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malevolent design weblog

This blog is now defunct, but you can find more stuff over at my personal site

Breaking News: Sites Have Breaking News

When web sites are designed, people often insist they don’t really have any news or announcements as such. They’re not in a fast-moving or tech-savvy industry, or don’t have the time/money for updates, or want a flashy Flashy design, so the idea is that the home page shouldn’t have a news area. Which seems reasonable enough.

But if you’re a site owner in this situation then you might want to rethink the assumption, or if you’re the web designer challenge/ignore (see later) it. Because almost every time I’ve been involved in a project where this has been specified, a matter of months later the client has urgently needed to add an announcement. Eventually the company wins an award, or is nominated for one, or wants to brag about a spiffy new contract/employee/offer, or is relocating, or is in the press, and so on. Someone has to quickly bodge in an ugly banner or block of text that spoils the design.

Most home pages need to allow for news/announcements in some way. Sometimes the newsy element can be hidden by default, allowing the designer to sneakily include it even if the client swears they’ll never want it. All it has to do is accommodate a paragraph of text and links plus an optional image, and then once the CSS & HTML is in place it’s trivial for someone to put an eyecatching announcement live in minutes. Web apps/services may also need a site-wide banner to cover maintenance and outages, and with a bit of simple JavaScript can allow the visitor to dismiss announcements they’ve read.

So when you’re planning a web site, consider the best (“OMG bought out for $1bn!”) and worst (“WTF sued for $1bn?”) things that might happen and how the site will need to communicate with visitors about them.


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