Software Tips | Web Design Tips | HTML Tips
Keep it simple -
Not everyone has a high speed link to the internet. Large
high resolution graphics take a long time to load. If you use a lot
of them, your customers will quickly become tired of waiting and move on
without reading your important messages. The general rule is to keep total
page size (text plus all extras like graphics and audio) to less than about
50k bytes. With a good connection, this will take 10 to 15 seconds to download
with a 28.8k or 33k modem. (Remember that the apparent speed will only
be as fast as the slowest link in the chain from them to you).
Keep the pages short -
Large pages of text can take just as long to load as graphics. If you have
a lot to say, consider breaking it down into several smaller chunks. The
main page can be as simple as an index and introduction, with links to
other pages with the details. Nothing is more frustrating than
waiting for a
200 page catalog to download when all they want is your phone number.
Organize your pages -
If a customer cannot find what they are looking for quickly, they will
just as quickly move on. Don't make them go through many levels of menus
to find what they are looking for. If you have multiple pages, structure it
so that basic information can be obtained easily, and more details are
only one click away. If people need to go several levels deep,
provide an easy method for them return to your home page in one click.
Standardize your navigation -
Use a consistent structure and placement for your menus and navigation tools. For example,
if you use a menu bar across the top of the page, stick to that. Don't all of a sudden switch
to one that runs down the side of the page. This will just confuse people. If you rely on
image maps for navigation, also include a text option for people who may
have turned off images in their browser (many people do this to speed up
access), or are using text only browsers.
Create a "style guide" -
Document your choices of fonts, colors, graphics, placement of logos, punctuation, spelling, etc. This will
not only give your site a consistent "look and feel", but will help
you in the future when adding more pages to a site. It is especially
important to have a formal style guide if the site design is a team effort. This will
ensure that everyone on the team does things the same way.
Set a clear goal -
Is your site primarily to sell a product or service? Provide information? Entertainment?
What message do you want to convey to the public? As simple as this sounds, it is important
that you keep your motives clear when designing your site. Keep it
focused and make sure that the content stays on target.
Provide an index -
If your site contains many pages, organized on several levels, consider providing a simple "site
index" page to help in navigation. Make it readily accessible from the home page.
Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to navigate
a site. The index page can be as simple as an alphabetical listing of all the pages on your site.
Take a look at our index page.
Use contrast -
Stick to primary colors with lots of contrast between foreground and
Subtle color shadings may look nice on a high res monitor capable of 16
million colors, but they may
produce a blank screen on a monitor with lower color resolution. Also,
vision impaired and color
blind people may have difficulty with such screens as well. Either way,
you may be missing an important
segment of your customer base. Consider using the "web safe" palette of 216 colors. These colors will
display correctly on virtually all systems. (Also known as the "dither-proof" palette).
Provide alternative content -
Not all browsers and systems are capable of handling frames, tables, audio,
video clips, etc. If you have an important message to get across, make
it can be received by your customers. Audio clips alone will not get your
to a hearing impaired person or even one who does not have a sound card on
Use simple language -
Your site will be accessible world wide. Some of your potential customers
not be fluent in your language. Keeping the words simple and free of
will make it easier for them. If you regularly expect customer visits from
many languages, consider translating your page into their language.
Avoid ambiguity -
Remember your international audience. A simple thing like dates can be a big
source of confusion. Everyone knows what date 01/02/03 is, right? Trouble is,
the answer everyone "knows" is different depending on where you live. In the US the custom is month/day/year so the
date would be January 2, 2003. In Canada and many parts of Europe, the custom is day/month/year, so this would be
February 1, 2003. To add to the confusion is the growing trend to the
international standard of year/month/day which would give February 3, 2001. If it is important,
spell it out.
Provide full contact information -
Your customers can't buy if they cannot reach you. Always provide
regular postal and telephone information as well as the electronic contact
information. If you use an 800,
888 or other toll free number, provide a non-toll free number as well for
customers who are outside of your toll free coverage area.
Be sensitive to other cultures -
Unless you are specifically promoting a political or other agenda,
don't assume everyone shares your values or sense of humor.
Remember, you are on an international stage: humor in one culture
may be insulting to another. Ditto for politics, systems of values,
Test your pages on different browsers and monitors-
Different browsers will display pages slightly differently. What looks
with one browser may look terrible on another, especially if you are relying on precise
placement of graphics and text to create an effect. Remember also, that
the viewer may have his/her browser configured to use their own default
fonts and colors rather than yours. The display resolution of a monitor
will also affect how a page looks. As a minimum, you should test with the last 2 to 3
versions of Netscape Navigator/Communicator and MS Internet Explorer. If you have access
to different platforms (e.g. Windows vs. Mac), test it on both. You would be surprised
by the number of differences between the different platforms. Don't forget some of the smaller
players as well, such as Lynx
(a text only broswer available for a number of platforms).
Check your links -
If you have links to other pages on your site, or especially to other sites,
test them on a regular basis. Remember, you cannot control the content of
external links, so check them
to see if they still provide the information you want.
(The web is constantly changing, so also check them
to see if they still work!) On your own pages, check to make sure that
all links point to valid pages. (Remember, on some servers the file
case sensitive. "File1.htm" may be different from "FILE1.HTM".) Make sure that any
included files, such as graphics, exist in the proper directory.
It is often helpful
to sketch out the interconnections between various pages on a piece of
paper to help you visualize
Analyze your site logs -
Your site logs will tell you where your customers are connecting from, and
which pages on
your site they are looking at. By knowing who is looking at what, you can
pages targetted at your audience. If the pages are attracting the "wrong"
perhaps you should change the message. All web page hosting services keep
logs. Two types of log files are generally available: "Access" logs, that tell you who visited your page when, and "Referrer" logs, which
tell you how they found you (e.g. which search engine and what search string was used). Most services will make your logs available to you or will
provide you with an analysis of them.
Promote your site -
Customers will not automatically flock to your site just because it is there. You need
to let them know your site exists. Start by registering the site with the
major search engines
(such as Lycos, Yahoo, Excite, etc.). Don't forget the smaller ones, such
as those listed
on our links page. If you serve a specific
industry, list your site
with services catering to that industry, such as trade journals.
Most now have listing areas
for web sites. Also, don't forget the obvious ways to announce your site,
such as listing it on
business cards, in media ads, on stationery and in catalogs.
Help the searchers -
Listing your page with a search engine does not mean that people will find
automatically. Will they know what to search for? Will your page
be listed if they search for one of your products or services? Different
search engines use different methods to index your page. You can
control these to some extent using "key words". When you register
your page with most search engines, you will be asked to enter a brief
and/or a list of "key words". This description and key word list should
be carefully chosen so that it includes the words or phrases that you
want people to look for you under. For example, if you are selling
widgets, then make sure "widgets" appears in your key word list or
description. A person searching for the word "widgets" can then find your
You can standardize your entries with all of the search engines by using
one of the
multiple submission forms, such as those on our
Other search engines rely on special tags inserted into your page
header (between the <HEAD> and </HEAD> tags).
These usually take the form of:
<META Name="description" Content="Herne Data Systems Ltd. is a developer of operating system
enhancement and utility shareware as well as custom software for DOS and
<META Name="keywords" Content ="Herne_Data_Systems, web page design,
Avoid distracting backgrounds -
You want people to focus on your message, not what it is printed on.
"Busy" backgrounds are also difficult for the vision impaired and color
You can make things just as effective visually by using simple colored
backgrounds with contrasting colored text.
Avoid overuse of animation -
Again, overuse of animation is very distracting.
If you must use animation, try to keep
it limited to one or two small animated images per page.
Avoid overuse of applets and add-ons -
Don't rely on the "gee-whiz" features, such as Java applets and
way to get your message across. Although most modern browsers support
many users prefer to disable them. Older browsers may not support them at
status bar, can be used to provide supplemental information, such as
announcement, without distracting from the main page.