Thinking Your Web Page Through
A Web page or Web site is basically a publication, though an interactive one. Thinking about a few simple principles now, before you start, can help make your Web page much more interesting and useful to the people who see it. You can also revisit this article after you put up your initial Web home page; use these guidelines to revise your page and make it even more interesting and useful!
- Don't spend too much time on design. Keep your design simple and don't spend too much time on it initially. A simpler design is more likely to work for everyone — and be easier to create and update, as well. Then improve the design as you find out more about Web publishing and more about how people use your page.
- Put the good stuff first. People who see your Web page decide whether to stay at your site — or go elsewhere — based largely on what they see when your page first comes up. The first part of the page should make a strong impression and invite the user to go further into your site.
- Think twice about download times. Creating or finding good graphics and placing them appropriately in your Web page can take a great deal of time and effort. Graphics are also time-intensive for those who surf your site because they can take a long time to download. So think twice before creating large clickable image maps or attractive opening graphics. If you do use an opening graphic, keep the file size under 20K or so.
- Know your audience. Why are people online? Surveys indicate that the top reasons people use the Web are for information-gathering, entertainment, education, work, "time-wasting," and shopping. Which of these purposes do you intend for your site to serve? How do you appeal to people who are online? How do you help them find you? The answers to these questions can help you enhance the appeal and usefulness of your site.
- Use "text bites." When preparing a Web site, less is more. Saying something with less text makes users more likely to read and remember it. A text bite is like a sound bite — it's a short, clearly written piece of text that makes a single point.
- If you want to put long documents on the Web, consider rewriting them as a series of text bites. If rewriting them is too much work to be practical, at least create short, punchy text for navigation and for introductory paragraphs to the long documents. Within a long document, add headers to break up the flow of text and provide pointers on your Web site to key areas within the document.
- Look at sites you like. Look at sites you like and at sites whose purposes are similar to your own. What's good about them? What's not? Imitate successful elements — without copying, which would be a violation of ethics as well as copyright laws — and avoid unsuccessful ones.
- Keep your site current. Some things that you put in a Web site need to be kept current. For example, if your business Web page shows your company's quarterly results, be ready to update it quickly when the next quarter's results come out. If it lists company officers, update it as soon as a change takes place.
- Web site information that is obviously out of date is one of the best ways to leave a bad impression of you or your organization/company and to steer visitors away from your Web site.
- Plan for ongoing improvements. As you plan and implement your initial Web page, you will, no doubt, find yourself creating a "To Do" list of things that you can't fit into the original site but want to add later, when time allows. This list is the start of a plan for ongoing improvements.
- Decide how you define success. Before you design and create your Web page, define what you believe can make it a success. For an initial effort, simply putting up something on the Web that clearly conveys basic information is probably enough. For follow-up work, get more specific. Are you trying to reach a certain number of people or type of people? Do you want to create a cutting-edge site in terms of bell-and-whistle features like fancy graphics and animation — and if so, are you willing to invest the time and money to make this site happen?
Talk to people who do advertising and marketing in the real world, as well as to people who work on the Web, and get a sense of what goals they set and how they measure success in meeting their goals.