Web Designing is as easy as 1-2-3; claim some of the software tools on the market that “generate” your pages for you. Unfortunately, many web designers today have fallen prey to this marketing gimmick – and the results are obvious. Every now and then, one comes across a website that looks good with a particular browser and a particular screen-resolution; but views it with a different browser, and you can’t even read the plain text on the page. Worse still, given the number of operating systems that are used by citizens worldwide, these pages will never be seen properly by more than a half of the intended surfers. Web Designing is, in my opinion, a cocktail of creative skills from the heart and mind of the designer.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Picture file almost as big, Images, no doubt, enhance the look of a page, but it is not advisable to go overboard in stuffing your page with a truckload of images. Most net-surfers use low broadband connection and the average time to load a page should be no longer than 5 seconds. If it’s longer, the surfer will most probably click away elsewhere. So, within this time, all the images on a page must be loaded as well. So keep the aggregate page size less than 30k… Another important point to note is that each file on the page requires a separate HTTP request to the server. So a lot of small images – even if they do not add up to a lot in terms of bytes – will slow down the loading a lot. Also do not forget to provide an Alternate Text for each image that you use for navigation. ALT text can help such users immensely.
Navigability & functionality come before artistic excellence. It is no use making your site a masterpiece of art if users cannot navigate around it – even after they reach the main page; they have no clue as to how to go where they want to go. Especially common, is a kind of navigation that some people call Mystery Meat Navigation. That means that unless your mouse moves over an image, you have no idea where that link might take you. Users need to move their mouse all over the place to find out which part is a link and which is not. Follow the K.I.S.S. principle: Keep it simple, stupid!
Another very important practical suggestion: whenever whole page is within a TABLE, the page cannot render (i.e., the page does not show on the screen) unless the entire table is downloaded. You might have noticed this on several websites, when there is no activity for a long time, and suddenly the entire page is visible. Hence, to avoid such a situation Split the table up into two tables one below the other, and let the top one be a short table that displays just the page header and a few navigation links.
As a word of caution, stay away from all browser-specific functions; because if a certain feature is supported by one browser, it will most definitely not be supported by another. It should not hamper the display of the page in the other browser which does not support such functionality. Do not try to popup new windows to clutter the user’s screen. All links must open in the same window by default. An exception, however, may be made for pages containing a links list. It is convenient in such cases to open links in another window, so that the user can come back to the links page easily. Even in such cases, it is advisable to give the user a prior note that links would open in a new window.
Java is yet another often-misused technology on web pages. Use Java with discretion, as utilitarian programming language, not as a graphics front-end for your photos/images. There are various things you can do with Java; that does not mean you should do all of them. Java applets are known to run slower, so users experience a certain problem in performance.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are the way to go – use one style sheet and control how text looks on your entire site. Make a change to the style sheet and your whole site is updated. It makes life a lot simpler. Consider your target audience. Even if they are a group of teenage girls looking for new shoes, it’s never a good idea to use tiny type. It doesn’t have to be enormous, but up to a point, larger type is better. The more contrast, the better. Black-on-white or white-on-black are examples of the highest contrast you can get. Use colors if you like. No matter how good a writer you are, people don’t want to read endless pages of text. Break it up by using headlines that reflect the subject of the paragraph to follow so people can scan down to the parts that really interest them, or use bulleted lists to change the pace of the writing and slow down the scanning.
Check your spelling, nothing irritates more on a web page than spelling errors, it simply makes you look like you don’t care enough to get it right. Use that ubiquitous spell-check tool. Making your website’s content more legible is easy. It doesn’t take a lot of time, mainly common sense. The payoff will be text that’s more readable, customers that stick around long enough to get your message, and improved credibility with your visitors.
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