You see a lot of new web site templates that have all sorts of special effects like noise, moving images, and morphing graphics. The geek whiz or cool factor is used to sell the web site design template and entice the buyer. But what impact, if any, does this kind of special effect have on the value of the user experience? I know that I am not very attracted to noisy web sites. If fact if your target user is working in an office environment or other quiet working area, noise is the last thing they need. One of the most common practice jokes I've seen is to lure an unsuspecting user to a site that screams or plays some dramatic music as soon as you enter the web site.
It is funny but its not nice. Special effects have 3 possible drawbacks. First and foremost is load time. When you add several large files (as all flash or .fta files are) you are making the user wait.
That is never a good thing in today is I want it now mindset. The second slow down can occur based on the user is screen settings and resolution. And the third is that the user may not have the necessary version of flash so they will be asked to download the latest version. First impressions do count and if you start off by making the user update and wait for some gee whiz visual that doesn't add any value, it is probably not a good thing. Especially if you are doing some type of direct marketing. The emotional state of the potential buyer is important and irritating a user right off the bat doesn't bode well for generating sales.
It is a well-known fact that you only have a few seconds to grab the visitors attention. If you use up those precious seconds loading some flash routine that's not a very good use of time. A strong headline or even an illustration would be a better choice. The one benefit of using templates is that you can change the layout to better fit your subject matter or target audience. The designer of the template (like many chefs I've met about being horrified when you pick up a condiment to put on their perfect dish) donāt want you messing with their design.
Whenever I use a template I almost always customize the design. There are two reasons I change something on almost any template. The first is to make sure people donāt see multiple copies of the same design.
The other is that rarely will a template fit my concept exactly. Some type of tweaking or changing is necessary to achieve my goal. Many times I just use the template as a guide on color and layout. Maybe use a graphic or illustration that fits my subject matter. There are no rules, the important issues are to communicate, sell, or influence your visitor.
So as long as you can accomplish the given tasks, that is all that matters. That is not to say that you can't use flash or other special effects. When the subject matter or message lends itself to audio or specific graphics flash can be very effective. I have audio on several of my web sites since it is a good method of communication. But the audio is controlled by the visitor, they can choose to listen or not, it is their option. Special effects cover a lot of grounds.
If you need to visually demonstrate a process that is difficult to describe, an illustration is perfect. If you want to provide an example of music, or provide a video demo on some process, or the special effect helps create credibility (like testimonials for example). I think the main thing to keep in mind is to use and not abuse any flash routines. Donāt over do it just for the sake of having some flashy (no pun intended) design that slows down the load time and doesn't add any value. Use any special effects appropriately and keep them as fast loading as possible.
And when you go shopping for templates, don't go for the singing dogs or flying fish. Its like the dog food commercials trying to show how much their dog food looks like human food. The dog doesn't care what it looks like, but the humans do and they are the ones buying the product. And donate be afraid to make changes to the templates to suit your particular need. If you like the colors and layout but not the illustrations or graphics, just remove the graphics and illustrations or put in ones you feel better serve the design. I would also suggest some change is necessary on any template to give it your personal touch.
You don't want 50 other websites with the same design as yours anyway. Add some originality to the layout or add some new graphics that are unique to your web site.
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