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The Birth of a Professional Web Site Part Three Basic Web Design Guidelines

By Shelley Lowery
Posted Friday, October 1, 2004

The appearance of your web site is one of the most important aspects of your success. Your product or service will literally be judged by the appearance of your web site.

Poor web design is one of the leading causes of small business failure. There are literally thousands of home- based Internet businesses struggling to make a living online. Most, make very little or no money and end up closing their site in defeat.

I have received many messages over the years from struggling Internet marketers wanting to know if I could look at their site and tell them what they're doing wrong. Most of the time, I can tell them the problem as soon as their site has loaded -- poor web design. They failed to take the time to learn how to properly design their sites -- how to design a professional looking site specifically designed to sell their products and services.

If you really want to succeed, you must take the required time to educate yourself.

Creating a Template

When you begin designing your web site, your goal should be to create a template that you can use to create each page of your web site. This will give your entire site the same look and feel.

A template is simply a web page "shell" that contains your entire page design, logo, images, navigational links and a specific area for your content. However, your template won't contain any content, as each time you create a page with your template, you'll save it with a different page name.

Formatting Your Pages

I highly recommend placing your entire page content within HTML tables. Tables will enable you to have complete control over your content and how it will be displayed.

For example, you can create three tables, stacked on top of each other, for each section of content. The cellpadding, cellspacing and border attributes should be set to "0" to enable your tables to seamlessly flow together. In addition, the widths for each table should be the same. The top table would contain your page header content, the middle table would contain your content and the bottom table would contain your footer content.

As placing your entire page content within a single table will significantly increase your site's load time, stacking your tables will enable you to benefit from the powerful formatting capabilities of tables, while at the same time, keep your site's load time down.

If you've ever designed a web page without using tables, you know how limited you are as to how your content will be displayed. Your text will be displayed right up against the left border and will span across the entire width of your page -- certainly not a good way to design a professional looking web site.

Tables will enable you to display your content in sections like a newspaper, set up a specific number of rows and columns, and even place additional tables within your main content table to create special content sections with colored backgrounds.

Your Storefront

Your main page is the storefront for your business and should specifically let your visitors know exactly what you're offering. If your potential customer can't find your product or service, they definitely won't waste a lot of time looking for it. They'll go on to the next site and probably never return. They're visiting your site for a specific purpose. They want something your site offers. Provide them with what they're looking for and you'll reap the benefits.

Branding will play a major role in your success. Make sure you place your company logo and slogan in the top left corner of each page. This will not only assist your visitors in remembering your site, but it will also give your pages the same look and feel.

Instead of trying to cram all your content into your main page, consider creating sections. These sections can contain highlights of your information with a link to further information. You can set your sections up in tables with colored heading sections for information such as articles, products or whatever you'd like.

It's much better to keep your main page down to the most essential elements and link to the detailed informational pages.

A good rule of thumb is "less is more." In other words, keep your main page as small as possible and include your most important elements.


When you begin designing your pages, keep in mind, your visitors may enter your site from pages other than your main. Make sure you include good navigational links on every page. Place your navigational links together at the top, bottom, left or right side of the page. Use tables to neatly align your links and maintain a nicely organized and uniform appearance throughout.

Try to keep the number of clicks required to get from your main page to any other page on your site down to three or four.


One of the most important parts of a web page is text. The way in which you display the text on your web page will have a great impact on your success. It can make your page look very professional or very unprofessional.

When placing text within your web page, always be consistent with your fonts. In other words, don't use different fonts throughout your pages. The standard fonts used on the Internet are Arial and Verdana. The standard text size is 2. Arial and Verdana are the standard simply because they are the easiest to read on a computer screen.

Headlines, which require a larger font size, are a bit different. A popular headline font used is Georgia, as it displays nicely in the slightly larger font size.

Background and Text Colors

Use caution when selecting your background and text colors. Busy backgrounds make text difficult to read and draw the attention away from the text. In addition, always be consistent with your background theme on each page of your site.

Select your colors very carefully, as colors affect your mood and will have an affect on your visitors as well.

Bright colors, such as yellow and orange, cause you to become more cheerful or happy. Colors such as blue and purple have a calming effect. Dark colors, such as brown and black, have a depressing effect.

A good rule of thumb is to use colors based on the type of effect you're trying to achieve. However, it's always best for your text areas to have a white background with black text.

Above all else, you must take the time to educate yourself before you begin. I can't stress this point enough. If you don't, you're honestly just wasting your time. Although it may take a little longer, it will be well worth it in the long run.

(Continued in part four)

Copyright © Shelley Lowery 2003.

About the Author:
Shelley Lowery is the author of the highly acclaimed ebook series, Web Design Mastery -- An eight volume (500+ pages) in-depth guide to professional web design. Web Design Mastery is being hailed as the "Bible" for professional web design. (


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