1. Never leave anyone alone with only the back button
Taking some poor innocent user to one of your web pages and leaving
him or her stuck there with no way out except the back button is as
bad as stranding someone in the Sahara with nothing but a bag of salty
pretzels. Why would anyone want to go back to a page they have already
seen? They want to move on to new content, not read the same old stuff
again. Nothing but a "Back to Home Page" link is just as bad.
Imagine going to the mall and being forced to go back to the main entrance
each time you wanted to look in a different store. You might do it once,
you might even do it twice, but before long you'd be on the road again
looking for a friendlier place to shop.
2. Backgrounds need to be unnoticeable.
A background that is anything more than a soft and soothing sheet
upon to lay your tender page will overwhelm the page and make it so
hard to read that, guess what? No one will read it.
3. Stamp out long lists of links in huge bold fonts.
Who wants to scroll through fifteen feet of over-large links (preceded
by exclamations of Click Here!) when the same information could fit
into a neat three inch long table? Where do all those links go in the
first place? If they lead away from your site, you are drop kicking
people out the back door as soon as they come in the front door. If
you must link to places outside your site, do it deep into your site
so viewers will have had a good look at your content first.
4. Blinking text, scrolling tickertapes and endlessly
looping animated gifs are irritating to the eyes.
Would you read a book if it constantly flashed and blinked in your
eyes? No? Well, people won't read your web page if it does that either.
Yeah, it's flashy, but does it have anything to do with your message
and your content?. Okay, sometimes the animated gifs are cute--for about
three seconds--but do they add meaning or significance to what you're
saying? Those animated "under construction" signs are merely
advertising your inexperienced web newbieness. The entire web is under
construction, changes are constant and immediate. People expect change
and don't need to be reminded that pages may change. If you have to
apologize and make excuses for your site by saying it's still under
construction, then you shouldn't be putting it up yet anyway.
5. Other tempting no-nos to sidestep are those quick
You can trust me on this one: any person who can afford a computer
and work it well enough to surf the web already knows what day it is
and can probably come pretty close to guessing the time. Even Winnie
the Pooh knows when it's getting to be a little eleven o'clockish. And
who cares whether they are visitor thirty-seven or visitor thirty-seven
6. Create a sense of place.
You can create a sense of place with something as simple as a banner
that you repeat on every page, or a color scheme, or a distinct "look"
viewers can expect on every page. As long as viewers are in your space
they should feel that consistency of appearance that tells them where
they are. Make all your colors match--pick one color set and stick with
it. Put your navigation buttons or links in the same place on every
page. Use the same one or two easy to read fonts on every page.
Maintain the same links on every page. Don't leave out a link to the page currently displayed. If you change the order of the links or rearrange them on every page the user quickly gets lost.
7. Use your friends as guinea pigs.
Ask friends who have never seen your site to look at it. This is not
a guided tour--give them the mouse and keyboard--you move away and just
observe. Listen to the questions they ask. They ask those questions
because you have been unclear in your presentation. Notice when and
where they get lost, start blindly searching or start repeating themselves
with pages they've already seen. Those are places where you need to
improve your navigation.
8. Learn to be an image buster.
There are free or inexpensive graphics programs you can get from www.shareware.com
or www.download.com. Learn to use them well enough to reduce the file
size of your images. Large image files take a long time to download.
If you have gone to sites that offer free buttons, bullets, bars and
backgrounds you need to do some work on the images. Often such sites
offer large navigation buttons which take up more space on the page
than your content. Reduce those buttons to a smaller size. Your pages
will download faster and be more accessible to all users if you are
dedicated to including these three essentials for every image tag you
use: the image source, the image size in width and height, and an alt
text description of what the image is.
The image resolution for Web display should not be more than 72 dpi.
Any more than this merely adds download time. Make the image the size
you want in your graphics software, not by adjusting the HTML, especially
if you use the HTML to make it smaller. You are still downloading a
large image when you change the size with the HTML. Do your users a
favor and let them download the smallest possible image.
9. Give every page the minimum nutrients for proper
A) Every page needs a descriptive title. (This is not the same thing
as the name you give the file when you save it.) The title should give
the name of the site and the page contents something like this: Virginia
DeBolt: Ten Tips for New Web Page Designers.
B) Every page needs headings and information at the top of the page
that explain what the page is all about.
C) Use meta tags to give keywords and descriptions about your site.
Quick tutorial: meta tags go in the head. Each meta tag has two parts:
a name and content. If you look at the HTML of this page by using the
View-->Page Source options on the pull down menu of your browser,
you'll see the meta tags (and the title) for this page near the top
in the head.
Titles, headings, top of page content and meta tags are used by the
search engines to index your pages. If you want to be found by someone
who might search on your topic use all three. I don't know if this approach
will work if you are waiting for Prince Charming (or Princess Charming)
to find you, but it works for web surfers.
10. Get organized from the very first moment.
Put all the files for your web site in the same folder. Save your
opening page in this main folder. Call it index.html or index.htm or
default.htm. Don't save your opening page by any name other than one
of those three. If you do, users will be able to get into your directory
structure and open everything you have on your site. You may have things
on your site you don't want anyone to know about--I often create "hidden"
pages on my website that only one or two people know are there. It is
a convenient way to share project drafts with co-workers in distant
locations. Since the first and only file "loose" in my main
site folder is called index.html, no one will find these hidden pages
unless I give them the exact filename and address.
Create subfolders within the main site folder for everything else
in your web--image folders and various subtopic folders. Once you have
saved a file into a subfolder, leave it there. If you move things around
your links will break.
When you upload your site to the server, recreate the exact same folder
and subfolder structure on the server. The server will have a name for
your directory, probably www or html or some such. This corresponds
to your main site folder. Put your index.html and any subfolders into
this directory. If the site organization on the server is in any way
different from the way you have it on your own computer, it won't work.
A Free Bonus Tip: And now, a free bonus tip just because I want you to get more than you
expected or asked for. A Freebie Newbie Goodie! If you want everything
to work properly when you get it on the server, which isn't nearly so
forgiving as your local computer's hard drive, remember this one crucial
tip. When you save your files use NO spaces in the filenames.
Click to display tip, then scroll with triangles if