Jan 08 2009

Web Design Guidelines

The goal of most web designers is to create an attractive, easily accessible and functional website that will convince the visitor to do something. Creating such a website requires good graphic design, easy and intuitive site navigation, logical site layout and good web copy. The following suggestions are general web design guidelines.

Web Content

You want the visitor to see you as a knowledgeable information source and/or a reputable business. Poor grammar and spelling will immediately reduce your credibility. Remember that people use the internet to find information. Whether you are selling your own product or recommending someone else’s products, you must first provide valuable information to the visitor or they will click away and find a website that gives them what they what they want.

Cross Browser Compatibility

There are at least a hundred different browsers in use. You must design your website to work properly in the most widely used browsers. To do that you may not be able to use all of the really great special effects that are available because they may not be supported in most browsers.

Even though most web browsers are free, people do not necessary bother to upgrade to the latest versions. The average surfer may not know how to upgrade their browser or have the attitude, “If it works, don’t fix it.” Remember your visitor may have a PC, a MAC, a Linux box, a PDA or a cell phone and they all use different browsers.

Good web design requires your web pages to work in Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape, Firefox, Opera and Safari at a minimum. Validating your HTML code will help but the final test is to view your website in different browsers running on different platforms.

Graphics and Photos

Web surfers are impatient and studies show that most people will click away if a webpage takes longer than 10 seconds to load. Always optimize your photos and other graphic files to have as small a size as possible without sacrificing picture quality.

Always use the height and width attributes on the picture so the rest of the page can load while the graphic files is downloading. Use the ALT HTML tag so people with graphics turned off and those using hand held devices know what the picture is supposed to be.

Background Colors

If you use anything other than white behind text, be sure to specify link colors otherwise the user’s browser defaults will determine what color the links are which can make them unreadable.

Multimedia

Multimedia is composed of flash movies, video clips, audio clips and background music. Always use streaming media because it reduces download time. Make sure the visitor can stop and start multimedia files or in the case of flash introductions, skip them if they want. That way people with slow connections or devices that don’t support multimedia can ignore them.

Also, put any important information presented in multimedia in text as well so the visitor has access to that information without using multimedia. If a plug-in is needed to use the multimedia, always provide a link to it so the user can install it. Finally, always remember the 10-second rule for site loading when deciding to use multimedia.

Site Navigation

Site navigation should be simple and intuitive. Studies have shown if a visitor cannot access the information they want within three clicks, they will leave the site. This is called the 3-click rule. Every area of your website should be reachable within three clicks from anywhere else on the site. If you use anything other than simple text links, make sure to test your navigation in all the major browsers.

Links

Periodically test all site links to be certain that they are valid. Nothing chases a visitor off faster than broken links. There are several free online services that will periodically check your links.

Frames

Avoid using frames, since they make it difficult to bookmark individual pages on your web site and you want people to bookmark pages so they can come back.

Summary

Good Web design is a combination of common sense and good planning. Your site should be attractive and easy to use and most importantly provide the user with the information or services they want.


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