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The Do's and Don'ts of Web Site Design

Let's discuss an important point about online content/text versus print. People read text off a computer screen at about 1/4th the speed that they do paper. This important fact tells us that we should keep what we want to say on the web short and sweet. If some of my articles have been too long, I apologize for my flapping mouth and keyboard!

My goal with Killersites.com is to teach how to build great sites while making it as easy as possible for people. I'm trying to do this with "to the point" articles and newsletters. As such I have avoided a diatribe of things like the history of HTML and left out some of the marginal options in web design. Instead I've focused on those things that have come up often in my own experiences over the years.

There are many options available when creating web pages, many good and many bad. The following is a list of some of those options and how I think you should deal with them.

Some things you should do and not do in your web pages:

1. No page counters: Page counters do nothing except make you look like an amateur, mess with your design and tell people information about your site you probably don't want them to know! If you want to know how many people are hitting your site, just ask your host for server stats. Any host worth it's salt should be able to provide you with detailed stats that make page counters look stupid.

2. Forget blinking or flashing text: The only place you see blinking and or flashing text is on the neon signs of naked bars or circa 1995-96 web sites! People don't like them and expect to see naked people inside sites or buildings that have them - enough said.

3. Make your titles on your web page make sense: One of the core attributes of a web page is its title. In between the <title> </title> tags you can specify the page's title as it appears in the browsers top title bar and in the search engine results.

People pay attention to page titles, so you should make sure that they are clear. If you have a page on how to take care of dogs and you happen to have a dog named "Jimmy" don't title your page: "How to look after Jimmy and his furry friends." You should title you page something like: "How to take care of dogs."

4. Don't force people to download a new browser of special plug- in to see your site: Unless you have a site that people are dying to see, why limit your audience because you want to use some special features in a browser or a plug-in like Flash. Today, with proper use of CSS and HTML you can present fantastic looking pages without having to jump through the hoops old timers like me had to when garbage browsers like Netscape 4 were being used in great numbers.

5. Think twice before using framesets: In the olden days you could argue a use for framesets because of HTML's lousy layout capabilities. Today with CSS positioning being well supported by all the major browsers there is no need to use framesets for just about 99.9% of websites. Why don't you want to use framesets you ask? Well beginners tend to have trouble creating and using them properly. Framesets tend to make websites more complicated than they need to be and finally they can cause you all kinds of problems with the search engines.

6. Don't try any stupid cheat tricks in an attempt to fool the search engines: In the past we webmasters developed various nefarious (disreputable) methods in an attempt to get higher rankings in the search engines. Tactics included putting hundreds of key words on the pages as invisible text etc - These tactics may have had some limited success in the past, but those days are long gone. Try to fool Google (the king of search engines) and you and your web site will die a horrible and painful death! I will not describe how to get high rankings now, but keep this in mind: good content honestly presented is the foundation of high rankings and high traffic for your site.

7. Chat rooms: Most people don't give a crap about chat rooms. And worst than having a chat room is an empty chat room! Who wants to hang out at a club that has nobody inside? So unless you have a web site with tens of thousands of visitors a month and is of a subject that might necessitate a chat room, don't do it.

8. Flash intros: I am guilty of this as much as the next guy. A few years back Flash intros where all the rage, not sure if anyone knew why we "needed" them, but as it turns out the "skip intro" button is the 2nd most clicked on the web today. Don't waste your time on Flash intros and in my opinion Flash should be only used in special situations.

9. Under construction pages: Just forget it, if the page is not ready, don't put it up. If you have links that are pointing to the pages, disable them until your page is ready. If your page is truly "under construction" and has content on it that is ready to be seen by your web surfers, just post a "last updated" date and make sure you get the new content in place soon. What ever you do, don't put one of those cheesy "under construction" images on the page.

. . .

Article by Stefan Mischook - Copyright 2003
Stefan Mischook operates http://www.killersites.com, the official website to David Siegels book 'Creating Killer Web Sites'*. In addition to all the books' material, we now have a web site designers forum, newsletter and new articles! Killersites.com is now more than ever, a web designers resource on creating web sites and database driven web applications.




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