Tips for Designing Your Web Page - dummies

By Bud E. Smith

A Web page is basically an interactive publication. 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.

  • Ask “Why am I doing this?” The answer helps you determine some important things about the page. The following list details the most common reasons for people to get involved in creating a Web page:

  • Don’t spend too much time on design: A simpler design is more likely to work for everyone and be easier to update. Improve the design as you find out more about Web publishing and more about how people use your page.

  • Put the good stuff first: Imagine the Web as a giant magazine rack and the person surfing the Web as someone scanning the front covers of all those magazines. 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.

  • Consider download times: Putting lots of graphics in your pages is time-intensive for you and for those who surf your site.

  • Many people are ignoring this concern these days because they are on broadband, so even large images load quickly. There are three problems with making this assumption:

    • Broadband service has inconsistencies and hiccups that slow speeds at particular times.

    • Even a “fast” download can never be fast enough. A 3-second wait is still annoying.

    • There are still some dialup users out there, and a graphic, say, 1 MB in size, can take several minutes to download on a dialup connection. If you impose this wait, you can unknowingly drive some of your users nuts and put them off your site entirely.

  • 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.

  • Look at sites you like: Imitate successful elements without copying. As the development of your site progresses, keep checking it against the sites you previously identified and widen your search to get additional ideas.

  • Plan for ongoing improvements: Some things 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.

    Web-site information that is obviously out of date is one of the quickest ways to leave a bad impression of you or your organization or company; it steers visitors right away from your Web site. For business, an out-of-date site can cost you customers.

  • Decide how you define success: For an initial effort, simply putting up something on the Web that clearly conveys basic information is probably enough. You may just need an online reference point for people who need to get in touch with you by phone or by mail, or want to know a bit more about you or your business.