Now that we’ve covered the basics of website planning and hosting selection, it’s time to take a look at the design and development portion of the site. This is where a designer uses all the information technology resources available to him to create a site that’s both eye grabbing and high functioning for every user who visits it. While there are dozens upon dozens of design disciplines that go into developing a website, here are 10 of the most common that can apply to any type of Web design project.
1. Knowing Your HTML – For the beginning designer, there are plenty of what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) site designers out there. These apps are essentially a healthy combination drag-and-drop and/or beginner level design structure for web designers learning the ropes of content management systems (CMS).
While this may be a great way to learn design concepts, at some point every designer is going to need to break out on their own and learn the basics of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). Most websites are designed with a combination of HTML and CSS coding languages. Learning HTML will give designers the ability and insight to find and fix glaring design problems throughout the site.
2. Sizing Layouts – Until very recently, the standard layout size of a Web page was around 800×600 pixels, which was optimal for screens with a 14-inch diameter or smaller. According to a recent study by W3schools, fewer than 14 percent of Web users utilize this resolution. Now the standard layout size should be around 1024×768 pixels.
3. The Crime of Lengthy Text – The bottom line is that the modern Web user has a shorter attention span than ever. Page titles and page content must be succinct to keep the average user’s attention. It’s important for all good Web designers to get into the habit of creating succinct page titles and to use brevity in general throughout the site.
4. Updates Are Crucial – Good Web design includes having a site element that can always be updated. This usually includes a news ticker widget, a micro blog or a social media feed on each page. This will also go a long way to boost a site’s performance among search engines.
5. Lowercase vs. Uppercase Filenames – The goal of any website should include being easily found by search engines. When saving files to a site, it’s important to remember how search engines behave. When a search engine crawls a website, it only reads filenames in lowercase type. Every designer should name his or her uploaded files accordingly.
6. The Background – A website’s background can either make the page content stand out or completely distract from the site’s focus. Be sure to use subtle backgrounds on the main body of each page, and only select eye-grabbing backgrounds when they serve to make smaller site functions stand out.
7. Know When to Launch – Some designers jump the gun and launch a site too soon, while others wait far too long to release the site for public perusal. It may good to list a launch date in the planning phase. In any case, know when good is good enough, and when good enough isn’t good at all. Users notice when a Web designer strikes a healthy balance between the two.
8. Use Photos Correctly – Photos can drastically affect a site’s load time. A slow-loading site isn’t always the hosting provider’s fault. For instance, if a designer misuses JPGs and GIFs, the site can slow down significantly. As a general rule, only use JPGs for full-color photographs, and GIFs for logos, text blocks, etc.
9. Stand Out – As mentioned earlier, Web users get bored easily. In fact, it’s common knowledge in the content marketing industry that Web content needs to grab a user’s attention in a matter of seconds. A similar rule applies to Web design: if the page takes longer than 10 seconds to load it needs to be reimagined.
10. Call Your Users to Action – Finally, good Web design walks a user through the site’s content to the final goal. This goal could be anything from signing up for a subscription service or purchasing a product. Whatever the end goal is, the site’s content must call the user to action. In the Web design world, a call to action can be as simple as a graphic button, or as complex as a flash video animation influencing a user to interact with a website.
Good Web design isn’t necessarily rocket science, but it isn’t necessarily a walk in the park, either. Each designer must implement a combination of best practices and innovative ideas to reach the desired segment of Web users.