As a lecturing in Web Design and Development, each term I meet plenty of eager students wanting to acquire a sound knowledge in these highly popular subjects. Unfortunately, 20 hours lecturing time is no where near enough exposure needed to know all of the ins and outs of designing and building website that people want to visit.
I have written this article to help guide the budding designer toward making the right decisions from the outset. The emphasis is on ‘what not to do‘ rather than ‘what to do‘. It covers everything from the look and feel of a site, to SEO (Search Engine Optimization) considerations.
1. Don’t be too inventive.
I know, that sounds pretty conservative, but sometimes in the struggle to create a designs that is truly original, we can easily forget about how our visitors will perceive it. If you open any book, you will find the content, foreword, etc at the front, lots of words in the middle and maybe notes/index at the back. This is a familiar format delivered for the sake of the reader. In the same way, it’s good to keep things simple when designing a website: Keep the menu in a familiar and accessible place on every page. Don’t bombard your visitors with alien concepts. Not so long ago, many of us were on pay-as-you-go dial up and as a result most of us have developed a sense of impatience when surfing the web. If we have to discover how to get to the content we are after within a few seconds, then we’ll move on.
2. Throw out the bells & whistles.
Many beginners to web design will no doubt like to see how far they can push the limits of WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) software. All sorts of animated buttons, roll-over effects, wacky cursor effect, etc, are scattered across each page in a hope that it will impress the visitor. Well, the truth is it will not. Flashing animations and quirky sounds may impress a few, but delight will soon turn soar. Keep it simple. Don’t give your visitor a headache if you intend for them to read your beautifully written content.
3. Badly written copy
Copy (written content) will play a very large part in your success or failure. If it is full of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, then it will make you look bad and not impress the search engines. Run a spell-checker over everything and get somebody else to read your copy before showing it to your visitors. Keep it short and sweet and get to the point as quickly as possible. Use headings, ordered and unordered list, bold, italics and paragraphs to break up your text. Format your copy in the style of a newspaper – Main heading (a few important grab-them-quick words), Sub-heading (a short sentence giving a little more information) a leading short paragraph (a summary of the article) and then the rest of the copy.
4. Finish building your website?
Don’t think because you have now launched your website that this is the end of the line. To become more visible on search results, ensure that you add new content on a regular basis. I’d suggest you add an article or product page at least once a week. Not only will this keep Google coming back for more, but it will also attract the most important activity of all – your human visitors. Consider adding a site-map to let the search engines quickly find new content.
5. Try to fool the Search Engines
Don’t try to pack your pages with keywords that aren’t relevant to your content – don’t use any for of trickery or black-hat techniques. Be as honest as possible. If you website is about cakes, then write about cakes and use keyword for cakes. Enthusiasm is completely contagious, so be enthusiastic when you write. This will result in people returning to your site, because you are a keen authority in your chosen subject.