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Leading Edge or Bleeding Edge Technology?

Many clients want their site to be built using the very latest technology and special effects - leading edge technology. This is often described as a technology driven web site. And many new designers are really keen to use these latest techniques immediately, to impress their clients. Is this really a good idea?

To be honest, it is a bad idea. If some new browser plug-in appears, just how many of your potential site viewers will have that plug-in? How many are willing to download it just to see your site? What happens if they don't have the plug-in and aren't as familiar with computers as they'd like to be? If they are a bit nervous of changing their set-up, worried that something might go wrong which they can't sort, they will simply not download and install the newest plug-in. Perhaps their computer or Internet link isn't particularly fast and can't display the latest special effects properly anyway.

So how will your site look when the special effect you paid so much extra to have doesn't do anything? A little red cross in a box perhaps? Hence the name bleeding edge technology. You've been badly cut, and lost viewers, all of them potential clients. And not every effect works in every browser either, some only function properly in one particular browser. A web site should degrade gracefully when old browsers and those minus the latest plug-ins are used, not turn belly up.

Jakob Nielsen, the world's leading expert on web useability, recommends running at least one year behind the times with regards to the latest plug-ins and technologies, two years behind being even better. That way the vast majority of visitors will see your site the way you intended it to look, as their browsers will be more likely to handle the web site faultlessly. When the latest technology is old hat, then you should consider using it. For a start, there will be more people around who know how to use it to enhance your site! And it will be cheaper to produce. And the bugs will have been ironed out.

But you should also ask yourself why you need some particular special effect. Do you want high techology for its own sake perhaps? Are you about to become technology driven? If it is just a fancy effect, what extra information does it convey to your viewers? If the answer is just "It looks cool", remember the golden rule of a good web site - content is everything. Improve your site's content first and retain your visitors.

Sky-Web can give advice on how to improve the content and attract visitors who are not even looking for goods to buy, yet end up on your pages and become potential customers. Email us now.

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