Website Design - Simple Mistakes And Golden Rules

Good web design is something that can be achieved relatively easily by understanding a small set of rules and guidelines

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Article Published / Updated: Sat, 12 Feb 2011 06:30:00

Good web design is something that can be achieved relatively easily by understanding a small set of rules and guidelines.

Truly excellent web design skills are an attribute of years of experience and plenty of mistakes. Fortunately, being truly good at web design is not a requirement for building a great site and the lessons learned from errors usually do not hurt but help you become a better web developer.

This article contains some of the principles which we have learned. Each principle is fairly obvious but so many designers ignore them for one reason or another and the consequence is a hard-to-use, poor looking website that is difficult to manage and fails to make the top 1000 in Google. If your website follows the principles below it will almost certainly be much healthier, and you and your visitors will reap the benefits.

WEB DESIGN Simple Mistakes And Golden Rules

1. Keep Everything Obvious - Don't Make Me Think
Personally, I think thinking is a good thing but at the same time I don't want to be struggling to figure out how to submit a web form!

Visitors to a website expect certain conventions, breaking these is a great way of losing visitors. Users expect to find the navigation at the top of a page or on the right hand side. Logos and or company names are mostly found on the top left. A lot research has been conducted into how people view and use web pages. The good news is that you do not need to know all of this, instead look at how larger companies such as eBay, Amazon, Google, Microsoft structure their pages and the language they use.

2. Limit Colors
A website using too many colors at a time can be overwhelming to many users and can make a website look cheap and tacky. Any users with color blindness or contrast perception difficulties may even be unable to use the site. Limiting a palette to 3 or 4 colors will nearly always lead to a slicker looking design and has the added bonus of simplifying your design choices and reducing design time.

Software like Color Wheel Pro can greatly simplify the creation of a pallet by showing which colors sit well together. If you really do not have the eye for design then software like this provides the perfect way of escaping monotone or badly combined color schemes.

If your site uses blue and yellow together or red and green then it may present problems to anyone suffering with color blindness. Vischeck.com provide free software that can simulate different types of color blindness.

3. Be Careful With Fonts
The set of fonts available to all visitors of a website is relatively limited. Add to that the possibility of a user having a visual impairment then the options become even smaller. It is advisable to stick to fonts such as Arial, Verdana, Courier, Times, Geneva and Georgia. They may not be very interesting but your content should be more interesting than your font and if it can't be read, what is the point of having a site?

Black text on a white background is far easier for the majority of people to read than white text on a black background. If you have large amounts of text then a white or pale background is far more user friendly. Always ensure that there is a good contrast between any text and its background. Blue text on a blue background is okay as long as the difference in shade is significant.

The font, Verdana is often cited as being the easiest to read on the screen. Georgia is probably the best option for a serif font.

4. Plan for Change
If you fix the height of your page to 600 pixels will you still be able to add additional menu items without completely redesigning your page?

The ability to add or remove content from a website is fundamental to the ongoing success of it. Having to rewrite the entire web page or website each time you want to make a small change is sure fire way to kill your interest in your own site and will negatively impact your overall design and usability.

Getting a good idea of how your website is likely to grow will clarify how best to structure your layout. For example, a horizontal navigation is often more restrictive than a side navigation unless you use drop down menus; if your navigation is likely to grow and you hate drop down menus then your design choice has been 99% made for you!

Understanding how to use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), avoiding unconventional layouts and complicated backgrounds will all help enormously.

5. Be Consistent
Again, don't make your visitors think! About how to use your site at least. If your navigation is at the top on your homepage, it should be at the top on all other pages too. If your links are colored red ensure the same convention is used on all sections.

By using CSS correctly you can make most of this happen automatically leaving you free to concentrate on the content.

6. Keep it Relevant
A picture is better than a thousand words but if the picture you took on holiday is not relevant to your Used Car Sales website then you should really replace it with something which reflects the content or mood of the page; a photo of a car perhaps!

If you can take something off of your web page without it adversely affecting the message, appearance or legality of your website you should do it without hesitation.

Avoid the need to add images, Flash animations or adverts just because you have space. This wastes bandwidth and obscures the intentions of your website. If you absolutely must fill the space, then exercise your imagination to find something as relevant as possible.

Keeping your content focused will ultimately help your search-engine rankings.

7. Become a CSS Expert
Cascading Style Sheets should be any web designer's best friend. CSS makes it is possible to separate the appearance and layout of your page from the content. This has huge benefits when it comes to updating and maintaining your site, making your site accessible and making your site easy for search engines to read.

8. Avoid Complexity
Using standard layouts for your web page will save you development time and make your site easier to use. Pushing the boundaries nearly always leads to quirky behavior, cross-browser problems, confused site visitors and maintenance headaches. Unless you really do like a challenge then avoid complexity wherever possible.

Many standard layouts are freely available online with much of the boring, repetitive work already done for you. The principles above all border on common sense and are well known to most people, yet so many sites continue to deviate away from them and suffer as a consequence. Following these principles will help you keep away from trouble, although it still doesn't guarantee it!

Summary

We can summarize this article in three words Keep It Simple.

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Artemis Glikakis is the Managing Director of Position Front Page International Co., Ltd.. His expertise in this field of Internet Marketing and Search Engine Optimization, has lead him to write many articles on the subject and he is always in the forefront when large clients come along.

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