Thursday, 24 September 2009

Faites simple

...or, avoid all unnecessary complication and elaboration. This was Escoffier's advice to chefs but it applies to websites as well as it does to great cooking.

If you own a restaurant which offers a lunchtime tasting menu at £75 (£6 surcharge if you want the Duck Egg Mimosa with Cornish Lobster Mayonnaise as your starter), or a hotel which is a stunning Elizabethan manor house surrounded by 35 acres of renowned historic gardens and set in 1000 acres of ancient and exquisite forestry land, then you will need to promote it with a stylish website. So you go to the top people in the website design racket and tell them you want something really prestigious.

The trouble is, they need to justify the huge fee they are going to charge, so that they will have to make your website look and feel as if it's worth every penny; it will come replete with videos, music and every kind of whizzy feature, all bearing the hallmarks of top international graphic artists and web designers. It will certainly look terrific; it may also be confusing, awkward and generally irritating.

I know two sisters who inherited from their mother a house by the seaside which they let by the week for holidays. They asked me to make them a website to advertise it and since I was—still am, actually—in a relationship with the younger of the two I was happy to do so without charge. I am not much good at web design but I could make a virtue out of necessity by producing something very simple, with ten pages merely giving all the necessary information and making it easy to book. It was done with a nine-year-old version of Microsoft's now obsolete FrontPage, using one of its rather naff "themes", and the whole thing nowadays looks a touch dreary and old-fashioned (the website, that is, not the house, which is a very nice one). If you're curious, you can see both HERE.

This post is not touting for business, either for the house or my websites: I make websites only for friends and charities, and after several years of almost continuous lets the house is fully booked for a long way ahead. Of course, if you're really keen there are still a few weeks available for next year....



Amanda said...

Simple is so refreshing! I find however, that for most French people, simple has negative connotations. Simple often means "bĂȘte". I wrote about this on my blog. I would be interested to get your take on this!

Tony said...

Hello Amanda
Your essay on the subject seems to say everything that needs to be said; it's all quite simple, really.
I would say that while in both languages simple can be pejorative or not, in English it is usually a matter of context. To us, a simple thing is rarely bad; if we wish to criticise, we use simplistic, while when we speak of people we have Simple Simon, simpletons or "he's a bit simple".
It may be that the English value simplicity more highly than the French (apart from Escoffier). After all, William of Ockham was an Englishman and was summoned to Avignon to face charges of heresy