Jeffrey Zeldman: Ten Commandments of Modern Web Design

Orde Saunders' avatarPublished: by Orde Saunders

Jeffery Zeldman speaking at Handheld Conference about web design, these are my notes from his talk.

1. Thou shalt entertain

The most commonly forgotten commandment, we forget to amuse and delight. Nobody ever said "did you see the colour timing on that TV show last night!?" Panic has a very light and conversational tone, there's not much content on their site but they have engaged a loyal following. ALA deal with dry subjects but have an illustrator to lighten the tone in their own style. Go for a light touch unless you are a great humorist.

2. Test everything

Including assumptions. Our modern multi device landscape changes every day. Content has to work on all these things - web standards and progressive enhancement take care of most of it but you still need to test. Think about what kinds of devices you need, you can't catch 'em all - there are seven thousand versions of the Android operating system. "Building the happy cog test lab" and "test on real mobile devices without breaking the bank" are two things worth looking up.

Don't let people think we're spoilt babies that can't take critisim - because the truth is that we are.

3. Though shalt iterate

Iteration is great - do it on your own and do it with a friend. Try lots of things, make small changes. Nudge and nudge and you'll get an idea. "I move things around until they look right" ~Milton Glazer on graphic design. On the web iteration never sleeps. Position can be more important than appearance. You can yell at the cows or you can pave the cowpaths.

If you hate your job now is a good time to leave - there is a lot of internet work for good people.

If you can't delegate at the pixel level you'll never ship and if you never ship you will go out of business. If you have a client that won't ship then raise your rates.

4. Engage thy community

The network isn't machines - well it is but it's the people that use them that matter. Instagram lost a lot of cred when they said they owned the rights to your photos at the same time Flickr launched a new app. promoted the work of independent designers that are using their fonts which humanises them despite being a large corporation.

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6. Love thy user as thyself.

Don't make assumptions about what content people want based on device, re-prioritise if you want but don't take things away. Don't punish people for the choice of device. Make sure your content gets to everyone.

7. Love your content and keep it holy

Get the right content to the right user at the right time. Think content first. Have your own site that you use to experiment. You are your own client so you shouldn't have arguments about what you are doing. Let people focus on the important content, don't keep cramming stuff on screen.

8. Thou shalt make magic

Avoid chasing perfection. Don't be the client who never shipped. Instagram did everything wrong to start with, you could't even follow people - however they did one thing right by uploading in the background. If there are some things wrong that's fine as long as the main experience is magical.

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10. To thyself be true

If you have perfection leave it alone.

This is design not religion.