Famous Last Words: A Website to Make You Weep
Summers during the 1960s, I used to spend an occasional weekend in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, and would go to Tanglewood to hear the Boston Symphony. I remember going into a restaurant in the area one evening where a young African American jazz musician named Randy Weston was at the piano. Fifty years later, I can see him in my mind's eye and still hear the wonderful sounds.
Fast forward to March 2011. It was announced that the Randy Weston Quintet would be playing at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. I went online to see about tickets and learn more about Randy Weston's life in the years since I heard him that one time and immediately came to his website.
I wanted to weep.
Go to randyweston.com and you're greeted with a handsome black and blue landing page with a sound bite of his music and a slowly spinning outline map of Africa that cross-fades into a piano then morphs into a photograph of the 85-year-old jazz legend. However, it's downhill from there.
Page after page is made up of tiny dark blue or gray type against a deeper blue background. Here is a Web designer showing off "design" and not giving a damn whether the viewer can read anything. The site is a textbook example of what's terrible in website design these days.
Quite simply, the Internet—for all its flash and filigree—is essentially a print medium. Start with the basic unit: the landing page. "Page" is a print term. The rules of print apply. Among them:
- "Type smaller than nine-point is difficult for most people to read." —David Ogilvy
- "Never set your copy in reverse (white type on a black background) and never set it over a gray or colored tint. The old school of art directors believed that these devices forced people to read the copy; we now know that they make reading physically impossible." —David Ogilvy
- Avoid "gray walls of type." Try to make the first paragraph no more than three lines, and no paragraph longer than seven lines.
The reason to go to Randy Weston's website is to learn about his work—performance schedule, biography, recordings, photos and perhaps to buy an album or two.