The first thing to do when designing a site is to decide on your audience. Are you going to have a site somewhat like this one -- mostly informational text? Or are you creating a showcase for your artwork? Is it a site dedicated to music? Once you have determined what you are going to make available on your site, you have to figure out what format is best to present your work to your audience.
Many Pagans are still not on the most up to date equipment. Many may be in college where Unix and Macs still out-number PCs. You may have someone browsing your site in a text-based web browser like Lynx at the same time as someone with the very latest web browser. Though both people are looking at the same site, each will see it very differently.
Look at your web site using your own Internet Explorer or Netscape browser, and everything may look fine -- your beautiful graphics are in just the right places, the color combinations are perfect. However, if you look through the eyes of your Lynx browsers, it's a different story.
If you use your graphics to create your entire navigational structure, and fail to place ALT tags on them, the text based browser won't be able to see where they are going. They may not even know there is a navigation structure there. Make sure you include text-based navigation, so they can explore your site, too. Test your site in multiple browsers, not just the one you prefer to use.
Something that webmasters in the US tend to forget is that outside the States, most people still pay by the minute for their Internet access. So when you use images on your site, make sure they are as small in size as possible, so your browsers don't have to wait all day to download one huge gif you are using as the splash screen to access your site. They will leave, or click through before the graphic loads. If the rest of your site contains graphics of the same size, your browsers may give up and leave.
While graphics are pretty, unless you are an artist showcasing your own work, people are not going to visit your entire site or return in the future unless you have some other content. It is important to have some substance amid the flash. Some write their own. Others enlist friends and kind strangers to write for them; some use content that has been originally printed elsewhere (hopefully with permission from the writer). Which brings up the sticky subject of copyright and ethics.
Using material that was created by others without their permission is unethical, illegal, and just plain wrong. This includes both text and graphics. Many people seem to think that just because something is on the Web it is free for the taking. This is not so.
Consider your web site another facet of your home. It is a representation of you on the Web. Would you go to the home of an artist, take one of their paintings without their knowledge, and hang it on your wall? That's the same thing as stealing graphics and text. I've been to sites that had nothing but unacknowledged graphics and text taken right from popular Pagan books. I leave sites like that immediately.
Think of your web site as an ongoing research paper. Your teachers in college and high school would not have tolerated plagiarism, and it shouldn't be tolerated on the web.
As for design ideas and methods, the best thing you can do for yourself is join a mailing list on HTML and Web Design, buy a book on design, or do a search for sites that give tutorials. Here are a few guidelines that I go by:
Okay, I'll step down off my soapbox for a bit and let you get to work. Remember above all to have fun with your site. If you don't enjoy your site, it will show -- you'll update it less and less. And if you don't like your site, no one else will. So get out there and weave the Web!
Used by permission of the author.
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