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General tips for new web designers

Posted Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Website designers today have plenty of options in terms of tools and technologies they can use to build their web pages. Many questions come up: should we use Flash, do we need database driven web pages, did we need a shopping cart for our e-commerce web site etc...

This article takes a step back and deals with some of the fundamental questions/issues in web site design.

1. Do not use framesets in your web sites: They are not required in most cases and framesets will kill you with search engines.

2. Do not use a 'heavy' background in your web pages that distracts the user from what you are trying to present to them and makes the text hard to read. Remember what you are trying to do with your website, and I think for most, it is not trying to impress people with some tacky background tile. Keep it easy to read; there is a reason why solid colored text on a solid colored backgrounds are used often on web pages and in print.

3. Use sharp clear pictures: This is really important, a good looking web page can be made with just one clear sharp image and at the same time, the best looking web page can be made to look bad with just one crappy image.

4. Get sharp clear copy of your logo: If you are a company, you want to look professional so that people have confidence in giving you their money, a crappy looking logo isn’t going to do it.

5. Avoid the IE page transitions: IE (Internet Explorer) can create many special effects, things like page transitions (page wipes etc …) are tempting and may be suitable sometimes, but for 99% of web sites they are not.

6. Avoid the flying text: Again the decision whether or not to do this has much to do with the content of your web pages, but it should be clear that for most websites this would not be a good thing.

7. If you are trying to sell something, having live credit card processing will increase your sales substantially. Sometimes when people want to start selling online they avoid the perceived trouble of hooking up with a credit card processing service because of the programming required. This is a big mistake, studies have clearly shown that web pages that provide credit card processing in their e-commerce enabled web pages (web pages that sell stuff) have much greater conversions.

Above all, make the web site pages no more than 60-70k (I shoot for 50k) if you can, and keep things very simple so your clients have an easy time finding things. You can help this along by strategically making use of the browsers caching capabilities. In a nutshell, web-browsers will reuse images that it has loaded. So (if for example) if you have an image on your 1st page that you also use on 2 other pages in your website, this image only gets downloaded once by the browser and subsequent times the browser will automatically load a copy of the image it has from its’ own cache. This can really speed up things from the surfers point of view and also saves you bandwidth.


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