Friday, July 21, 2006

Tips to Improve Your Website Design

It doesn't matter if your web site is a small personal site or a huge corporate web site with hundreds of pages, having a good design is very important. Good site design can make the difference between a web surfer leaving the site or bookmarking it. Here are several tips to help improve your site's design:

1. Pages should load fast. Most people will leave your site if it's not done loading in ten or 15 seconds. And even if you have a fast internet connection, not everyone does. Stay away from large photos or graphics.

2. Text should be easy to read. The text size should be big enough, and the background should not obscure your text. If you want to be safe, use black text on a white background. If you want more color, choose very carefully to make sure it's still easy to read.

3. Your website should be easy to navigate. Each link should be clearly identified as such and graphic navigation elements like buttons and tabs should be easy to read and use. You do not want people leaving because they could not figure out how your Flash menu works. Always provide a text based menu on every page and make sure your website includes a site map with text links to every page.

4. Your layout and design should be consistent. If you switch between styles too much, you will confuse your visitors. If the design is too different, people will believe that they are now on a different web site since the layout changed.

5. Avoid music and sounds. Very few people like to have music forced on them while they navigate, especially if they are already listening to music or surfing at their job! If you really cannot do without music, turn it off by default and ask visitors to start it themselves.

6. Design for browser compatibility. Even though Internet Explorer comes with Windows many people prefer not to use it. Make sure your site is at least viewable in Mozilla Firefox and Opera (if possible, you could even try testing on a Mac). Sites that target markets like technology should be more careful, since readers are more likely to use the newest browsers and gadgets like PDAs.

7. Design for all screen resolutions. You may like to surf in 1240x1080 with your new flat screen monitor, but some people still use 800x600! A site that looks perfect in high resolution may turn out to be impossible to view correctly in 800x600. This site allows you to view your web page in other resolutions http://www.anybrowser.com/ScreenSizeTest.html.

And, if you have a doubt, test, test and test! You can also ask your family and friends for help. Being less familiar with the website, they can help find a lot of things you overlooked.