Website design 101

10 Do’s and Don’t’s of website design

Are you thinking about opening a website? Perhaps you already have one. Either way, knowing what to include and what not to include in your website is very important. Whether you design the website yourself or you hire someone to do it, you should know these ten important points before you start.

The list is based on my own experience designing websites. As well, I get many ideas from some of the best designers in the business through on-line Internet discussion groups. These groups are a valuable resource and often point the way to using new technologies. Many of the people contributing to them are professional webmasters working for themselves or for large companies.

Newsletters are another useful source of information. Many website will send you an article every day by a different writer. They are often packed with useful news and information that can help you or your webmaster improve website design and marketing.

So, what are the ten most important things to remember when designing a website?

  1. DO start with a fast loading opening page. It should introduce your site and explain what it is about. It should not have too many graphics and any that you use should be small enough to load fast. Visitors will not wait long for an opening page to load.
  2. DO choose your colors carefully. Color is extremely important, yet some designers and their clients ignore it entirely. The colors you choose should reflect the image you want to project of your business, or they should match your corporate livery.
  3. DO use web-optimized graphics. This means that any graphics displayed on your site should be as small as practical. You should reduce the number of colors used to the bare minimum. For example, if you have a logo that uses only 3 or 4 colors you can reduce the number of colors to 16 and the logo will still look perfect. This will reduce the file size and speed up loading.
  4. DO provide a way for visitors to contact you on every page. Place an email link at the bottom of each page with an invitation to write to you, or place a Contact us link in your page menu. There is nothing more frustrating than to visit a website and then find you can’t send a comment or request to the people running it.
  5. DO encourage visitors to bookmark your website by displaying a prominent sign telling them to press CTRL-D to bookmark. This will automatically save the current URL (the address) into their bookmark file. Then they can quickly find you the next time they want to visit your website. You will get many more repeat visitors if you make it easy for them to find you again.
  6. DO provide a ‘Privacy Statement’ on your site if you sell goods or services and you expect visitors to give you their credit card information. There are plenty of samples online. Just GOOGLE ‘privacy statement’ and then edit it to suit your business and policy. A privacy statement tells visitors what you do with the information they are asked to provide and how you protect it. And make sure you do exactly what you state in your privacy statement. Having a privacy statement will increase dramatically your chances of getting an order.
  7. DO provide a space on your opening page where you can tell visitors about new ideas or products. You should change this information at least once a month, as this will draw visitors back again. Doing this will also help you get listed higher in search engine results. The search engines look for websites that are changed often. If you have the same website today that you started out with 2 years ago, you are much less likely to be listed in the top 20 search engine results where searchers for your type of services or products will be looking.
  8. DON’T use FRAMES unless you have a very good reason. Internet surveys consistently cite Frames as one of the pet hates of many web surfers. Why? Because because it is so easy to get trapped inside a frame when you try to visit another site by clicking on a link. Instead of opening a new screen, you may remain in the frame and the new website then appears inside it. So you finish up with a website designed for full screen viewing displayed inside a much smaller screen area. Many websites, provide a link to help you escape from a frame. But it is better not to use frames in the first place.
  9. DON’T place your text on the screen and then center everything down the page. This is a sure sign of an amateur designer. A web page should be designed just like you would design a magazine page. The elements should be placed on the page so that they lead the eye to the information you want your visitor to read or look at. Use columns, headlines, and pictures placed dynamically on the page. You want your website to look interesting, don’t you?
  10. DON’T choose your webmaster just because he/she offers a very cheap price. While price is important, it should not be your main criteria for choosing a designer. You get what you pay for. And, unless you are a professional designer, it is much better to hire someone to do the job properly for you. Would you attempt to build your own house if you are not qualified? The same thing applies to website design. Let a professional do it for you and that is what you will get: A professional result.

Of course, there are many other things to keep in mind when designing a website. But remember that what you present to the public and how you do it will determine how successful your website is. A poorly designed website is sure to drive visitors away and lose you business.

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