As well as working my fingers to the bone to keep you - our beloved readers - entertained, I also work as a professional web designer and freelance journalist. Here's an article that appeared in the Sept 98 issue of the excellent Internet Magazine. I hope some of you might find it helpful!
Ten thumping blunders of web design
1. The Ten-Ton homepage:
Always try and keep the index page of your site as light as possible. You may well think that your beautifully rendered 300k animation of your underpants in 3D is wonderful, but most surfers will not share your enthusiasm and will be gone quicker than you can say 'skid marks.'
Try and keep pages under 35k, and warn people about heavy pages in advance. - a good tip is to reuse graphics throughout the site. For tips on reducing file sizes - and an impressive on-line GIF reducer - take a look at Optimising Web Graphics.
2. The Colour Explosion
Avoid nasty loud tiled backgrounds and try and use a bit of restraint when using colour on the site. Keep it simple and consistent. Your monitor may well be able to render millions of colours, but that's no reason to try and fit them all on one page!
3. Hideous Music
I'm sure your rendition of "Anarchy in the UK" sounds great in your bedroom, but bear in mind a lot of people surf at work or at night - and inflicting a cheesy MIDI racket without warning is a sure fire way to lose friends. If you simply must put music and 'amusing' noises on your site, warn people first - they'll thank you for it.
4. Weird navigation
Try and keep your sites simple and easy to understand, and work out a consistent navigation style. If you're using graphic links, put up a text only version at the bottom of the page for those strange souls who surf the web with their images turned off. Try not to overload pages with hundreds of choices, and always provide links back to the homepage and relevant sections. Try and be consistent with your directory naming structure and keep all file and folder names lowercase for simplicity's sake. To ensure that your website is accessible for the visually impaired, run it through their excellent online validation service
5. The Mighty Scrollin' Page
It's no fun scrolling down a page that seems to stretch on forever, so if you have large sections of text, try splitting them up into smaller pages. Consider using columnised text in tables as it's a lot easier to read.
6. Links to Nowhere
Another sure-fire way to naff off visitors is to not bother checking your links or code. For off-line checking, try out the excellent WDG Validator or, if you're feeling a bit flush, Linkbot.
Other great on-line resources include The World Wide Web Consortium - for official html specs and Web Authoring Reference Resources.
7. Ancient News
If you're going to have a news section on your site, make sure you update it! Nothing sends people packing quicker than a website that is full of out of date information and yesterday's news. If you can't be arsed to spend all that time updating your site, link up to other relevant news sites - but be sure to drop them a line first out of courtesy.
8. Frametastic Frenzy
That complicated six-window frameset may look well 'kewl' on your 17" monitor, but for those using smaller monitors it will look a complete mess. Unless there's an overriding reason for using them, avoid using frames.
9. Pointless gimmicks
Another way to add to the unpopularity of your site is to festoon it with useless gizmos, flashing fluff and slow, browser crashing java. Unless it's doing something vaguely useful, try and avoid irritating bells and whistles.
10. Hideous design
Often neglected, good design will help you get your message across quickly and efficiently. Try and avoid filling up your pages with corny clip art, pointless animations and flashing 'UNDER CONSTRUCTION!' banners. If you're a hopeless case when it comes to design, help is at hand: take a look at Creating Graphics for the Web and Creating Killer Websites.
Even better, take a look at the sites that you like and try and try to learn from their skills and strengths. Try and be original, but most of all, keep it simple and light!
© copyright Internet Magazine 1998
Note: some internet sites have an annoying habit of vanishing as soon as I've linked to them. If any of the links above are dud 'uns, please check out my other site at www.max-hits.net, where I make every effort to regularly check its admirable collection of links (honest!)
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