by Joe Gillespie — May 1, 2002

Standing back and looking at the broader picture for a moment, the purpose behind any Web page is to communicate. The communications are mainly through words and images but a few other possibilities are gradually becoming viable as bandwidth increases. There is another factor however which is sometimes expressed as, "It's not what you say but the way that you say it."

How you put a message across is very important and can color the meaning of the words quite significantly.

If you found a doctor's badly printed card stuck inside a telephone box, it says something about that doctor above and beyond the actual words. If the card makes extravagant claims about the doctor's abilities and credentials, you are even less likely to believe them because you know that is just not the way that reputable doctors do things.

If a company puts a Web page on the Internet and it is full of broken image links and type that looks like it had been tipped into the page from a dump truck, it doesn't really matter what the words say. The communication is that this is a hack outfit and if you buy anything from them, you had better count your fingers afterwards!

Reputable companies go to great trouble and expense to protect their images. They will spend vast amounts of money on impressive offices, television ads and glossy brochures but when you look at their Web sites, you sometimes get a completely different picture.

This shouldn't happen, and there are various other reasons why it does, but the one I'm going to focus on here is that of using style sheets that don't work. If you drop a slice of buttered toast, it will hit the ground butter-side down more often than not. That's "Sod's Law". If you leave a chance for a Web page to break, it probably will. Digg Technorati Blinklist Furl reddit Design Float