10 ways to design a good web site

DO LEAD BY EXAMPLE

You should never assume the user understands your model or the goal
behind your Web site. This means that you should know the purpose
behind your site so that you can effectively relay it to the reader. A
commercial Web site may have different needs — an online shopping cart,
for example — from a personal one.

Assuming you are still reading this post, remember also that
attention spans are short, all the more so online where leaving a Web
site is just a mouse click away. This means you should never make the
reader work to understand your Web site. Make sure that your navigation
bar is both visible and clearly labeled. Any hyperlinks should also be
clearly distinguishable from normal text, as should any visited versus
nonaccessed links. Do not use hard-to-read or tiny fonts — Arial and
Helvetica are generally good bets. Animated GIF files should also be
kept to a minimum. Also make sure to include a smart search box.

DO MAKE THE WEB SITE SEARCH ENGINE FRIENDLY
Whether your Web site is for professional or personal use, you should
design it with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind. It’s better to
use Web-safe fonts, for example, over graphic heavy text.

DO YOUR RESEARCH
Look at Web sites you like. Almost all sites have a core layout. Find a template you like and use it as your springboard.

DO TEST YOUR WEB SITE
Test your site in advance of its launch and regularly thereafter, even
if you plan on updating it only infrequently. Make sure your site works
on different browsers — especially Internet Explorer and Firefox — as
well as across different fonts and screen resolutions. Broken links not
only prevent a visitor from getting access to their desired
information, but also present you in a less-than-flattering online
light.

DON’T GET FLASH DRUNK
Or for that matter color or graphics drunk. When choosing your color
palette, a minimalist approach is best. This is not to say you should
avoid all design effects like drop shadows, only that you should
ideally use them to communicate your goal and not just because you can.

DON’T ELIMINATE ALL WHITE SPACE
Some Web sites have a policy of no white space, also known as the blank
space between text or other graphics. Here’s why yours shouldn’t. If
used well, white space can help direct a reader’s eye to specific
information you want highlighted. White space can also cut down on
clutter and create invisible boundaries across texts. A no-white-space
policy may result in a disorienting reader-based experience.

DON’T MAKE THE USER WAIT
Your Web site should load quickly. Don’t make the user follow along
with a load box. If you insist on having music with your site, give the
user the option to mute it. On the home page and elsewhere, keep
pop-ups, banner ads and other ad-like content to a minimum, if not
nonexistent. If you’re a Firefox user, you might try the Yslow add-on
(https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/5369), which analyzes
the speed of your page. Another useful add-on is Firebug
(https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1843).

DON’T BOUNCE AROUND
In other words, keep the look of your Web site consistent throughout.
If your logo is on the upper left hand side of your Web site, for
example, keep it there across all pages. Also make sure to have a tab
on every page that lets users link back to the home page. If the reader
has to rely on the browser’s back button to navigate around, you didn’t
do your job. As a test, ask yourself if you’d be able to navigate your
site if it were written in another language. Facebook keeps its layout
the same irrespective of language so that even though I don’t speak
Afrikaans, I can still get around Facebook’s Afrikaans language site.

DON’T CLUTTER THE HOME PAGE
Make sure your home page is clean and not overrun with links. The goal
is to provide the reader with enough information to enter your site,
not to scare them away.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT CONTENT
Content is ultimately king. Good Web design highlights the content and
adds to it without detracting from the Web site’s goal. Still, good
design alone doesn’t cut it. Text matters, so keep your paragraphs
informative but short. Simply put, seek out the fluff and cut it.

What are your design rules when it comes to Web sites? Which sites
do you think are really good (or bad examples) of Web design? Please
add your comments below.

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