Designing web pages takes more than just some coding and images; special attention needs to be given to each aspect of the page and its user functionality. Each aspect of the page needs to be examined and carefully chosen based upon the end result that users will see or interact with when visiting the page. Starting with general tips and overall design, the site should be kept as simple as possible, including small file sizes. If the site is using a large amount of images, the files should be kept to the smallest possible size. Larger file sizes for images mean longer page loads, and this could mean visitors will leave the site before it is finished loading.
The same is true of Flash and multimedia effects; the larger the file, the longer the page load. One exception would be if the entire site is programmed in Flash, and in this case a long initial page load is almost a certainty, but if this is a onetime load, the site will, or should be, fully functional after this initial load. In order to have a visually appealing site, a balance of white space and design components must be maintained within the layout. The main emphasis should always be the content of the page. Too many graphics and “wow” effects will take away from the information that the site offers, which may cause visitors to leave prematurely. White space should be used to differentiate between sections of the page and the content it holds.
Minimizing Page Load Times Help:
· Using CSS to minimize the time it takes for a page to load.
· Speeding the time it takes a web page to load by Yahoo development resources.
· Ten tips on creating fast loading web pages.
The coding of the site, HTML and CSS, should contain only the markup needed for the site. Remove any extraneous coding that does not need to be there. The extra code may interfere with the visual aspects of the site and adds to the file size and load time. This applies to scripts as well; if a script is not needed or being used by a page for behaviors or database information, it should be removed from the page. The markup is also where the designer needs to code for multiple screen resolutions, as users have vastly different screen resolutions. This can be achieved through the use of elastic and “stretch” web designs where the measurements of fonts and dimensions of sections of the page will adjust to fill the entire screen.
Designing Elastic Sites:
· Design practices for differing user screen resolutions to ensure proper visual presentation.
· Web design accessibility tips for screen resolutions.
· Web design development – screen resolutions and how to design for them.
Fonts should be universally used fonts; this means the fonts used on the site should be common to all browsers and operating systems. In other words, web safe fonts. Not all systems and browsers have the same installed fonts, and this presents a problem to designers. A font used in the design of a site that is not common will be replaced by a similar font by the browser, which could and probably will change the visual aspect of the site. Another aspect to consider is the use of serif or non-serif fonts. In paragraph form, serif fonts can be hard to read at smaller sizes and in large blocks of text. If large blocks of text are used, consider changing the serif font to a non-serif font or increasing the line spacing or letter spacing.
Fonts for Web Design:
· Font list of common Windows fonts and their Mac equivalents.
· An article advising how to use fonts including type definitions and examples from Opera.
· A comparison of cross platform font compatibility.
· The anatomy of fonts used in web design.
Images need to be the smallest and most effective they can be. Images, especially high resolution images, can weigh down a page and make it load more slowly. Images can also detract from the content and information on the page. Think of the images as a way to compliment the data and content, similar to icing on a cake. It should be the simplest image needed to provide the desired result. Examine what the purpose of the image is and how it is to be used. This will provide a starting point for the construction and design of images and graphics on the page. Spacing falls into this category, as well as layouts and emails. Space provides a way of breaking up images and graphics to provide a higher “impact” from their use. Using space in emails can also be a tool for expressing emotions or to introduce a new section of content.
Image Use in Web Design:
· A list and explanation of commonly used image file types for web design.
· Tips and suggestions for image use and multimedia on web pages.
· Ways to improve upon the look of a page design layout through the use of fonts and images.
Linking is the essence of the internet, and the quality and quantity of incoming and outgoing links is pinnacle to the ranking of a site in search engine results. Natural linking is the best way to use linking as a search engine improvement tool. The incoming links need to be from reputable and useful sites, not random links from any page. These random links from any site are sometime referred to as link forms and will over time hurt the search engine results of the site being linked to. There are many automated programs that will help in the link building arena by setting criteria for searches that find sites related to the one in question. This way, no tedious work needs to be done by the designer, and the program will allow for a natural progression of reciprocating links to a site or page.
Linking and Tools for Web Design:
· A list of commonly used web design tools for visitor counters, site statistics and graphic tools.
· 130 tools for web design and improvement.
· An article on breadcrumbs and linking practices for web design and implementation.
· Guidelines for linking of text, images and the quality of each.
· Examples and explanations of using CSS and HTML in proper linking scenarios for web design.
Many tools are available to designers and web administrators to monitor and log the amount of visitors and what pages they visit on a site. The data can be divided and looked at in multiple ways and for many different parameters, from the number of total visitors to the number of visitors from a particular country or city. These tools can also help to establish which the most visited pages are, and how ling a visitor stays on that page. Some tools will even designate what content is the most sought after. The speed of the site in loading is also covered by these tools and utility programs for sites. Many of these tools are completely free to use and download and are available from a multitude of download sites.
A degree from a design school is beneficial, but not necessary to make a useful and attractive website. There are many tools on the internet, as well as a myriad of books that can help build a functional website.