This is a guest article from Natalie Schnotz*. Enjoy her web design tips.
Avoid flashy multimedia. Flashy graphics and multimedia may look nice, but they can make it hard for your visitors to get the information they want from your site, especially when viewing from a non Flash compatible device.
Browser compatibility. Make sure you check your page on Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Chrome and Safari & their different versions. These five web browsers make up about 95% of the world’s browsers. So, test your site out on each of them.
Clean layout. Don’t fill your page up with ‘stuff’. White space is good – it enhances the look of your site. Try to keep your content as the focus of your site. Use fonts that will be available on all computers so your page doesn’t end up looking messy.
Design for all screen resolutions. If you design stretch layouts that can fit any screen resolution, you can ensure all your visitors see a visually appealing and professional site. A site that is easy to use and appealing to the eye will encourage your visitors to stay longer.
Exclamation points! Typing millions of exclamation points doesn’t make your statement any more important than if you use just one!!!!!!! See, I told you.
Frames. Don’t use frames. While frames make it easy to have the same header or menu appear throughout the site, the address bar doesn’t change when you go from page to page – making it impossible for someone to link to a specific page.
Grammar and spell checker. Sure, people who are not good spellers will never notice you spelled calender (spelled calendar) wrong but literate people will notice. Try your best to fix up your spelling & grammar.
Hotlinking. Any pictures or music that you link to should be hosted on your own server. Don’t hotlink to other site images – it’s typically considered theft of bandwidth and you could be violating a copyright.
Just keep swimming. (Yes, that’s a Finding Nemo reference.) Don’t give up. Sometimes your ideas won’t work, but just keep swimming. Today people tend to quit or give up too easily. With a little hard work, you’ll find most of your ideas are actually possible.
Keep learning. Stay up to date with news by reading design blogs or try learning a new web language. There is no reason to stop learning about web design just because you’re page is up and running with decent traffic.
Load time. Make sure that your load time is low. In our fast-paced world, we don’t like to wait. I want to see your web page and I want to see it NOW. Try minimizing graphics, flash and scripts as they increase your file size. Also, make sure to optimize your code and delete any unwanted tags or unused scripts.
Minimize clicking. Put as few clicks between your visitor and your information as possible. The more you force your visitors to click around your site, the more you are telling them to go away.
Navigation. Site navigation plays a huge role in determining how long visitors stay and explore your site. If you have an easy to use navigation system, you’ll keep your visitors around longer.
Organisation. The way you organise your content, is as important as what your page looks like, so spend some time on it. If your readers can’t find what they are looking for, they’ll just go look someplace else.
Page length. While you want to make sure you put a lot of information on each page, don’t go too far by putting too much information. If you are posting really long articles, try chunking them into separate pages with six or seven screenfuls to each page.
Quit stealing content. Don’t copy and paste text from another website without asking the site owner for permission. Search engines know if you are copying content and they don’t like it – they’ll lower your page rank without asking any questions. See SEO tips.
Readable text. Make sure your text is big enough to read. I know, you’re probably thinking ‘thank you captain obvious.’ Well, I hate to state the obvious, but I am amazed at the number of sites I go to that I have to squint to read. Please, don’t punish me for actually wanting to read your content.
Scalability. Make sure that your design and coding are scalable. Technology is changing rapidly, screens are getting larger (and smaller too), making it hard to test your site on all screens and platforms. Making a scalable site is crucial with the way technology is constantly changing.
Text lines. Learn a lesson from the newspapers. The reason why newspapers print articles in columns is because it makes the lines short and easy to read. So, as a general rule of thumb, no line of text should be more than about 600 pixels wide.
Use contrasting colors. It’s hard to read dark text on a dark background and light text on a light background. I know this tip is obvious, but remember that some color combinations just don’t work.
Valuable content. Give your visitors a reason to stick around. Provide them with valuable content. They’ll be happy and keep checking out your site.
Windows. It’s a good idea to pop up brand new windows for external links – that way your reader can continue reading your content and look at the other site. However, if you are directing them to another page on your site, use internal links. Opening links in new windows means that after five clicks within your site, your reader has six windows open cluttering their screen.
Editor’s note: This has has been debated before and I personally prefer having all windows open in the same browser.
eXplain what you’re linking to. Don’t just put a link in the middle of your article for no reason. Take a second to tell your readers why you think they should click the link. By telling them what you are linking to, you are giving them a chance to decide if they really want that extra information.
You don’t need permission to link. There is no reason for you to contact the site owner asking if you can link to their site. The reason their page is online is because they want to share it. So, if you want to link to a site… just do it.
Z – Z is a letter that Americans use in such words as ‘specializing’ and ‘criticize’ however you should be aware that other countries spell these words with an ‘s’. Brush up on your spelling differences, so you’re not later criticised.
*Natalie Schnotz is a recent graphic design graduate and an avid writer. When she’s not on her computer designing, you can find her reading fantasy books, crafting and cooking with her chef husband.