It’s not enough to know *how* to create a web site, you also need to know what makes a *good* web site. Think back on some of the web sites you’ve visited recently. Were you impressed by all of them? Probably not. Many web sites are technically fine, but fail on aesthetic grounds.
The guidelines below will help you to create web sites that are user-friendly and will be well received.
Content, content, content! The single most important element in any successful web site is good content. You must have content that is:
- informative; and
- regularly updated.
Without this, it will be difficult to convince people to visit your site again and again. Lots of flashy colours and animated images may look fun the first time, but it’s not enough to keep people coming back to your site. Only good content can do that.
Don’t overuse character styles such as bold face and italics as this can make your site seem amateurish. Also, underlining should be avoided at all costs as visitors will mistake underlined text for a clickable link.
Similarly, don’t wildly vary the size of your type unless you have good reason.
Don’t abuse your colours. Too many colours, or overly garish colours, are one of the easiest ways to spot amateur web sites. Also make sure that you choose a readable colour scheme. White text on a black background may look cool, but it’s tough to read, particularly with small text.
Leave lots of blank space. Text on computer screens is hard to read at the best of times, so don’t cram in your text. Start lots of new paragraphs, and leave plenty of space between objects. Headings or horizontal rules are a good way to do this.
Use less text per page. The web is primarily a visual medium. Screen after screen of text is dull and unlikely to be read.
Try to limit the amount of text on any page to a few paragraphs by breaking long pages into several smaller pages.
Don’t assume that other people will see what you see. There are many things that can make your web page look different than what you expected:
- Different browsers, even different versions of the same browser, can display your pages quite differently.
- Some people use a screen that is 640 pixels wide; others have screens that are 800, 1,024 or 1,200 pixels wide. They may all see your site quite differently.
- Some computers may not display as many colours as yours.
- The fonts that you used may not be installed on other people’s computers.
- Other people may have different browser settings than you.
The moral of this story is two fold:
a. Don’t waste your time trying to get the layout “just right” as it will probably look different on other people’s machines anyway.
b. Test your pages as widely as possible. For example, look at them on different machines and browsers, change the browser’s settings, use fewer colours, use different fonts, turn off images. Does your web site still look okay in all of these situations?
Remember, it’s not enough to make a web site, you have to make a good one. With over two billion other web pages out there at the moment, you’ll have to work hard to ensure that yours stands out from the crowd. Good design and good content will help you do this.
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