Planning your Website, Design Do's & Don'ts

Published 21/05/2004 17:50   |    Updated 28/04/2008 10:33
Should I make a plan for my website?

Yes! Taking enough time to plan your site properly might seem an obvious consideration, but it's also an important one.

 

Think carefully about what you want your pages to look like, what information you want include and where, and how you'd like visitors to navigate around.

 

At the very least, you probably ought to include a homepage with a rough overview of the site and your contact details.

 

Mapping things out in rough on paper will help.

 

What size would you like your headings and boxes to be? Do you want to include photos or other graphics? If you're creating more than one page, how should each part of the site relate and link to the others?

 

You may also want to focus on a particular theme or subject, such as your business, a pastime, or perhaps a sport.

 

Also, it's impossible to cook without the right ingredients, so make sure your raw materials are the right ones. Check that your computer supports the programmes you need to run - a basic text editor, a web browser, and maybe some kind of photo editing software such as Photoshop.

 

All these things should be considered at the planning stage. And investing a little time early in the process could save you a lot more time and hassle later.

 

Once you're satisfied with your preparation you'll need to familiarise yourself with a few things, starting with HTML.

 


 

Design Do's & Don'ts

 

The whole point of creating a website is so that people will visit it - so you don't want to turn them off as soon as they arrive by offering them a poorly conceived and designed experience. Here, however attractive it might be, an impractical page is a useless one.

 

Here are our tips for creating web pages as popular as they are beautiful.

  1. Keep graphics small - don't alienate your visitors by making them wait 30 seconds or more just to load your homepage. - but don't worry too much, lots of people have broadband now and graphics are often more interesting than words.

  2. Keep text short and sweet too - too much text can slow down your site's load speed just as much as chunky graphics. Also, text works differently online, and text heavy pages will put visitors off fast. Use shorter sentences and paragraphs. - 10 words per sentence, 3 sentences per paragraph, 3 paragraphs per page is not a bad guide.

  3. Readability is the key - make your backgrounds as light as you can. If you use a background image make sure nothing in it interferes with the text too much. Use text at least 12 points high.

  4. Try not to think too sequentially - unlike when they're reading words in hard print, people tend to browse web pages in a non-linear way. Your visitor may begin in the middle of your content and finish at the start. Try to remember this and consider offering backwards links. i.e. Top of the Page. Keep navigation consistent on all pages and put most important messages at top left as people tend to scan top left to bottom right.

  5. Less is more - don't try to add extra emphasis by using lots of capital letters; online they're considered rude. Instead try using boxes, bullets, numbers, bolds and italics.

  6. Break it up - split large chunks of text into bite-sized pieces to make them easier to swallow, and don't clump too many images together in the same place or without borders.

  7. Ease of contact - it can't hurt to include your contact details on every page or, if you don't want people constantly calling, just include e-mail and postal details. Ask for feedback. People are surprising helpful and forthcoming.

  8. Keep it fresh - unlike printed material, websites aren't static, but live and ongoing. To attract repeat visits, be prepared update your pages as often as you can. This helps to get you ranked higher on search engines too.

  9. Be your own visitor - viewing your site only offline may just paper over any problems, and probably won't give you a true representation. Test your site at various speeds and screen resolutions and with different browsers to see what it's like to actually make a visit.

  10. Above and below 'the fold' - the concept of 'the fold' comes from the publishing industry, where newspapers run their most important stories 'above the fold' across the middle of the paper. Try to put key information above the imaginary line in the middle of your page.

 

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