content. Go to www.gw2k.com for an example, and watch for my big book in the fall. Take care, David.
Jason from Minnesota: What is the deal with highfive.com? Are you going to get it going again...ever?
David S Siegel: High Five is a sad story. Some people were going to help us take it and make it better in the fall, but they bailed and left us hanging. We're now in negotiations to relaunch the site sometime in the next two to three months. Hang in there, and come back in February to see our announcements! Dave.
John from East Village, NYC: How do you deal with cross-browser issues? Do you think there will be a more uniform standard anytime soon?
David S Siegel: This is tough. For now, we do least common denominator, which is very hard. Sometimes we detect browsers. There are other tricks, as I outline in my book. Please go to www.webstandards.org for more information. Dave.
Amy D. from Chicago, IL: How important is a formal education to being a web designer?
David S Siegel: Amy, give me someone with a good eye over an HTML jockey any day! I can teach you HTML (good HTML) in a month or two, but to be a good designer takes five to ten years. Look at NYU's multimedia and telecom program -- it's great. David.
Dan B. from Cupertino: Hi, David. We're struggling with the menu design for a very large web site (multithousand products, multithousand documents). It's a classic tradeoff between breadth and depth. If we keep the menu fairly tight, it takes our customers five to seven clicks to drill down through the menu to find the document they want. If we make the upper levels of the menu wider, so that all documents are reachable in three to four clicks, the menus are too difficult to navigate, because each level has so many elements. Any guidelines/thoughts on how to handle navigation on sites with a large number of documents?
David S Siegel: Yes, forget about product categories and such. Think about groups of users. Orient your site to separate groups of people, and then give each group what they want. You'll never be able to scale a content-based site to make everyone happy if you don't do this. David.
Brian from Chicago: Hello, Dave. I was wondering what is some of the software you would prefer to use when designing a web site -- you know, to kinda give me an idea of what I should look for and what I should buy?
David S Siegel: I don't care about software. If you know what you want, you can use anything to get it. And 99 percent of the people I meet have trouble saying what they want, so who cares what the tools are?
Joan from Michigan: Do you agree that graphics can be overdone? I like to do quite a bit of research using my computer, but I get so tired of waiting for the graphics to get loaded up.
David S Siegel: I agree that it's what the user wants that counts. I'm willing to bet you don't go to mtv.com very often, but they love graphics! So do the right thing for your users! David.
Jennifer Johansson from Minneapolis: I just recently became interested in web site design and am enjoying your book CREATING KILLER WEB SITES. What are your suggestions on the type of training I will need to become a web site designer, and a good one at that?
David S Siegel: Jen, please go to a good design school for four years and learn typography, color, composition, et cetera. Either that or team up with someone who has. Have you been to MCAD? It's great. Go take some design courses there from a guy named Piotr Szhalski. He's one of the best. Cheers -- David.
Scott Holmes from Minneapolis, MN: What sites have you seen recently that just knock you out in terms of presentation and design?
David S Siegel: Go to www.52mm.com and see their work.
Iain from NY: What trends have you noticed in current web site design, good or bad?
David S Siegel: Sites are either content-driven or technology-driven. This is a general disease. My sites are customer-driven. No big examples yet, but watch later this year. David.
Lucy Kelleher from Ireland: What is your weather like in your country?
David S Siegel: It's nice after the fog lifts. Thanks for asking!
Iain Bryden from Bayside, Queens: What are the most common mistakes people make when designing a web site?
John from Berkeley, CA: How would you address a target audience like children, who are relatively impatient yet love heavy graphics (disregarding Flash)?
David S Siegel: Flash is not a bad way to go for such people. I'd want to see if I could convince them to get the plug-in. Otherwise I'd do it about like they do at discovery.com. Dave.
Brigitte from Vermont: I will soon start designing my first web site. I have no background in this field. Which software (an easy one) would you recommend, and which style for a page is the killer one? Thanks, Brigitte.
David S Siegel: Uh, try something like Microsoft FrontPage. But work with a good designer!
Kate Petersen from Minneapolis, MN: David, Please say more about designing a pathway and exit for site visitors. The exit in particular seems difficult if there are several lateral navigation paths for diverse users. Thanks lots.
David S Siegel: Exits are sometimes appropriate, sometimes not. What matters is that you build areas of your site that fit different kinds of users. Focus on that instead of trying to build a one-size-fits-all site. Whew! David.
Mavi Greene from Chandler, Texas: What are the legal difficulties facing the Web today?
David S Siegel: What are the legal difficulties facing real life today? It's a big question. I think it's fascinating, but I can't answer questions like that in this space. David.
Brian from Chicago: I have been making graphics for about four years now and have become quite skilled at it. I was wondering: I have started my own company, but do you know of ways in which I can increase traffic to my site to help get business?
David S Siegel: Brian, making graphics is about 1 percent of the skills you'll need to open a company. Read SECRETS OF SUCCESSFUL WEB SITES by Kevin Costner for more on what you'll need to know. David.
John Joh from East Bay, CA: On the issue of designing for an audience, when there is a lot of "noise," meaning tons of similar sites with the same look and feel, do you ever suggest breaking the mold and creating something that does not match the expectations of the target? Like trying to create the "new" look for an audience?
David S Siegel: I suggest building several prototypes and testing them on prospective audience members. Don't try to figure it out yourself! Ask them! Dave.
Brian from Chicago: Hello. I know what I am looking for in an HTML program, but I am only 15, and not really at a point where software may be purchased easily, due to a lack of income for a 15-year-old. I was really more interested in books and/or classes that are offered that I can buy or take to learn HTML, Java, and the main stuff like that?
David S Siegel: Cool. Then go buy books and take classes and do stuff like that. Mainly, build web sites! Dave.
Bill Webb from Fort Worth, Texas: Will everyone be able to read my site if it uses frames? Do you recommend using frames?
David S Siegel: I actually think frames are okay. You can do really stupid things with frames, so you have to use them carefully, but I understand that even AOL people can deal with them these days, so I don't shy away from using them. But of course, you must test this on your audience! David.
Paul Watson from Auckland, New Zealand: David, should web designs devote more time to the visuals/graphics or to the message/what you want to say? What sort of balance would you recommend? Less is more?
David S Siegel: Hi, Paul. I was just in Auckland in October and gave a talk on customer-centered design. Where were you?
Mark from New York: Can you define "information architecture"? This term has come into vogue recently. What is it? Why is it important?
David S Siegel: Mark, there are good books on this. Try Edward Tufte, the master. Go to sites like schwab.com and planetall.com and look at the work of some good info architects. It makes a huge difference! If Yahoo! knew what it was, their site would be a lot better. Dave.
Eric from Berkeley: Regarding online Director and Java-based games, do you think that they are a temporary fad, or is there something more to it?
David S Siegel: I never play them. Ask someone who does. I find them pretty boring, myself. Dave.
Bill W. from Ft. Worth, TX: What about frames? Can every user support them? Is it safe to use them, or do I continue to give the option?
David S Siegel: Ask your audience! And read the answers to previous questions. Thanks, David.
Friederike Penney from CA: Dear Mr. Costner, can you give some of us web designers a few lesser-known tips?
David S Siegel: Lesser-known tips! Sure. Buy low. Sell high. Always take a model to a party. Tip well. And don't move your lips when you read -- it slows you down. Kevin. Here's my big tip: Design your site for a limited audience and make those people 110 percent happy. Don't try to do everything for everyone! Look at www.timezone.com -- it's really badly designed, but the people there are having a great time! David.
Paul Watson from Auckland, New Zealand: Huddled around my PC, trying to figure out how do a killer page.... Sorry to have missed you. You should have called first.
David S Siegel: I'll be back! I love New Zealand!
JJ from SF: I always say to clients that the design should never be based on the client's personal taste. What do you think?
David S Siegel: JJ, read SECRETS OF SUCCESSFUL WEB SITES. Is there a bookstore around here anywhere?
Sandy from Reo, Indiana: Our cardiology practice is finally logging on and considering a web page. Any words of advice? Our target population is male and female, middle-aged to seniors.
David S Siegel: How are you going to measure success? Dave.
Racine Palmer from West Virginia: Can you explain some of your project-management methodology?
David S Siegel: Sure. It's all in SECRETS OF SUCCESSFUL WEB SITES by Woody Allen, one of the greatest project managers of our time. And it's on sale here! Wow! Dave.
Gail and Dan Baum from Hollywood, CA: Hi, Kev! Can you give us your list of top five web site faux pas?
David S Siegel: Hi, Gail and Dan! Did I tell you never to move your lips while reading my books? That's the main thing. It'll really slow you down, and you won't get my tips. Seriously, the biggest faux pas is that people design around their content rather than their visitors. Go look at www.merck.com -- they've done almost everything wrong. All the best to you in Hollywood! David.
Frost from Hawaii: Hi, since we are chatting on barnesandnoble.com, what do you think of this site's design versus Amazon's?
David S Siegel: I actually think you can do several things here easier and better than at Amazon. But I think they both have a long, long way to go. Wait until my next book to learn exactly how they can be much better. Good question. David.
Christian from Charlotte: In your opinion, what is the best graphics software on the market for designing custom web graphics? And when I say best, I mean the easiest to learn and use, as well as the most powerful.
David S Siegel: Who cares? The big question is what you are trying to do on the site, not what program you used to make the graphics! Me, I use Photoshop. But that's just a personal preference. David.
Lionel Pressit from Oregon: Tell us about the people that have influenced your web site design.
David S Siegel: Mostly real graphic designers, people like Ed Tufte, David Carson, April Greiman, Herbert Spencer, Paul Rand, Jan Tschichold, Leslie Smolan, Erik Spiekermann, and many others. David.
Lori Storck from MD: What are some common communication problems between programming, marketing, and management departments, and what are some ways to avoid them?
David S Siegel: Lori, people have too many opinions. Who cares what your opinions are? Crank out fast prototypes and show them to prospective users. Forget about what the boss likes! David.
Greg Staunton from San Francisco, CA: What are some of your personal favorite web sites?
David S Siegel: Hi, Greg. I like www.le-shop.ch and www.disappear.com, also check out www.plumbdesign.com, www.porsche.com, and www.bose.com. Take care, David.
Bill Webb from Fort Worth, TX: How do we factor in slower access due to audience members moving their lips while they read the web site? More pictures and less words?
David S Siegel: Evelyn Wood had the answer: Write carefully so people don't even notice they're reading! Most web writing is terrible. Do it better and pull people through the site, lips flapping every which way. David.
Brian from Chicago: Hello. I was wondering if anyone would be willing to visit my site and give an opinion on it -- not really about the content but on the look and speed of it, because I know that since it's about rap music, most would not enjoy the content. The URL is http://www.geocities.com/sunsetstrip/balcony/3140/.
David S Siegel: Brian, thanks for asking. I get about 10 requests a day. That's 70 a week, 300 a month, 36,500 a year. I can't handle it! I'm gonna blow a gasket! Dave.
Brian from Chicago: Wow, I didn't realize all these big celebrities wrote the same book on successful web pages.... Just kidding. But I am loving this chat sooo much, I am going to plug your book and barnesandnoble.com for people like me who are interested in all of this.
David S Siegel: Brian, just remember that gray is the new black. Okay? Kiss kiss, David.
url from Yahoo!: What are some of the most confusing issues for a new web surfer?
David S Siegel: Using Yahoo! or AOL to get anything done.
Brian from Williamsburg, VA: What are some of the most common issues in working with a manager who does not understand the medium, and how can we avoid them?
David S Siegel: I get this question all the time. the answer is: quit! Life's too short and the Web too exciting to be working for Homer Simpson! Dave.
Sandy from Reo, Indiana: How do any of the web page owners measure success? My guess -- and it's a guess, because we are new to this -- is that it's based on the number of hits. I guess I am wondering what you would consider a killer design for such a diversified audience.
David S Siegel: Hits are meaningless. Let me say it again so people can move their lips while I say this: Don't measure hits! Measure business results instead (and they thought Moses had it tough!). Dave.
Risa Offenhutter from Portchester, NY: Who are the most influential people to your sense of design, computer based or other?
David S Siegel: Jan Tschichold. And Mies Van Der Rohe. And Isamo Noguchi. And many, many others. David.
Eloise from Wichita, KS: This might seem like a broad question, but I'd be interested to know what your opinion is. What to you is the most exciting prospect about the future of the Web? Having seen it grow from its beginning, where is it headed?
David S Siegel: You can't even imagine. It's gonna be everywhere. It's gonna be like the phone. You won't even know you're using it. I kid you not. David.
Bethany Byman from Port Jefferson, NY: Other then web design, what are your interests?
David S Siegel: You know, the general guy stuff: skiing, chasing women, adventure travel, bungie jumping, learning French, chasing Frenchwomen, reading (anyone wanna know what I'm reading?), diet, women's reproductive health issues, how to kill pro football, chasing Swiss women who speak French, et cetera. Normal stuff like that. Dave.
Brian from Chicago: Is there an address where we can write to you -- maybe to the publisher or something where we can send some more questions and hopefully get some answers?
David S Siegel: Brian, I'm sorry, I don't run a help desk. I get paid to write books, give speeches, and consult for clients. However, there are lots of help desks on the Web! Places like builder.com and projectcool.com -- check in with them! Kevin asked me to keep his email address private, sorry. David.
Alan from Portland, ME: I know I'm pulling this question directly from your feature, but I would like to know: Why hasn't the face of the Web changed much in the last year or so?
David S Siegel: Because Microsoft got ahead, so now they don't have to innovate anymore, and Netscape never cared about designers to begin with. Simple -- it's not where the money is! Dave.
Gerard from Oak Park, IL: Can you give the web designers out there a few lesser-known tips?
David S Siegel: Don't lean back while skiing powder. This is actually one of the biggest misconceptions there is. Oh, and you can't spot-reduce. How many times do I see overweight people in the gym pumping iron to lose weight? It's ridiculous. Dave.
Hanni from Springfield, MO: What are some of your favorite resources?
David S Siegel: I really like Glenwood Hot Springs, in Glenwood, Colorado. They have this huge pool -- okay, it smells, but the water slide is really fun. Actually, I like www.techstocks.com and www.stockwinners.com. Thanks for asking. Dave.
Marian from Greenwich, CT: Tell us about your background.
David S Siegel: I did computer science, then I got a master's degree in digital typography from Stanford. You can learn all about me at www.dsiegel.com, www.siegelvision.com. Take care, David.
Roland from Atlanta, GA: You gave an example of a web site that did everything wrong. Where is a site that did everything right?
David S Siegel: There are very few. The only ones are really, really targeted. But I think planetall.com is doing a great job. And I like the way they've done all the user-interface stuff at www.schwab.com.
Brigitte from Vermont: Frenchwomen -- parlez-vous français? How about French-Canadian sexologist.... Sorry, I am married. Good luck and thanks for the good advice this afternoon.
David S Siegel: Merci bien, mon amie la sexologiste. Peut-être vous avez des amies célibataires? David.
Marilyn from Middletown, Ohio: Hi, Dave. I bought your book a while ago and find it to be wonderful. My question is, Am I fooling myself by thinking I can become a good web site designer/developer without having any formal training? I've been reading on my own everything I can get my hands on and building pages for the fun of it. I have a lot to learn, but the desire to do it. I hope to one day make the change from my current discipline (software consultant) to creating web pages. Thanks...
David S Siegel: Yes, Marilyn, you are. If you want to be really good, you should join a hotshot firm and work your tail off to learn everything you can from people with years of experience. Best wishes, David.
Bill Webb from Fort Worth, Texas: I want to know: What are you reading now, and what kinds of books do you like to read?
David S Siegel: Heck of a question, Bill! Most important book of 1990s: RECLAIMING OUR HEALTH by John Robbins (hey, do I get any kickbacks here?). Reading now: CONSILIENCE by Edward O. Wilson and GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL by Jared Diamond. I also just read A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY and loved it. Believe it or not, I took speed reading from Evelyn Wood in the late '70s, and I read much faster because of it. You can learn to read without moving your lips! Happy reading! David.
Bethany Byman from Port Jefferson, NY: What are the dangers of surfing the Web while drunk, and what's the best way to get a tan from my computer monitor?
David S Siegel: Never let a good mouse stand between you and your web site. Remember, you are burning calories as you type! Dave.
Traci Fenton from Iowa City, IA: Hello, David! I am about to design a web site for an international nonprofit organization. Can you share some tips on how nonprofits or service companies dealing with intangibles such as ideas rather than products can have repeat visitors? Does that only happen when you are selling something on your site?
David S Siegel: Traci, consider using email as a tool to keep in touch. For example, I have an online community called DaveWorld (www.3sheep.com/daveworld), and it's just a buzz of activity! Take care, David.
Chris from Athens, GA: What is your approach to working with a new client?
David S Siegel: always always start by asking: How are we going to measure success? Then I use the principles espoused in SECRETS OF SUCCESSFUL WEB SITES, written by Groucho Marx. David.
Jason from Minneapolis: Are you the same David Siegel that writes for television shows such as "Law & Order" and "Homicide: Life on the Street"?
David S Siegel: No, I'm not. But I used to date his sister's manicurist's astrologer's girlfriend's pen pal.
Groucho Marx from Skies Above: Hey, I never wrote such a book. But hey, if you say I did, at least let me have some of the profits.... How much do you agree with the following statement: Clean design + good use of technology = a good web site.
David S Siegel: Thanks! And remember not to join any clubs that would have you as a member. Do they take cigars in heaven? Dave.
Christian from Charlotte: I am in college working towards a degree in MIS. I would like to design web sites when I graduate. What are a couple of types of classes/subject areas to explore while I am in school to prepare myself?
David S Siegel: Design? Visual communication? Writing? Et cetera? Dave.
Paul Watson from Auckland, New Zealand: Oh! Lightbulb clicks! I thought I recognized your name before -- screenwriting! I'm a wannabe like millions of others. A lot of people are using their home pages to pitch. What would you recommend to get studio heads/agents' attention as far as killer pages go?
David S Siegel: Dunno. Sleeping with producers is always more productive. Dave.
Brian from North Dakota: I read an answer to a previous question, and projectcool.com is a great site and I love it, but how much do consultations from you cost?
David S Siegel: Brian, I really only work for big companies that can afford me. I'm not in the range of most people. If you are more interested, please visit www.siegelvision.com. Best, David.
Groucho Marx from Skies Above: Hey, Cubans are legal in heaven, Dave, you'll love it...and hey, they kicked me outta all the clubs.
David S Siegel: Yes, but at least there ain't no sanity clause! :)
Sandy from Reo, Indiana: So, David, if a company is "selling" intangibles, indirectly the number of visitors to your site is important, but you suggest having email interaction to help measure the success of the site?
David S Siegel: Absolutely. Go to www.iconocast.com and see how they sell intangibles -- very effective. Dave.
Richarda Milley from Milford, NH: How does one break into web design as a career?
David S Siegel: Write a book that sells hundreds of thousands of copies?
Tyrell Smith from Kansas: Hello. Can you talk about how active server pages is changing web design?
David S Siegel: Who cares? Most people using them don't know what their business goals are.
Joshua Barkenstein from Idaho Falls: Hi. What's the big deal with XML? Do you think this is the future?
David S Siegel: Yes, I really do, and I'll be happy to talk about it in another chat, maybe in a year or so, after my book comes out. If you can get in now and learn about it, you'll be glad you did.
Moderator: Thank you so much for joining us today, Mr. Costner, Woody, and especially you, David Siegel, for a killer chat! Before you go, do you have any closing comments or last words of advice for your online audience?
David S Siegel: I do, and thank you for asking. First, many people here might enjoy getting onto the producer's mailing list at www.secretsites.com -- it's free and a great community of help. Also, at killersites.com we have a group of a few thousand developers on the BABBLE mailing list; you'll find good people there who'll answer your tech questions better than I can. And finally, use the Web to make a difference. To help people. Do work with nonprofits. Reach out to people who need it. Your contributions can really change people's lives. Forget about technology and think about people. All the best, David.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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