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Five Tips to Make Your Web Site a Welcome Sight

© 2004 Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D., Technical Internet Editor

Weve discussed before that everyone can create a Web site, and we all know that everyone can write a book. Just as authors must learn how to write a book properly, Web site designers must learn how to design a Web site properly. Designers must keep in mind that the initial goal for every Web site is to present information to the visitor. If the Web site design is annoying or difficult to read or impossible to navigate, the visitor will leave. 

The following tips will help you to design a better site or to evaluate a site designed for you. 

  1. Keep your site reasonably low tech. There are many fascinating techniques available to us, but that does not mean that you should use them. You want to pick and choose only those techniques that improve visitor experience at your site.
    1. Flash movies take a long time to download and play, keeping the site visitor from getting to the information she wants. If Flash pizzazz is necessary, use it only in one small dose.
    2. Java applets take a long time to download, and they conflict with some computer software. Since Java applets are generally not central to the theme of the site, omit them entirely.
    3. Animated graphics can be fun only when they are an integral part of the site. When simply pasted in as a rotating mailbox, animated graphics are annoying.
  1. Limit your graphics. The "heavier" a page is with graphics, the longer the visitor must wait for the page. Be selective in the graphics you choose, and be sure that your chosen graphics further the theme of your site.
    1. Size the graphics so that their dimensions balance well with the rest of the page.
    2. Use PhotoShop to reduce the resolution and to save the graphics as compressed jpg or gif files.
    3. Make sure that your Web page graphic HTML tags include the HEIGHT and WIDTH specifics.
  1. Forgo Frames. Frames are not a good design component for a Web site. Heres why:
    1. Frames can make Web design easier for the designer, but visitors can get "lost" in a framed site.
    2. Unless the Web designer is search-engine savvy, the search engines cannot follow the frames links to get into your site.
    3. Visitors cannot add an interior page from a framed site to their favorites list.
  1. Simplify the navigation.
    1. Its best to have the same navigation links on every page so that visitors can always find their way to any part of the site.
    2. The navigation links should be on the top of the page or in a column on the left or the right.
    3. If the main navigation links are graphic buttons, its a good idea to add small text navigation links on the bottom of each page.
  1. Clean up your site.
    1. Make sure that you are using a limited number of colors and fonts.
    2. Proofread your text to remove all errors and to improve the flow of your message.
    3. Check your site with the most common browsers to confirm that most visitors will be seeing the site as you want them to see it.

Yes, everyone can create a Web site, but only when you spend the time to optimize your design will you build a good Web site. By following these tips and including good content in your site, youll be building a site where visitors are willing to stay awhile. 

~ Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D. is an Information Architect who publishes both in print and online. Contact her at

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