Web design may seem like a daunting task for someone just getting into it, but I’ve compiled 6 tips to help you ease your way into the web design field. I tried to make these as general and comprehensible as possible, so they won’t be extremely detailed. In future posts, I will be going into more detail about these six topics.
1. Easy Navigation
First off is navigation. Without it, your readers and visitors couldn’t go between different pages of your site, so it’s a pretty essential part. There’s no website in the world that I’ve seen that doesn’t have some form of navigation. You’ll need to keep in mind this question: “What do you see when you first load the website?” If the answer includes some sort of navigation, you’re on the right track, and your website will have at least some sort of stickiness, which is the ability to keep readers and visitors at your website. The average user will either look towards the top or the left, so these two places are the natural places to put your navigation links and menus. Regardless of where you put your navigation, however, make sure it is easy to identify, and easy for the user to be able to tell where they are going, and find where they want to go.
2. Clean Design
Next comes a clean design or layout. This is very important, because if your site is “too busy” or “has too much stuff” visitors will get easily distracted from your content or annoyed by all the extra, unneeded “stuff” or both, and might just exit your site. Make sure the focus of your website is the content, and try not to include many unnecessary things like directory badges, hit counters, and flash. A clean design will utilize the “whitespace” of the web page well in order to draw focus to the main content of the site.
3. Quick Load Time
Load time is very important as well, because if a site takes too long to load, a potential visitor may just exit it before it even loads; this isn’t too good, now is it? To counteract this, you’ll want to cut down on Flash and Java, make sure your code is optimized to it’s full potetial, whether it be PHP, HTML, or CSS, and try to use SSI (Server Side Include) files whenever possible. SSI files run in the website’s cache, and therefore do not take as long to load as client side scripts would.
4. Design for all Screen Resolutions
Ease of use is key. Fluid designs seem like the way to go, since the site will resize to the browser window, and scrolling will be reduced significantly. Make sure you test your website thoroughly before implementing a fluid design, because some screw up pretty bad at certain resolutions, which is extremely annoying to everyone.
Making your code scalable may take an extra bit of time, but it will be well worth it, with growing and changing technology, and the use of different size monitors and other hardware.
Just because your design works out great in Firefox 2.0.14 doesn’t mean it will work out great in Internet Explorer 6, and vise versa. This just requires an extensive amount of testing on all browsers to make sure your website appears how you want it to. You’ll want to try Firefox 1, 2, and 3, IE 5, 6, and 7, Opera, Safari, Flock, and Opera Mini as well.