Tips on How to Design a Great Site


Submitted by David Lim | Category: Web Services | Published on Dec 20, 2005
 
Abstract:
Simple guidelines on how to design a web site so that it is more user-friendly.

Have you ever walked pass a shop that, for some reason, you just felt that you had to go in? May be it was the decor, or the window display, or the pretty girl, or a combination of all those but something in the shop called out to you, "Come in" and you just had to obey.

In the online world, wonít it be nice to have a site that buyers just had to buy from, despite themselves? Surfers will be drawn to the "Add to Cart" button that squealed, "Click me!" to them. They found that they just had to click the button and buy the item.

While I can assure you I canít design such a site, and I certainly am not going to reveal how to design it in a free article even if I can, there are many ways to make your site more friendly to your visitor.

The following tips will make your site load more faster, easier to use and more pleasing to your visitor. While they won't guarantee you a sale, a happier and more satisfied surfer should greatly increase your chances of a sale.


Don't Reinvent the Wheel

Probably the first thing you want to do is to visit some of your competitor's sites. It will give you an idea of what your site could look like, what features you want for your own site and serve as a starting point for the design of your own site.

Perhaps the best advice I can give you here is to look at the sites from a customerís point of view. As a customer, what do you like or dislike about the sites? Would you buy from them, and why? Are you going to revisit again, and why?


Ease of Navigation

In many cases, you don't read a web site like you would a novel. You don't start from page 1, continue to page 2, and so on.

You would probably "read" a site like you would a reference book. Maybe you will read the introduction to get an idea of what the book is about, and then you will skip to the table of contents to look for the location of the information that you need. In some cases, you may turn to the index at the back of the book to see what on what pages the information you want is referred to.

Notice the navigation aids - the table of contents and the index. The first will be found at the beginning while the second, if available, at the end of the book. This is a standard observed by all books.

Your site should be as easy to navigate.

  • Main Menu. You should have a menu, located either at the top, left or right, that directs users to the various sections of your site. This menu should be available from every page of your site, and at the same location.
  • Site Map. If your site is relatively large, and you feel that users may have a problem locating the information they want even with a main menu, consider including a site map. Site maps give much more detail than the main menu and users will have an easier time locating the information they want.
  • Search Engine. If your site is a very large site, including a search engine is a good idea.



Fast Loading Pages

Many webmasters will have broadband or cable connections and they tend to forget about the poor souls still struggling with dialup.

It is best that you keep the size of your pages as small as possible to accommodate users with slow connections. A general guideline is to keep the size of your pages below 100k.


Graphics

Pretty graphics are nice to look at. But unless your site is about graphics, it's probably best to keep it to a minimum. It distracts users the information you want to convey, and increases the load time for your pages.

Don't forget to optimize the graphics that you use. The jpeg graphic format is a compressed format. You can choose to compress it as much or as little as you want. The more you compress it, the smaller it becomes, but the image is of a lower quality.

To optimize your jpegís, start with a jpeg of acceptable quality. Save the jpeg with more compression and view it. If you find the quality acceptable, save it again with even more compression. Keep doing it until you get an image with unacceptable quality. The image before that will be your optimized image.

Note that you cannot go from a low quality image back to a high quality image. So remember to save your high quality images into a separate directory before trying any optimization.


Consistency

We discussed consistency regarding the location of your main menu. This consistency should extend to all areas of your site. In other words, your fonts, color scheme, buttons, etc, should be the same for all pages of your site.


Testing

The computer on your desk is called a PC, or personal computer. Whenever I am asked why a particular computer behaves in a strange way, I will invariably remark that the computer is called a "personal computer", and thus will exhibit its own personality. :)

Similarly, surfers viewing your site will also have their own personal computer, with their own particular combination of software and hardware. Therefore, it is best to test your site under as many different types and versions of hardware and software as possible.

  • Browsers. Although IE is the dominant browser, some of your users may be running other browsers like Netscape or Firefox. Test your site in as many different browsers as you can. Also, don't forget to test it under different versions of the same browser.
  • Screen Resolutions. Don't forget to test your site under different screen resolutions.
  • Java and ActiveX. Many sites depend on Java or ActiveX to display properly. If your site needs a Java enabled browser, try it with Java disabled and see how it looks. If possible, it is best that your site will function correctly even if the users have Java or ActiveX disabled.


David Lim is the webmaster of http://QuittingYourJob.com , a site offering information, advice and resources for a newbie looking to start an online home-based business. Probably the best thing about this site is that it tells it like it is, without any of the hype that is so typical in other similar sites.

 

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