WebRef Update: Featured Article: Handy Hints for Web Designers
Handy Hints for Web Designers
8. Keep in mind the fonts-challenged users too. The ultra-jazzy "Cloister Black MT Light" font that looks so amazing on your machine may well be degraded into plain old Times New Roman on the user's machine. The reason? He/she does not have the font installed on his/her machine, and one thing's obvious - there's nothing you can do about the situation, sitting halfway across the globe from them.
9. Stay clear of out-of-the-way hard-to-find fonts. Use plain vanilla fonts like Arial, Verdana, Tahoma, and Courier. If need be, make your jazzy fonts into an image and put that on the page. (But while you're doing that, do not forget Tip #1.)
10. A design trick that is increasingly being used on the Web has caught my fancy: It is a very functional navigation bar that guides you across all possible paths within the site. Sometimes called a "breadcrumb trail", it looks something like this:
Home > Section > Subsection > Page
What better than to give your users a handy way of visiting just about any other page on your own site, and informing them where they are!
11. Another trend on the Web is not all that inviting - various vendors come up with "revolutionary plugins" and undoubtedly, most amateur web designers jump up to spruce up their pages using them. The reality is that most people won't have them installed, and wouldn't care about it anyway. Come to think of it, have you seen plugins on any of the most popular sites, including Yahoo.com, Amazon.com or Google.com? It's simply not the best thing to do. Mention must be made here of Macromedia's Shockwave & Flash plugins, which has now made its way onto most computers today, and thus presents no harm in using vector animation on your site.
12. Java is yet another often-misused technology on Web pages. Use Java as a 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 slowly, so users experience a certain sluggishness in performance. And worse still, Java has been known to crash certain browsers. This is not something everyone likes (or will tolerate), especially if it is done for the sole purpose of showing a set of images in a slideshow! The moral: Use Java, but with discretion, and for a good reason.
13. Never underestimate the importance of those META tags. They can make all the difference between your users coming to your site and going to your competitor's - just because they couldn't find yours. Search Engines rely heavily upon the Keywords & Description Meta tags to populate their search databases. Once again, use discretion in using these. Including a huge number of keywords for the same page can spell trouble. The description should be a small, meaningful summary of the whole page that makes sense even when seen out-of-context of the Web page itself - say in a listing of search engine results.
14. And the final point that summarizes all the points so forth: Write for all browsers, all resolutions, and all color-depths. If you show people pages that look best with their own browser and their own resolution, that makes them feel "at home," and you get a better response. Compare this with a Web site that proclaims "Viewed best with Browser X at a resolution of 1024x768." I'll give you a choice between two options when you see such a page: download the suggested browser (which might well be over 50 Megs), then go get a new monitor that supports the high-resolution, and then adjust your screen setting so you get the perfect picture. Or simply click away to another site. Which do you prefer?
The Web waits for no one. Furthermore, the user is king. Try your best to keep the user happy, to keep all users happy. For a good Web site is like a good storefront - it can mean all the difference between a casual surfer and a serious customer.
About the author:
Manas Tungare is a freelance Web Designer operating in Bombay, India. He is also the author of several shareware titles for the Windows platform. He is currently an undergraduate student, studying Computer Science at the University of Bombay. For more information, please visit http://www.manastungare.com
This article is Copyright 2000, Manas Tungare, and published with permission.
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Revised: July 14, 2000