Essential Ingredients of Web Site Design

By: Jez Lacey

The success or failure of a web site is in many cases solely due to the way your site looks and the ease of navigation. There are a number of creative and technical elements involved in producing a quality website, all of which should be considered when first designing your site. These include creating mock-ups, defining interfaces, database design, system platform and web page aesthetics, just to name a few

First impressions count, your visitors will expect to find the information they seek easily; this is the fundamental reason for their visit.

It is the overall harmony of the web site components that will be key in its performance and efficiency. There must be balance through all the pages, whether it is a three page mini website or larger.

Hypertext Mark-up Language (HTML) came to be used as the primary web design language, which has had several upgrades in the past, the current version being HTML 4.01 which was set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). HTML files are simply standard ASCII text files with special formatting codes that web browsers can interpret and appropriately display on screen.

The W3C is a multi-national consortium recognized all over the world. The main goal of the W3C is to further the development of standards for the Word Wide Web. You should try to make your site as W3C compliant as possible when designing your website, to ensure browser compatibility, and it will also help with your search engine rankings too.

As the internet became more and more popular web designers began to develop systems to ensure their job was made easier. This resulted in the production of web development tools. These tools include Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) which can be used to separate site design for content, for example by removing tables and using absolute positioning instead.

With the increasing popularity of web sites designers became exposed to a whole new world of server side scripting languages such as PHP- (Hypertext Preprocessor), Active Server Pages (ASP), Java Server Pages (JSP), Python and ColdFusion.

Macromedia Flash in particular has given web designers other alternatives to improve how their web pages will look. Many web sites have been developed entirely in Macromedia Flash, but search engines could hardly index web pages created in Macromedia Flash. For this reason, usage of macromedia flash should be seriously considered before attempting to create a web site.

To maintain the best balance of ease of use and full functionality, most web designers use HTML along with several web development tool hybrids to have their website running optimally.

There are other web design criteria to be considered when undertaking web site design, the paramount categories are:

• Content
• Organization
• Appearance

“Content is king” is a phrase that has gained a lot of prevalence in recent years, and is the truest words on the web. If a visitor finds relevant useful content on a site, the chances are that they will come back again.

Give the visitor quality content! What is quality content? Quality content is information that your viewers can benefit from, without having to trawl through confusing links and getting nowhere. When first designing the site, the web sites' purpose should be clearly defined and the targeted audience clearly identified. This means that when you come to writing the content it will give the web site an identity.

The website should also have useful links to other web sites of the same theme or similar purpose. Spelling and grammar should be checked and double-checked so as to convey a professionally created site.

Organisation is a topic we touched on earlier in the article; the visitor wants to visit a site with clearly defined information and character. They want to navigate through the site with ease; start with the first thing they see and then make sure the path they follow is clear and not confusing.

For this reason an important component of any site is a clear navigation menu and a site map. A site map is in essence a complete list of all the pages on the site, and it should be pointed to from every page on the site. This ensures both your visitors and search engines can easily navigate your site to find the information they are looking for.

The appearance of a web site is defined by the layout of images, text, links and animation. Visitors need to see clearly what the theme of your site is, remember, first impression count! Bear in mind that graphics and animations do take longer to download, and not every visitor may have a high speed internet connection. Ensure all your text is legible and clear and that the color scheme does not induce headaches!

Overall, the effect produced by the use of a central theme, well presented pages and a tactful use of colours, will lead to a credible and efficient looking finished web site.

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Jez Lacey is co-owner of 4-packs. Check out our latest release, the incredible Ultimate CMS power builder; it helps create websites in minutes and makes site management as simple as 1-2-3 Ultimate CMS Power Builder

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