Designing a website is a big business in the modern Internet world. From the tiny personal site that’s hosted off of your ISP’s 20mb hosting, to those industrially sized websites with several private servers dedicated to each section of their website. Your website needs to look good to even get people to stay on it. We are no longer in the world of text-only browsers, and poor CSS support. Almost all modern browsers will render CSS correctly. So, your website needs a boost? Well, this article will try to address those areas you need to sort out.
First of all, does your site look like the other sites on the Internet at the moment? It may seem like an odd question, but there are several things that we must remember about web design today. People like consistency. We all know what the Home icon means, as it’s been used everywhere. However, if your site uses the home symbol for your forums, or as a contact address, then it’s going to simply just confuse your users.
Yes, we all need our sites to be individual, they all need to look good and stand out from the crowd, but we also need to follow the conventions that are in your domain of web development.
Next, how can your site be different? For this, we will look at search engines. Google, Yahoo and MSN. If we look, Yahoo and MSN have all gone down the same path; they are trying to give us everything in the tiniest amount of space possible. News, search engines, email, web hosting, domain names, cartoons and to top it all off, they have adverts as well. Do these two sites appeal to you? If they do, then that’s great. If not, then that’s just as great. Now, let’s look at the Google homepage. The first thing that you notice is that it’s completely void of adverts, it only has a few links to other areas of the site and that’s it. Click on a link, and then you get everything that you get on Yahoo or MSN; just condensed into the relevant information, such as news.
I can now all hear your thoughts, so what’s this got to do with anything? Well, which site is the most popular? Google is. It’s the world leader in search engines. And I have no doubts in my mind it was because the site is different from others. There is nothing there to hurt your eyes or destroy your access to information. If Google can do it, but still follow the same conventions as other sites, such as news, email and alike, then your site can do it too.
However, something that you really need to take into account is access to information, or usability, as it will henceforth be called. The usability of your website is key. Look around at your competitors, how does their site compare to yours in the access of information? Of course, you’ll say that yours is the easiest to use as you coded it. Get your partner, your mother, your grandmother to look at your site and ask them which was easier to get the information from. Remember, that someone who is not in your field needs to use your site as well. Once they’ve told you that you’ve got too many links on your front page, you’ve got to consider condensing them.
Or, alternatively, changing the way you present your data. If your layout is a typical business one, a header with your slogan at the top, with your main links underneath as images and then some other links on the left-hand side with the content on the right, then change it slightly. Give your links category names, and then add a new bar on the right and have the links you used to have on your main page on the right. With that one new link, that one new click from the user, you’ve cleaned up your page. People now want to see what’s in your site.
Finally, with all the usability and your competitors in mind, you’re site still has to have good data and look brilliant. You need to make sure that your site looks good, is easy to read and is cross-browser compatible. Further, you need to make sure that your site is giving all the information that you need on your site. As that’s one of the most important aspects of your site, the information behind it.