by Jim Pretin
by Jim Pretin
Introduction to Web Design
Websites are such useful tools. They are great for sharing information, selling products, and staying in touch and up to date with family and friends. As a web designer with some "hard knocks" experience under my belt I would like to share some tips for getting started that should make the process a little easier and a little less confusing. The basics that you need to know about putting together a website are keep it simple, keep it relevant, and keep it accessible.
Keep It Simple
Keep it simple is one of the most overused clichés in the business world but, in this case, it is an absolutely necessary cliché. By telling you to keep your website simple I am in no way advocating that you make it dull, uninteresting, and boring. Not at all, in fact, I am saying quite the opposite. If a website is too cluttered with visuals it will not be easy to navigate. If a person cannot find what it is they are looking for than they will not come back to your site, even if what they need is on your site. Make sure that your design has a specific focus. There should be a homepage that easily directs people to the specific section of your site that they need to get to. The last time I was exposed to the information I read that the average attention span of Americans is slightly less than two minutes. It becomes even shorter when they are browsing the Internet because there is so much to look at. If they cannot find what they want on your site immediately, there are hundreds of other places they can look. Also, don't put a lot of Flash stuff on your site; the extra time it takes up will make viewers impatient.
Keep It Relevant
It is amazing the number of websites that are dedicated to one subject but then just throw all kinds of other stuff in there. If someone is looking to buy quilts they don't really want to have to wade through vacation pictures to get to the quilt page. Also, if someone is looking for a specific topic, subject, or item and they see something else when they get to your homepage, they won't stick around long enough to realize that they are at the right spot. They will leave and find another site to browse. That ties in with the simplicity of your site as well. Irrelevant material makes a website complicated. Even things like random 'jokes of the day' or comic strips, while funny I'm sure, will drive more people away than bring them in.
Keep It Accessible
There are two things to consider when dealing with accessibility issues, outside accessibility and inside accessibility. These two, if mastered, will drive people to your site and keep them coming back over and over. These two, if disregarded, will leave you with a nice, clean, unused site that does nothing more than take up cyberspace.
In order for people to get to your site they have to be able to find it. Sure, you can hand out business cards and email the URL to all your friends, but that is not where the majority of your traffic comes from. You have to make sure that your site can be found by searching the major search engines. In order to do this, you have to have content that will register hits when web browsers perform a search. For instance, if you are selling woven baskets you, obviously, want to make sure that your site mentions, in a readable way, that you are selling woven baskets. You would also want to make sure that your site mentions that you are selling crafts as there are people who would be interested in buying your baskets but would search for "crafts for sale". These are called keywords and you want to make sure that you have enough of them to register when a search is performed.
This merely ties back in with keeping it simple. If someone goes to your site where you sell all different kinds of arts and crafts, but they are only interested in buying Popsicle stick bird feeders, you need to have an easy way for them to find what they are looking for. Otherwise, they will just go somewhere else. It is always a good idea to have a search option for within your site to accommodate easy browsing.
About the Author
Jim Pretin is a programmer and the proprietor of http://www.forms4free.com.
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