"50 Surefire Web Design Tips"
by Mario Sanchez
Tips to brand your website
Include your logo in all pages. Position it at the top left or
each page. Complement your logo with a tagline or catchy
sentence that summarizes your business purpose. For example
"Always low prices" is the tagline for Wal-Mart. Create a
favicon. A favicon is that small graphic that appears next to
the URL in the address bar. Have a consistent look and feel in
all your pages. Use a color scheme and layout that are clearly
recognized across your site. Have an About Us section, that
includes all relevant information about you and your business.
Include a copyright statement at the bottom of each page.
Tips on website navigation
Design your pages to load in less than 10 seconds (50Kb maximum
size, including pictures). Group your navigational options in
relevant categories. Use common names for your menu options:
Home, About Us, Contact Us, Help, Products. Avoid "clever" or
"trendy" alternatives. If your site uses Flash, provide also an
HTML version for users who prefer a less fancy, faster site.
Provide simple text navigation links at the bottom of long
pages, so users donít need to scroll back up. Link your logo to
your homepage, except in the homepage itself. Put a link to your
homepage on all your internal pages. Display a "breadcrumb
trail"; it is basically the path from the homepage to the page
where you are. A breadcrumb trail looks like this: Home >
Section > Sub-Section > Page, and it greatly facilitates
navigation. If your site is too big, provide Search
capabilities. Include a search box in the upper right corner of
your homepage, and a link to a Search page from your interior
pages. Set your search box to search your site, not to
search the web. Create a custom error page that displays a
simple site map with links to the main sections of your site.
That way, you will not lose visitors that have followed a bad
link to your site or who have misspelled your URL.
Tips on Layout and Content Presentation
Save the top of your page for your most important content.
Remember: good content must flow to the top. Lay out your page
with tables, and set the width in percentage terms instead of a
fixed number of pixels. That way, your page will always fit the
screen, without the need to scroll horizontally. Optimize your
page to be viewed best at 800x600 (the most popular resolution
at the time of this writing). Use high contrast for the body of
your page: black text on white background, or white text on
black background work best. Donít use too many different fonts
in one page. Also, avoid using small serif fonts (like Times
Roman): they are difficult to read from a computer screen.
Verdana is the most web-friendly font, since it is wide, clean
and easy to read. Avoid long blocks of text. Use tools that
facilitate scanability, like bullets, subtitles, highlighted
keywords, hyperlinks, etc. Avoid amateurish features like:
numeric page counters, wholesale use of exclamation points, all
caps, center justified blocks of text, excessive animated gifs,
busy backgrounds, etc. Donít use pop-up windows. They distract
your visitors and are immediately dismissed as ads. Test your
site so that it looks good in different browsers and resolutions.
Tips on Writing for the Web
Write in laymanís terms so that everybody can understand your
content, unless youíre running a technical site for technical
people. Reading from a screen is painful: use 50% less words
than you would use on print. If a page is too long, break it
into several pages and link to them. Donít use font sizes
smaller than 10pt. for the body of your page. Specify your fonts
in percentage terms instead of pixels, to let users set their
own size preferences using their browserís text view options.
Use a spell checker. Spelling mistakes are embarrassing and hurt
Tips to Know Your Customers
Ask for feedback: include a feedback form in your Contact Us
page. Publish an ezine and include a subscription form in your
homepage. Give your customers valuable information and encourage
them to contact you. Include polls and other tools to gather
Tips on Linking
Make your links descriptive. They should indicate what the user
will be linking to, as opposed to just saying "click here".
Donít underline anything that is not a link. Underline your
links and use a consistent color for them across your site
(preferably blue). Use a different color for visited links, so
that your visitors know where theyíve been (preferably purple or
a more subdued tone of the unvisited links color). When linking
to a non-HTML file, such as Excel, Word or Acrobat, make it
evident, by including a small icon next to the link. Donít link
to "under construction" pages. Make sure that your links work
and that you donít have broken links. There are free online
tools that can help you with this. If you use graphic links,
donít forget to use the ALT attribute. The ALT attribute should
describe what are you linking to.
Tips on how to use graphics
Optimize your graphics. Use only .gif and .jpg formats. Make
your image files as small as possible while maintaining
acceptable quality. Use a free online graphics optimization
tool. Use thumbnails (miniature versions of a picture) and make
them clickable to the actual size picture. Avoid graphics that
look like ads. People ignore them. Use the ALT attribute on
pictures, even the image is not a link. It helps users with
disabilities and people who have turned off graphics.
Tips to optimize your site for the search engines
Create short, descriptive page titles, to entice search engine
users to click on your links. Create a site map containing all
your pages, and link to it directly from your homepage. Search
engine robots will follow the link to your site map and will
most likely add all your pages to the index. Decide what the two
or three main keywords are for each page (the words you believe
search engine users will type to find your page) and repeat them
often in your page title, description meta tag and page body.
Create a Links page and call it Resources. In it, place links to
those sites that have agreed to place a reciprocal link to your
page. The more inbound links you have from quality sites with a
topic related to your site, the better your site will rank with
the search engines. Use more text than graphics, and minimize
text and will crawl and index your site faster.
Mario Sanchez publishes The Internet Digest, an online collection of web
design and Internet marketing articles and resources.