12 Basic Rules for Website Design

The internet is a new medium of information. As a home businessperson, you will need a website. The success of this website is especially critical for home businesses because they are already at a disadvantage in advertisement when put up against other, office businesses. Therefore, the main objective of your website will be to grab attention first, and then to present yourself with good content.

Websites that fulfill this objective have the following characteristics.

1. Their pages load quickly , especially the homepage. They load in no more than 30 seconds, but the shorter the better. Successful website designers are seldom satisfied with the loading time of their pages. Remember, people seldom have time to wait for loading pages, and with more websites on the internet than there are people in the world, they won’t lose out if they get impatient and simply avert their attention to your competition: you will. It only makes sense to present your information as quickly as possible.

2. They don’t waste visitors’ time . Here are a few ways unprofessional webmasters waste precious visitors’ time and attention. First, they create a fancy introduction (Flash introductions are a double strike, since viewers without Flash viewers are automatically prompted to download the viewer program – what a wrong way to make your first impression!), which effectively waste viewers’ time because they are interested only in your information, not in your ability to make distracting animations. A “Skip intro” button does not justify these annoyances, as it only reduces wasted time slightly, since it still loads an extra page and requires an additional click by the viewer.

3. They don’t have pop-ups . Or equally annoying banners and advertisements that flash, move, and/or enlarge.

4. They keep mechanical features to a minimum . The following features should be rejected: fancy cursors, background music, animated backgrounds, and webpage hit counters (especially if your hit count is low). Also, do not include other features that do not add to navigation, content or visual appeal of the website. It is all part of an effort to reduce loading time.

5. Their graphics are appropriate . They are quick to load, and are shown in a thumbnail that can be enlarged onto a separate window if necessary. Animated pictures are kept to a minimum. The rule-of-thumb is the 80:20 ratio of text to graphics.

6. They are compatible . Believe it or not, there are a number of people who still have ancient versions of browsers that show little more than just text. Therefore, considerate web designers don’t embed important information inside pictures, or worse, Flash files. In fact, most good websites have a text-only version.

7. They are easy to navigate . The accessibility of each web page is foolproof. Navigation menus are located at the top or at the left of the website, with small menus at the bottom of each page so that visitors do not have to scroll back up to access other pages. A site map with summaries and links to every page of the website, and search functions (if the site has very many pages) are provided. External links open a new browser, but internal links do not, because it is annoying to have to close so many browsers open after browsing a few pages.

8. They have a consistent formatting scheme . They choose a colour scheme of two to four distinctly different colours and keep text formatting (e.g. bold, italicize, underline, highlight) to a minimum. They avoid distracting formatting (e.g. blinking, marquee) altogether. The text, links, and pictures should be of contrasting colour with the background.

9. They are up-to-date . They frequently check all their links and download files to make sure that none of them are broken. They update their content frequently and are not afraid to change the layout to make browsing through the website easier.

10. They have correct grammar and spelling . For every change they make on the website, they go through a rigorous editing process through self- and peer-evaluation and web processor grammar/spelling scanning.

11. They strive for interaction . Merely posting the email address is insufficient. Easily accessible full contact information (i.e. fax and phone number, address, etc.) is recommended. For easier online feedback, a feedback form (where visitors would fill out their name, e-mail address, and comments) as well as an e-mail address should be provided. An active forum would also be a great idea.

12. They make it easier for visitors to return. They provide easily accessible bookmark and homepage tools. However, they do not prompt visitors to make your site their homepage as soon as they enter the website: that is obnoxious.

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