Today I'm going to talk about some Do's and Don'ts of website design. As a website designer in NH, this is one subject I'm passionate about. So please, bear with me if I start to ramble on a bit. I want to share as much useful website design information as possible (without boring you to death) but when it comes to the topic of designing websites, I could talk for hours.
So let's begin …
For starters, I believe your website design should represent your personal or business philosophy, your values, and the overall "look and feel" of who you and your company are (or who you want to be)
When people see your website for the first time, they're going to get an instant impression of you and your business … What do you want them to see?
Take my latest website for example (you can check it out by following the link at the end of this article) … When I designed this website, I wanted it to be simple, crisp, and elegant. The black background represents authority. And it also takes away some of the eye strain you might get, from looking at a bright white monitor, while trying to read what's in front of you.
What values does it represent ..? The values of authority, or someone who knows what they're doing. It also shows my concern for your comfort (reduced eye strain while you're reading)
Then, I wanted to give you something a bit more entertaining to look at, so I added a few flash banners to the pages.
What's the philosophy behind this ..? To give you quality information, from the words you're reading, but not bore you with a static website design that has nothing but words on the page.
Finally, I put all the main navigation links in the same place on every page (Left hand side of page) This is so you'll know exactly where to find the links, no matter which page you're on.
I also sprinkled a few links throughout the text, so if you want more information about something, you can click on the link, and move on to whatever you're interested in.
So, what do you want to impress your website visitors with?
Do you want a corporate presence that's all business ..? Or do you want a website design that shows you're an honest person, with hometown values (and not just a faceless corporation) ..? Or maybe you want a website design that shows people you're a fun loving person, with a sense of humor ..? Maybe you just want a website to showcase your hobbies, talents, or personal opinions ..?
There are almost as many answers to this question as there are people reading this page right now.
My main philosophy is to keep your website design simple.
There are some large corporate websites on the internet that are very complex (and often very confusing to navigate) and most of the visitors they receive, click away without buying anything.
This is fine, if you have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend, driving huge amounts of traffic to your website. (If 10,000 people a day are visiting your site, you do not mind when only 1 out of every 200 actually make a purchase.
But for us mere mortals, who only see a few hundred visitors a day, we're much more have a higher rate of conversion from our websites.
You also do not want to make your website design too cluttered or too distracting. Tons of animated pictures or flashing banners may look cool, but your visitors will become distracted, and possibly forget why they came to your site in the first place.
Also, too many moving images makes your website load much slower, so some visitors may click away before they ever see your website pages at all (no one wants to grow old waiting for a website to load)
Pop up windows are another thing … One pop up is OK (to present a special offer or an email sign up form). But you do not want more than one on any page, and make sure your visitors can close it immediately if they want to.
Those pop up windows that block out part of the page, and will not let you close them for a certain amount of time, only irritate most people. And if you irritate your visitors … they're going to click away from your website, and never come back.
So when your thinking about what kind of website design you'd like, keep in mind who building your web presence for … your visitors.
Keeping your website easy to navigate is one of the most important aspects of a good website design. If your visitors get confused looking for something on your website, they're going to click away from your site and look somewhere else.
We live in an attention deficient society, and most people want instant results from their inquiries. If you do not give it to them, they're going to look elsewhere.
You also need a website design that will easily allow the search engines to navigate your website, so they can index it in their search listings. (You do want your website to show up in the search engines, do not you?)
But what about Flash websites?
It's true … Flash websites represent some of the latest technology in website design … They move and flow, and they can make your visitors say "WOW, NEAT WEBSITE".
But full flash websites are difficult for search engines to index, because search engines only read HTML code and page text. If the search engines can not tell what your website is about, they'll have a difficult time indexing your website for your particular keywords.
I do like the look of Flash websites, and if you'd like me to build you one, then we also need to talk about off page website promotion. (ways to get actual people to your website, while we're waiting for the search engines to figure out where to index your website)
Now do not get me wrong … Big flashy websites are a designers dream. It gives us a chance to really get creative with flash animations, dynamic pop up windows, and auto loading video clips. but they can often be very confusing to navigate, and they can also be very distracting to your visitors.
If your visitors get too distracted by all the flash animations, they will often get confused or frustrated, and possibly even irritated. Remember … irritating your website visitors is one of the quickest ways to get them to leave your website in a hurry.
How about pure CSS websites?
CSS website designs are another up and coming website technology. There are many CSS evangelists who would have you believe it's the only way to go.
CSS websites use an external file (CSS file), instead of tables, for the look of your website layout. Many people believe they give a more consistent look for a website when viewed through different web browsers (Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc.) They also tend to load a bit faster due to the reduced code on each individual page.
But CSS websites also have their limitations. In particular, when it comes to centering certain fonts and images on the page.
Beside … table layouts, when done properly, will also give you a consistent look through all major web browsers.
CSS websites also allow you to globally change the look of your website by editing a single file instead of changing each page individually. This is great if you want to continuously make changes to your website design, but if you already have a website design you're happy with, then this point is not really necessary. Also, if you want to have different headers, or fonts, or images, on different pages, then you'll need to access each page of your website one-at-a-time anyway.
What about PHP websites?
PHP websites are the only real way to go if you want a dynamic database driven website, (like a full e-commerce store, or a community website, or a blog. can log into an area of your site with their name and password. Or if you want to allow your visitors to leave comments on your website).
But PHP websites tend to load slower than standard HTML websites. So if you simply want a fast loading website, to bring your business to the internet, HTML is the way to go. You can still sell products and services from an HTML website, but they do not have to go through a database to retrieve any information.
So there you have it … My basics for a quality website design.
I could go on for another hour, but this article is already starting to get a bit long. (in fact … This page used to be near twice as long) But then my friends and family told me you might not be as enthusiastic as I am about the topic. So I shortened it up a bit. The hard part was editing the content without leaving out some of the things I wanted to say.
I realize this whole process can be a bit of a challenge, trying to establish a web presence that will be up to date with modern technologies … one that will easily be indexed by the search engines … and a website design that will Also be simple enough to allow your visitors to make the decision of doing business with you.
So your best bet is to simply browse the internet and look at some other website designs that are appealing to you. When you see a few that you like the look of, it will give you a starting point for your own website design
In summary …
The design of your website says a lot about you and your company.
A clean efficient website design tells your visitors you run a clean, efficient business. By contrast, a cluttered or confusing website design tells your visitors you're cluttered and confusing.
If your visitors can not understand your website, or if they can not easily navigate your website, then they'll probably click away as soon as they arrive … never to return again.
When people see your website for the first time, they're going to get an instant impression of you and your business, and the first impression they're going to get will be based on your website design … What do you want them to see?
Think about it …