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Unrequested review of designbytreitner.com

 |  Interwebs

Reviewed: Ronald Treitner
Site URL: designbytreitner.com

When I first found myself at the site, I assumed that it had been designed for Internet Explorer, because there’s an overlapping text issue at the bottom of the page:

overlapping text in Firefox

I mean, it’s no surprise that amateurs still target IE. It’s unfortunately holding its ground in the browser market despite the wide variety of flaws that do bug us designers and developers so. Nonetheless, I resigned myself to opening IE6 (with a screen res. of 1280×800 by default) and while the footer problem is no longer there, it has its own problems in the form of dodgy PNG transparency. The title of the index page also overlaps the badly stretched top texture.

Back into Firefox, I realise that the site hasn’t been designed for IE at all. In fact, it’s very obviously more attractive (and that’s subjective) in Firefox. So why oh why does the design fail in such an epic way? Newbie mistake number 1: assuming that every person on the Internet uses the exact screen resolution, with the exact toolbars, and exact screen font size as you. It turns out, that if you set your browser at 1024×768 (thank you web developer toolbar) the site is actually readable. More or less.

Aside from the structural issues, which are actually a symptom of the absolute positioning and could be solved with floats without having to change the size or shape of the layout, I accidentally discovered newbie mistake number 2: the layout is one large graphic. Yes, instead of breaking the various sections into manageable chunks, what we have is one large (1024×768) image. I know that slicing is an antiquated technique that very rarely actually makes a difference to loading times, but there are exceptions! (Splitting the image up into 4 optimised jpegs takes about 10KB off the overall file size.)

On top of all this, I’m very confused as to why the Privacy Policy button differs in size from the rest, and what the point of the dull (Dreamweaver) JavaScript image rollover effect is.

Of course, we all know that a site is not just about looks. I for one recommend that people focus on their content over their designs unless you’re trying to sell your services as a designer. Wait.. what was the title of this page again? “Custom Web Design by Treitner” Hmm. There goes my logic. Baseless, biased criticisms of the layout aside (I’m not a designer, remember) I am awestruck by the textual content of the page.

This is very obviously someone who’s not heard of the KISS concept. No, you dirty gits, I’m not flirting with him! That’s Keep It Simple, Stupid. While it applies to many things in life, none are more relevant here than the copy on a design portfolio. Potential clients don’t care how much ass you can kiss, they want to get to the point. Quoting Jakob Nielsen on October 1, 1997:

How Users Read on the Web

They don’t.

Unless you’re as fantastically interesting as I am, your visitor is going to scan, skip and scan again. 428 words in one introduction is not a good start (newbie mistake number 3). I didn’t even try and read it. In fact, I read the first sentence, and the last. It’s quite apt actually: “Compromise design and you’re just filling web space with text.” Jakob Nielsen (again; well, he is an expert) said it best in October of last year in his Blah-Blah Text: Keep, Cut, or Kill? article: “The introductory paragraph(s) found at the top of many Web pages is what I call blah-blah text” This, my friends, is what I’d call mega uber long blah-blah text.

I’ll be honest at this point, I didn’t find this site through my own genius searching techniques. I didn’t go looking for “shit sites”, nor was I deliberately trying to spot my next Pants Award recipient. In fact, the webmaster walked into a forum and created a thread asking for feedback. Does that make me a traitor to the realm of unrequested reviews? :(

I’ve mentioned the thread at this point because, although my review would work without it, there is a specific line in there I want to briefly touch upon. I quote:

As for the rest, I should have realized my site would only piss off those who’s work is so bad they can’t even get it to validate.

Ouch. He was only criticised because the websites of those responding were “so bad” they couldn’t get it to validate? Newbie mistakes both 4 and 5 there: bitching about someone’s site before you’ve seen it (neither of those leaving critique have their own website(s) linked from their profile) and relying on the automated syntax validator to give you an indication of quality. Now, as my site does validate I feel like I’m suitably qualified to continue. Moving on?

On the About Me page, we’re advised that we shouldn’t have to deal with a faceless entity — damn those robotic web designers and developers with no flesh and feelings — and yet there is no face of Treitner? Who is this guy anyway? On the same page, validation is mentioned again:

My sites actually validate, which means they contain no errors. Many other web design sites out there can’t even get their sites to validate and that’s a skill any beginner web designer should know, let alone any site claiming to be a full service expert.

You know what I think any beginner web designer should know? When to admit that they are exactly that: a beginner. There’s no shame in it, we all had to start somewhere. Not all of us hid behind a veil of professionalism and mock-standards though. (And the site may validate but there are so many errors with the coding I can’t wait until I’m through with the content.)

On “THIS WEB DESIGNERS SERVICES” (should that have an apostrophe, or am I being grammar-retarded again?) basic search engine submission is offered as a chargeable service. News flash, it doesn’t take a genius to copy and paste a URL into a box provided free of charge by Google. Apparently this guy also works for peanuts: “Because I want you to know no matter how much time is invested into perfecting your next site, you won’t be paying extra for my time.” I wonder if I can try that one on vet next time we take Hex up. “Hey, it doesn’t matter how much time you put into becoming a qualified vet and treating my animal, I want this service for no more than £5!” Pfft. It’s no wonder so many people think that a professionally developed website shouldn’t cost more than 20 bloody bucks.

I can’t even put into words how amusing I found the Portfolio. Suitably warned by the introducty novel paragraph, I am armed with the knowledge that most designers in the industry fake it. All of those portfolios, design examples and published pages are naught but faking fakers. I can, will all confidence and sincerity say that I believe all of the examples in Treitner’s gallery are genuine. Why? For the pure and simple reason that you just wouldn’t fake that. Why would you? Why would you tell people that your design resembles that of a 12 year old unless you actually knew and understood that, and wanted to publicise it anyway?

I wasn’t going to pass comment on the Contact Me Today page because.. well, because it’s a contact page. I couldn’t help but laugh at this though: “Technical difficulties with server may sometimes delay e-mail processing.” This guy is recommending his host, despite admitting to technical difficulties? Why?

Awards. Awards. Awards. I don’t have anything witty or constructive to say about a page of awards. In fact, I believe the page says more than I ever could.

Dun dun dun — the coding! Unfortunately, it’s at this part that I remember/realise that the site has been templated in Dreamweaver. Any criticisms are of the program, rather than the designer, but when someone so vehemntly defends his coding ability I feel I must speak out; I must tell the world about the plight of us lowly hand-coders and our efforts in the world of developing and design! (FFS, get to the point Jem or I’ll KISS on your ass. *ponders* Talking to oneself, first sign of madness?) Aye aye aye..

Firstly, any designer, developer, coder, or programmer worth their salt doesn’t use a Transitional doctype. Transitional doctypes are for wusses, too chickenshit to advance into real syntax editing. OK, that’s an exaggeration right there, but seriously: use Strict or don’t use anything. You might as well serve up font tags for all the good a Transitional doctype does. (Newbie mistake number 6.)

Secondly, the div tag soup? Not as tasty as chicken noodle. For example, this:

<div id="Layer14">
  <div align="center"><a href="http://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/validator?uri=http://www.designbytreitner.com/index.html" target="_blank"><img src="images/vcss.gif" alt="Valid CSS!" width="88" height="31" border="0" /></a></div>

</div>

..should not look like that. It’s wrong on so many levels.

  1. Meaningless div id.
  2. Superfluous inner div, created for purely presentational reasons
  3. Border, width and height all presentational: should be in the CSS
  4. Target is yucky. Let visitors control their browser!

The majority of the divs are like this. Yes, I know, Dreamweaver. But why oh why is this person so keen on his ability to validate if he is relying on a program to generate this crap excuse for a web page? Each navigational element gets two divs each (how greedy); each structural element the same. The paragraphs are individually assigned an align attribute instead of a global CSS rule, and yet more meangingless ids and classes are littered amongst the bloat. This: onmouseover="MM_displayStatusMsg('Design by Treitner Custom Web Designs');return document.MM_returnValue" is lamer than lame. Changing your status message is only cool amongst 12 year old doll site owners. I’m surprised that Dreamweaver even has a premade function for that kind of thing.

Sure, the web page validates. Sure, the majority of the text is coherant and legible. That doesn’t mean that this is a good web site. No amount of W3C buttonage will make this a quality design service. Either this is the best damned prank I have ever seen — and I fell for it hook, line and sinker — or this chap has delusions of success in the web design business. I’m not sure which is the more scary thought.

See follow-up: A Real Example of a Bad Web Developer

Jem Turner jem@jemjabella.co.uk +44(0)7521056376

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