WebRef Update: Featured Article: Design and Content Tips
Design and Content Tips A Web developer needs to wear many hats these days, from programmer to PR rep to market researcher. Making your site all it can be involves much more than putting together a few graphics and your contact information on a single index.html page. In this week's open publishing article, writer Peggie Brown offers us useful tips for creating and maintaining your Web site.
Categories help your visitor move about your site quickly and efficiently. If visitors get frustrated, chances are they will lose interest and find a site easier to navigate. Well-defined categories often require a lot of planning and quite a bit of thought, but the time is well spent. Well-defined categories may mean the difference between a buyer and someone who just surfs on in frustration.
Be A Site Visitor
First, we mean that you should pay attention to details when you visit other sites. Note navigation that works, what entices you to look further and what frustrates you to the point of irritation. Next, we suggest you put yourself in the shoes of your target site visitor. What do you want to find and how do you go about finding it? Pretend a little here, forget that you have ever seen the site before or that you know its content. Really challenge yourself to find what doesn't work well. Look for intuitive ways to find site content. What clues are used to get you where you want to go?
Get opinions from others and then listen well. It's hard to take criticism, but you really need people to surf about the site and tell you what does not work for them. When you hear "I couldn't find my way home," don't chalk it up to them being an idiot not able to find their way out of a paper bag. Instead, realize that while clicking on the banner with the logo seemed obvious to you, it wasn't to someone else.
Consistency and Predictability
Sounds pretty boring, doesn't it? We all want to make our site just a tad different and try new things. But listen up! Try your creativity when writing your content, designing your graphics, choosing your colors (but nothing ugly!), customizing your content. Do not try it with your navigation system. Visitors don't like to figure out how to move about a site. Surfers want predictable and consistent navigation, so stick with it and be creative elsewhere. Many want to move about quickly and if you do not allow them to do so, they'll be off in a flash! After all, navigation is not where you want your visitors to focus.
Speaking of navigation, have two different systems with at least one navigation system not dependent on graphics. Not everyone surfs with images on and many sight disabled people do surf the Internet.
Loud Colors Do Not Equal Creativity
Creative design does not mean you should make your visitors pull out there sunglasses or run off to throw up! Cutting edge design work does not mean using colors no one else would think of using. Nor does it mean showing that you can use every font color available. Believe it or not, cutting edge designs are often so simplistic that others miss the boat with their gee-whiz effects and whirling graphics. Unless you are selling graphics, you certainly don't want your graphics and visual effects to down- play your content. Images and colors are enhancements, not the main focal point of a site.
Revised: June 23, 2000