Main heading - Top 25 design tips

One of the most important, yet probably most disregarded areas of Web design is user-centered design (UCD). UCD is a design philosophy and a process in which the needs, wants, and limitations of the end user are considered in the design of a Website. If you want to give your site a professional look and make its content assessable to as many of your target audience as possible, the following top 25 design tips will help you to achieve this goal:

CONTENT

Number 1 If your selling a product on your website, ensure that you provide a full write up on each. We all like to know what we are buying before we part with our hard-earned cash. Many Websites fail to do this and wonder why people buy elsewhere.
Number 2 Try to have information on your website about you, as this makes the site feel more personal. Many sites tend to display on this page information about their goods or services. On this page should be information on you, your staff and your company. Do not write your life history; just enough to show your visitors that there is a person behind the site.
Number 3 Try to avoid plastering your website with adverts they can spoil the natural flow of the page. If viewers are faced with interrupted reading, they will quickly move on to another website.
Number 4 By placing 'Contact Us' information on your website, you are adding greater credibility to your Website and your business. Your can provide support by answering their questions and feedback can be useful for marketing.
Number 5 Before uploading your website, get a third party (friend or relative) to proof read its contents. Get feedback from them on how they found using your site.
Number 6 If you add an online payment tool to your website, check that the provider can supply a secure server.

For more information, go to the FGD Web Design Guide: Stage 4 - Making money using your Website.
Number 7 Try not to use high volumes of Flash and Java on your website as this can slow your website down. Do not forget that not all visitors will be able to view these objects on your Web pages, so make sure they do not convey vital information alone.
Number 8 Adding sound to your website can give it that edge but beware not to allow the sound to play constantly as this can deter visitors from staying on the website.

NAVIGATION

Number 9 Try to keep the same web address (URL) throughout your website.  If your visitor is transported from one site to another when they click a link, they may become disoriented and leave.  If this is absolutely necessary, give your visitor an indication that they will be leaving the site and provide them with the means to be able to return to where they started from.
Number 10 Good Web design is all about consistency.  Consistency helps a visitor to recognise features on different pages of your site that have the same function (for example, navigational menu systems).  When visitors traverse from one page to another, they like visual indications that they are still at the same site. Consistency also concerns objects like font styles, sizes and colours.

One method of ensuring consistency is to use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). One function of CSS is to define how elements of a Web page will look by setting styles. These styles can then be easily applied to all other pages in your site to retain a uniform look.

To get a FREE CSS tutorial visit - HTML.NET
Number 11 If you have external links to other websites, check them regularly as broken links (also known as dead links) can make your site appear unprofessional and cause your visitors to go elsewhere.

You can check for broken links for FREE at Dead-Links.
Number 12 When linking to web pages, try not to open them in new windows as this can confuse and disorientate the visitor.   The back button is the second most used navigation function (after following hyperlinks). Most users know where it is and how to use it!
Number 13 Add an internal search engine to your website so your visitors can quickly and easily find their desired information.Make sure you have a good navigation system (Menu Bar) on your website.

You can obtain a FREE search engine tutorial (with script) by clicking here.

USABILITY

Number 14 Do not misuse or overuse graphic images on web pages. Some Web designers think that adding lots of images makes a page seem more interesting and so will retain the viewer's attention. In actual fact images if used excessively, can distract the viewer's eyes from your important content. Large or non-optimised (uncompressed) graphics like a bitmap image can cause pages to load slowly in browser windows. Many visitors will only wait literally seconds for a page to load in the Web browser.

You can check your web page loading times for FREE at Submitexpress.
Number 15 Avoid using pop-up boxes on your website as visitors see these as adverts and will ignore them.
Number 16 Make sure you change the link colour for visited links so the visitor can see were they have been.
Number 17 If your website is to be used by people with disabilities or inferior equipment, make sure the content is accessible to these user types.

You can check your website's accessibility for FREE at Wave.

AESTHETICS

Number 18 A page of text is more likely to be read if it is broken down into headings, paragraphs and lists. The reader can scan the page and quickly find the information they are looking for. This is the same whether reading a book, newspaper, magazine or web page. Without these structural elements it is like reading an endless long piece of text.
Number 19 If you are providing Web pages that may be printed before they are read, black text on a white background is the recommended technique for providing readable text. Also for those who have separate black and white ink cartridges, this colour combination is more economical to print.

If displaying text on a screen (monitor), the glare from the white background can be over-powering to some readers. If you want to use a light background, common consensus is that a pastel colour or grey is far more usable/accessible.  On a web page, the amount of contrast required varies with different parts of the page; however, generally, you want a high contrast between text and its background colour.

Before designing the look of your site, you should research how to use colour on the Web. There are many useful FREE online resources on this subject (for example, Colors on the Web).
Number 20 Web users do not all use the same type of browser.  The way Web pages look can differ between browsers and even different versions of the same browser.  CSS can help you to attain a more consistent look across all types of browser.  Get in to the habit of testing your designs in various browsers (for example, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Netscape). To get the FREE Firefox browser with a Google Toolbar select the image below:
Number 21 Poor image quality can make your website look unprofessional.
Number 22 View your website using different text sizes.  This can be done in most browsers (for example, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Netscape) by going to ‘View’ and ‘Text Size’ on the Menu Bar.  This will ensure that large size text does not spoil the flow of the information on your pages.

SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION

Number 23 Make sure your website is optimised for Search Engines by identifying 10-12 keywords that you think people will use to find your site.  Once optimised, submit your site to the major search engines (or at least Google).

The top three search engine submissions are to Google, Yahoo and MSN.
Number 24 If you swap links with other websites, first check to ensure its content is relevant to yours, swapping with any site may not help your website's search engine rating.
Number 25 Try not to get in the category of the top ten worst websites. To have a look at these, click here.



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