Introduction to Site Design
It has been said for ages
that "first impressions last a lifetime", and as we enter
the information age, this old saying still rings true. In today's
dynamic, competitive Internet world, creating a base of regular
visitors is one of the keys to success, and the design of your site
is extremely important because it is, in a very real sense, the
first impression you make on millions of Internet users worldwide.
An attractive, user-friendly site design can be the difference between
success and failure, and therefore a good amount of time should
be devoted to making your site as good as possible. Designing a
good site, however, is a lot more difficult than merely dragging
and dropping some pictures and text onto a page and arranging it
to look nice. Successful sites must try to come up with the perfect
marriage of form and function, making sure that neither component
is lacking or in excess.
Tip One: What is Your Site About?
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when designing
your site is that there is by no means one site design that is best.
In fact, the nature of your site, its content, and its theme should
all be carefully considered in order to ensure that your site has
the look and feel you desire, without sacrificing the user-friendliness
that will keep the hits streaming in. So before you open up Dreamweaver
and start creating tables, and inserting text blocks and images,
sit back and think about what it is you want your website to portray,
and how you want visitors to feel when they visit your site. If
your site is a personal website, think in terms of how you can exhibit
your personality and style. If your site is a commercial website,
think in terms of how you want your customers to feel about your
products and services. A good deal of planning beforehand will allow
you to choose the correct theme for your website, saving you the
headache of going back and trying to get it right afterwards.
Tip Two: Research, Research, Research
After you have come up with the look
and feel that you feel is most appropriate for your website, the
next step is to research what other websites with similar objectives
have done. Spend some time looking at existing websites, and make
notes of their respective positives and negatives; then think of
how your site can incorporate the positives, while avoiding the
negatives. You can learn a lot about what works and what doesn't
by looking at the layout, color scheme, text, and images of other
websites, and then use that knowledge to get the most out of your
Tip Three: Planning
Once you have completed your research, and come up with an idea
of what you want your site to look like, the next step is to plan
your site. The best way to do this is to start by drawing a sitemap,
covering all of the pages you plan to create. By drawing a sitemap,
you will be able to see clearly exactly how your site will work,
and which links you will have to create to make it work the way
you planned. Drawing a site map is easy and will save you a lot
of time in the long run. For an example of a site map, please see
Tip Four: User Friendliness
Regardless of how beautiful your site is, if users can not navigate
it, they will simply find another site. Try to lay out your site
in a clear, logical manner, and avoid using image-based mouseover
links. This will help ensure that your site is easy to navigate,
and will still leave you plenty of room to add your personal design
Tip Five: Images/Page size
As we all know, images add a lot to a website, but it is important
to understand that they also add a lot of size to web pages, size
which can increase loading time. As a result of this fact, you should
try to use the minimum amount of images on each page. Try to limit
your pages to a total of 30kb, including text, background images,
and images. This will ensure that all pages will be loaded in about
5 seconds, even if the user happens to be using a dial-up connection.
Another thing to consider
when deciding the amount of images to use on your web pages is that
each file on a web page requires a separate HTTP request to the
server. What this means is that using a lot of small images, which
add up to less than 30kb is still going to slow down your site considerably.
Tip Six: Tables
When using tables in the creation of your site, it is important
to make sure that you do not use one table for the majority of your
site. If you do use one table, users will not be able to see any
of your content until the entire table has been loaded. In order
to avoid this problem, break your page into at least two tables.
The top table should contain your page header and some links, while
the bottom table should contain the remaining content. This will
allow the user to see part of your page quickly, so that they do
not get discouraged by a long wait.
Tip Seven: Browsers
When you have finished designing your site, be sure to take a look
at it in several different browsers. Sometimes your "perfect"
design will look atrocious when viewed with a different browser,
which means you will have to go back and fix your errors. Still,
it is much better to catch your own errors before your visitors
Tip Eight: Navigation Bars
One of the most helpful trends in web design that has gained popularity
in the last few years is the in-site navigation bar, which helps
users know exactly where they are in your site. Typically a navigation
bar looks something like this:
You are at: Home>My
This means that you are currently in
the Sports page of the My Hobbies Section of your site. Navigation
bars are by no means essential to a good website, but are a helpful
tool to make your site more user-friendly to users.
Tip Nine: Plug-ins
Over the past year or so, a number of plug-ins have been developed
allowing you to add advanced graphics and animation on to your website.
Before you load up your site with these animated graphics, it is
important to understand that most users do not have these plugins
installed on their computers, nor do they have the patience to download
them before viewing the site. The exception to this rule is Macromedia's
Shockwave Flash Plug-in, which is installed on most computers.
Tip Ten: Meta Tags
One of the most important things not to forget when designing your
site is the importance of meta tags. Site description and keyword
Meta tags are the most important factors in getting recognized by
search engines, which will bring your site more hits. When writing
your site description remember to keep it clear, concise, and to
the point, and do not load it up with keywords, because it should
make sense when displayed on a search engine results page.
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