5 Tips To Great Web Design
By Charles Hopkins
Published 09/22/2007 | Web Design
If you're building your very own Website it will really serve you in the long run to pay special attention to Website design from the outset. Sure you can go back and fix things at a later date, but a lot of damage can already have been done to your online credibility by that point - and that credibility may take a very long time to build back up again, so why take the risk?
Here are five do's and don'ts to ensure that any Website you design lives up to a basic level of good usability from a visitor's perspective.
1) Splash pages are not a good idea
What's a splash page? It's the first page you see when you arrive at a Website. The specific ones that are bad are those that say something like 'Welcome!' and then have you waiting for several minutes while some audio or video presentation loads - not a good idea. Remember, your Website visitors will typically have a very short attention span. Your site is competing with millions of others and making your visitors wait around will only make them want to hit the back button in their browser and go visit somewhere else. The first page, the 'Home' page, of your Website should be a genuine content page with a fast load time, i.e. not excessive in the graphic department, where all of the other pages and sections of your site are easily accessible from.
2) Don't overdo it with the banner adverts
Excessive use of banner adverts will tend to give your Web pages a slow load time and, particularly if they flash and pulse in a kaleidoscope of color, will irritate and annoy your visitors rather more than they'll entertain them. But they'll make you money, I hear you say? Will they? Most experienced Webmasters will tell you that the days of successful banner advertising are pretty much in the past. Most Web surfers these days have learned that banners are advertising and obvious advertising tends to get tuned out. You can get away with one or two banners per page that look in context with the general look and feel of your Web pages but overdoing it will only make you look like an amateur. Banner farms are so old hat and don't impress anyone these days, if they ever did.
3) Make your site's navigation menu simple and easy to understand
How many Websites have you found that left you completely bewildered when it came to finding your way around and locating the information that they appeared to promise and that you were looking for? Probably more than you care to remember, sadly. And how many of them did you choose to revisit after having been bamboozled first time around? Not many, right? Well, learn from your own experience here and make sure that you put a lot of time and effort into planning your site's navigation menu so that it is logical and easy to understand. It's a good idea to test it on a few friends to see if they can find what they're looking for without any help from you. If they can't, it's back to the drawing board.
4) Choose your Website color schemes wisely
If you give your visitors a headache when they're at your site they'll a) leave quickly and b) not come back. One of the best ways to achieve those two undesirable effects is to choose some sort of garish color scheme that even your Website's Mother would not be able to love. Pay particular attention in this regard to text. Make sure that your text is of a size that makes it comfortably readable and that it stands out clearly from its background. Sticking with normal black text on a white background best ensures this.
5) Get rid of that annoying muzak
You don't have cheesy 'tunes' playing in the background on your Website do you? If you do, please get rid of them. It really won't do you any favors, you'll just come across as a complete amateur who really doesn't care about annoying their visitors, and if you want a successful Website, that's not something you should be going out of your way to do. That's not to say that audio and, indeed, videos dont have a place on a successful Website. With the ever-increasing use of broadband Internet connections it is perfectly possible to integrate informative and entertaining audio and video presentations into Web pages that might even be more acceptable to your target audience than plain old text on its own. Just make sure that the audio and video you provide can be turned on and off by your Website visitor and has easily adjustable volume.
It's really very tempting to just jump right in and start building your Website without much planning but it really is more sensible to spend a reasonable amount of time working things out on paper first. Doing this will almost certainly save you time in the long run by minimizing the number of mistakes you'll have to correct that jumping in with both feet without thinking will inevitable lead to.