Domainmonster.com Domain Editorials
Better Site Design
Your website is often your customers’ first impression of you, especially if you run a business which operates solely online. If you’re running a personal site, it’s likely to be the only impression they will ever have of you. Therefore it’s worth your while spending a considerable amount of time and effort on making your site as helpful and attractive as possible. Good design, however, is much more complicated than arranging a few images and chunks of text to look pretty. You need to find a balance between style and function, since a site which is not easily navigable will quickly put customers off.
There is no one site design that is the best; unfortunately, there is no "one-size-fits-all" option. You need to make sure, therefore, that your site design reflects a look and feel you want to be associated with your business, or else, for a personal site, reflects your personality in a flattering way. A site can be too serious as well as too informal. Decide exactly how you want your visitors to feel about you, your site and your business before you begin.
Another thing to do before you start is a bit of research. Have a look at other sites that have a similar purpose to your own. Make a note of what you like and what you dislike. How could your site incorporate the positive features of others’ sites? Which colour schemes work well and seem to fit with the image you want to put across? Seeing the successes and failures of other can give you ideas and also a sense of what to avoid.
Plan carefully. A good way to start your planning is to draw a sitemap, listing all the pages that you intend to have, and the links between them. Make sure that your design is very user-friendly, or you can be sure that your visitors will leave as soon as they’ve arrived. Try to lay out your site in a clear and logical way, with categories and subcategories of pages which will make sense to a first-time visitor. Also make sure that you incorporate a link back to your homepage and perhaps to other categories on each page, so that your customers can find what they’re looking for quickly, even if they arrived at a random page via a search engine. As a general rule, it’s best to avoid image-based rollover links; stick to text links. If you want, you can use a "breadcrumb navigation" system, whereby a visitor can see the route to their page in the following format: Home>Category 1>Subcategory A etc. This can make finding your way around a site much easier, and your visitors will also be encouraged to explore your site.
Consider page size carefully. Unless your site is intrinsically graphic heavy (like a gallery or video site), try to keep your pages to a maximum of 30KB each. Images add a lot to a web site, but they also add to the size, and people on 56Kbps dialup will not thank you for huge images which take several minutes to download; most people won’t wait. Also, try to avoid using a lot of small images, as each of these requires a separate HTTP request to the server, and will consequently slow down your site.
If you’re using tables, make sure you put your header and navigation links in a separate table from the rest of your content. You should use at least two tables per page; otherwise, your visitors will only be able to see any of your page when the whole table has loaded. More tables means that the page will load in chunks, so your visitors will not feel so impatient.
Be Firefox-user friendly too! Make sure you check your site out in several browsers to ensure it displays as you intend. Also, unless you are specifically a multimedia site, try to avoid plug-ins other than Flash Player, which most users will have.
Good luck designing your site!
By Natalie Catchpole