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The Top Ten DO's and DO NOT's of Effective Web Design

By Shirley Marshall
Posted Saturday, June 26, 2004

If you are contemplating going into business online, have a
website, or are creating a website for your existing business,
this informational resource will prove invaluable to you. It
provides you with ten very important and easy to implement web
design tips to ensure that your website is designed to make you
money. You can have the best or most inexpensive product or
service of its type, but if you don't follow certain guidelines
when designing your website, no one will stay there long enough
to know that! Following these simple but effective tips will
increase your chances of being successful on the internet.

10. DO have an easy to use navigation system in place on your site.
One of the quickest ways to lose visitors and thereforesales, is to
have a navigation system that works like the Winchester Mystery House
(an attraction in California that has doorways leading to nowhere).
If your visitor gets lost and can't find their way around, or if they
have to keep clicking a back button to return to your homepage just
to visit another page on your site, they will tire of this and just
leave, taking their business with them. Make sure that you not only
have a navigation bar at the top of each page, but also put a text
navigation bar at the bottom of every page, so they don't have to
scroll to the top to travel through your site. The easier it is for
them to move through your site, the more they'll see, the more
comfortable they'll feel and the more likely it is that they will
purchase from YOU and not your competitors.

9. DO NOT use too many large or active graphics. Graphics can
increase your load time and most surfers don't want to wait around to
see a large but 'cute' animated graphic of your service - they'd
rather be informed about your products or service. So keep your
graphics simple and use them sparingly - especially animated
graphics. Too much animation will detract them from where their
attention should be - on your products or services.

8. DO make sure your text is clear, concise and error-free. Keeping
your text concise and easy to read is important because if your
visitor is confused about what you offer, you will lose them to a
competitor. If writing intelligible text is not your forte, hire a
professional copywriter to make sure that your text describes your
products or services in an intelligent, yet easy to understand
manner. And make sure your site is 100% proofread! Nothing lowers
the opinion of a potential customer more than a site filled with
typos and errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation or syntax. (Gee,
if they can't even spell 'electrical' properly, or don't know the
difference between 'their' and 'there', they can't be very
intelligent, therefore what would the quality of their service or
product be?) And that's another point that must be made here - NEVER
rely on a 'spellcheck' program to do your proofreading for you - they
have no idea if you mean 'there' or 'their' so therefore you can run
a spellcheck until you're blue in the face and you will still have
those kinds of errors on your site! And again, if this is not one of
your strong points, hire a professional proofreader to check your

7. DO NOT overuse audio effects on your site. Nothing is more
irritating to a visitor than to have some new age music or some
strange noise blaring over and over and over during their visit to
your site. A brief one-time sound as a special effect on the home
page can catch their attention and be beneficial, but don't loop it
so it plays on and on. And even if you provide a way to mute a sound
effect, they still have to deal with locating the controls and hope
they work properly - and they did not come to your site to be an
audio technician, they came to your site because they were interested
in what you have to offer them. Make your products or services the
most interesting items on your site, without repetitive, annoying
audio to distract your visitors.

6. DO use colors that are complimentary and subtle. There is
nothing that will make a visitor leave a site quicker than that day-
glo lime green background with fire-engine red graphics! Always make
sure that your colors compliment each other and blend well together.
If you choose to go with primary colors, then stick with the basics
(true red, true blue, etc.) and if you choose to use more dusky
colors (teal green, dusty rose, beige, cranberry), then stick with
those. Use bright colors sparingly and for accent only - not as the
background or for your larger images. And you should have only THREE
main colors in your design. And those three colors should always be
from a 'web-safe palette' to ensure all your visitors will see the
colors you intended. You want your visitors to focus on your
products or services, and using the correct colors to showcase them
properly will increase your sales.

5. DO NOT launch your business site on a 'free server' with ads. A
professional website should be just that - professional. For your
visitors to really take you seriously, you need to take your business
seriously. Either get your own domain name and space, or have your
web designer host you on their webspace. Nothing is cheesier or more
insincere than to have a business site on a free server with ads
popping up and under and all over your site! There are thousands
of 'come and go' businesses that are on the internet to make a quick
profit and then take the money and run. If you want to establish
your business as a reliable and trustworthy enterprise, you must
present that to your visitors by being willing to invest in an ad-
free presence.

4. DO make sure your META Tags accurately reflect your business.
One of the main ways to 'advertise' on the internet involves
submitting your site to search engines. And most search engines rely
heavily on META Tags to properly index your site in their listings.
Therefore, if you do not use the proper format for your tags or use
keywords that don't describe your products or services concisely, you
will not be listed correctly in the search engines. Use two to three
word phrases that describe your main products or services, and list
them as you would enter them yourself if looking through the search
engines for that product or service. In other words, if you have an
auto repair business, some of your keywords could be: car tune-ups,
automobile transmission repairs, car lube and oil changes, etc., in
addition to just automobile repairs. And also, always make sure that
your keyword phrases are inserted into the text on your home page.
Search engines check the content of your page to make sure that the
keywords match your text to ensure that your business is legitimate,
so this lends credibility to your site, increasing your chances of a
better placement.

3. DO NOT pay huge amounts of money for Flash. Now you may be
saying "But Flash is so on the edge - so trendy", but therein lies
the problem - it IS just a trend and it will pass, because it takes
way too long to load in, and 9 out of 10 of your visitors will hit
the 'Skip Intro' button and never see it anyway! Therefore, you will
have paid a large sum of money for something that only one out of ten
of your visitors will ever even see. Not a good value at all - this
is a way for web designers to take more money from you. You are much
better off hiring someone to design an attractive, well laid out site
with some tasteful graphics, that focuses on your services or
products, not some flashy pictures. Flash is a waste of your money
and your visitors' time. (Think of how many times *you* have clicked
that Skip Intro button, or gotten impatient waiting for a Flash
navigation bar to emerge just so you can travel through the site!
How many times have you *left* that site because you got tired of

2. DO choose your web designer carefully. If you decide to hire a
web designer, always get a comprehensive estimate from a number of
designers before hiring one. Always check out their portfolios to
see if they design original sites and do not use templates that are
replicated on dozens of others' sites. Make sure you are clear on
what you expect of them and find out if they charge extra for any
services or if they are included in the original estimate. Items
like copywriting, proofreading, or designing logos, for example, are
sometimes in addition to a basic web design estimate. Also, some
limit the number of images you may have, or charge extra for simple
JavaScripts (such as a navigation bar that changes color or images).
Make sure the web designer you hire states clearly if they charge
extra for these services and make sure any charges such as these are
listed in your original quote. Also check the sites in their
portfolios to see if they do use clear, concise text, spell words
properly, use uncomplicated navigation systems, have optimal load
times and properly reflect the business they are representing.

1. DO NOT always choose the most expensive designer. Just because
they charge more does not necessarily mean that you will get a better
website. While there are some 'fly-by-night' designers out there,
many small design companies will provide you with a professional
website for less money. Again, refer to the designer's portfolio to
determine the level of their expertise, not how much they charge. I
have been to many websites designed by big design houses that have
typos, navigation errors, broken links and other poor design
features. And going with a smaller designer can also improve your
service when you need updates/changes to your site down the road.
Having fewer sites to maintain can mean your site will receive
attention in a more timely manner than a large design house with
dozens of sites that may keep you waiting weeks or even months until
they can get around to your site.

About the Author
Shirley Marshall is the owner of Perfect Sites
Web Design and has been designing websites professionally for over
three years now. This is her first of many articles. To contact her
please e-mail her at: or visit her site
located at: (


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