There are a lot of things to take into consideration when putting together a good website. Not only do you want to attract visitors, but you want to keep them coming back to your site after the initial visit. Don’t discriminate against your visitors. Each and every visitor, no matter where they are from, are equally important. They are important because they took time to visit YOUR site, so you should treat them with all the respect in the world.
Take your time and read through the design tips on the menu to the right. They will help you out to establish usability guidelines for your site.
At number 10 on my list is page layout. This includes knowing how and when to use tables, frames, and graphics…as well as what colors to use and not to use. “Should I put a graphic on this page?” “Should I include a footer on my pages?” These are some of the questions you should answer before hand, prior to actually building your pages. Also it is a good idea to keep links to other external pages minimal, but if you provide links, it is a good idea to make it so the link pops up in a new window, so your site is always there for them to return to.
Many professional designers actually sketch out their ideas before hand on a piece of paper. Some even use graphics programs such as Adobe’s Photoshop to ‘draw’ out the proposed design. Some don’t sketch out their design at all prior to starting, but just get right to work using either straight HTML or text editors to do the design for them. Some text editors include notepad, wordpad, ( pine or pico which are UNIX based text editors ), Editplus and many more.
It’s a good idea when designing a web site, whether it be business or personal in nature, to pick a topic your familiar with. You will sound much more professional, and if questions arise from your visitors, you will be able to answer them in a responsible manner. Not only will you be able to help with questions, but if you pick a topic your familiar with, you will more than likely be aware of any new advances in that area before most others do. This will help you build a content rich site that all of your users will enjoy.
Now I must admit I’m not an English major, but 99.99% of the time all my work goes through a spell check before being published, to check for any potential problems. Even if you are an English major, grammatical mistakes will eventually slip by, and when you type at over 70 words per minute you’re bound to hit a wrong key now and then. ( I know I do ) Its always a good idea to bookmark a good dictionary site or have one handy. It also helps if others proofread your work. It looks unprofessional when you have potential customers visiting your site, and all of a sudden they come across a spelling mistake. Now if you make mistakes on your site, who’s to say you won’t do that on a customer’s site? Unfortunately, we are humans, and these things happen. I’ve had visitors email me a few times pointing out a few grammatical errors here and there.
One of the biggest turnoff’s for me personally is going to a nice looking site only to hit a page that has graphics or even content that I’ve seen elsewhere. Even if you aren’t a designer by nature, it doesn’t take much money to have some made tailored to your needs, and most graphic designers out there will work with you 100% and listen to your needs. Generally speaking they will also make changes as you request them, even if they are already finished on the graphic.
If you find yourself unable to afford much, or lacking the skills to create your own, there are royalty free graphics you may use around the Internet.
You can have all the nice looking graphics you want but if the image takes to long to download on someone’s browser, they may not wish to wait, and either go back to another page, or just get fed up all together and leave your entire site. Generally the rule I go by is that a page will take no longer then 20-25 seconds maximum to load over a 56k modem connection. If you have a lot to say, or a lot of images to show about a certain topic, spread them over several pages, instead of just one.
In addition to being familiar with page layout, you should also test your pages on several different machines. After creating a page, I test it under a 19 inch monitor running a high resolution using both Internet Explorer and Netscape, then also under other lower resolutions using the same monitor and a fast connection. After running it through some browser compatibility tests, I move to a 14 inch monitor under different resolutions and a 56k connection. I try and test for other Operating systems also as much as possible, such as MacOS, Linux, BeOS, WebTV, etc. In then end, very few visitors may actually be visiting your site running Linux for example, but it will look much more professional if your site looks good.
To get an idea of what this site looks like at different resolutions, click these links below.
Here is a screenshot of how your site should NOT look in windowed mode. I’ve found that a lot of people browse the web this way, and having them scroll left or right to see the rest of the page isn’t a good idea. This site has millions of hits a month, and a good ranking on engines, but poor design. The name of the site has been blacked out ( as with the logo ), just to be fair.
Not only do you have to worry if your tables look good at different resolutions, but also if the different technologies your using on your site work well with other broswers and other operating systems. For example, if you design your site with some Macromedia Flash 5 animations, and people are coming to your site with either no Flash plugin or a version less then 5, you should be aware that they will have to download and install the latest to view your animation’s. Try to shy away when new design technologies come out and just throwing them into your site. Be sure you read about them, and fully understand any compatibility issues you may get into.
This is a both a very under and overused area for a lot of sites out there. Currently as of this writing, some engines use META tags, some do not. Either way its a good idea to have them in place. There are several different types of META tags out there, keywords and description are the 2 most important. The ‘keywords’ tag allows you to place certain keywords related to your site so when those searching for a certain subject under a search engine, and if they type in a keyword that you have listed, your site will come up. Now depending on many different factors, your site will be listed anywhere between 1 and thousands of relevant matches. Some of these factors include the number of times that keyword appears in your document, link popularity, if that keyword appears in your page title, and many more. The description tag allows you to briefly describe the document, so that when search engines return your page as a match, viewers will be allowed to read about your document before actually visiting your site.
For more information about META tags, visit this link. Thank you.
How many of you out there have when to go to a certain page and gotten an error similar to ‘ERROR – 404, page not found.’ Basically what that is telling you is that page no longer exits on that site you are visiting. For me, 99.9% of the time I’ll try another site. There are very few people that will actually go to the parent page of that site and look for the page there. That is why it is very important that you keep all your pages linked correctly, and if you move a page, always keep the old page and use a redirect script, or a link to the new page. You never know how many people may have bookmarked that page, or how many search engines that page is listed in. After a certain amount of time, it may be safe to take down the old page, once you are certain your visitors know where the new page is. Keep in mind using a redirect script can be very risky business with search engines, so it would be my recommendation to use a normal HTML link.
Sure flashy graphics will ‘OHHH and AHHHH’ those that visit your site, and may even get some word of mouth advertising around for you, but what keeps them coming back for more time and time again is content. Whether you site is about fishing, world news, the hottest trend in computer technologies, you always want to keep your site as updated and complete as possible. Try to speak in ‘laymen’s’ terms as much as possible for those that may not be as savvy as you are in the subject matter. You should have a search feature built into your site that will allow visitors to search your site for what they are looking for, and also always give them a means to return to the ‘main’ page, so if they get lost, they always know how to get home.