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Principles of Web Design
Mark Syder, OnLineGenie Proprietor


Lest anyone think I'm on an ego trip telling people how to design websites, I wish to point out that none of the advice that follows is original. This is advice I have collected over the years from various sources. My reason for posting it here is to advise you of the standards I adhere to when I design a site.

  •  Your home page should be informative. Let us suppose you have set up a site selling widgets. Your visitor has typed "widget" into the search engine of his choice and been presented with several pages of links. If your home page has your business name and the words "Click here to enter" he will go straight back to the search engine and visit one of your competitors' websites.
  •  If this isn't enough to dissuade you from having "Click here to enter" on your home page, consider the "Three-click rule". The average visitor will click on a maximum of three links on your site before giving up and looking at the next site on his list. In the unlikely event that a visitor clicks on the "click here to enter" link you've only got two clicks left.
  •  The home page should load quickly. If your home page is cluttered with large photographs and flash animations it will take a long time to load. Flash animations are a particular irritant as they can take a long time to load even on a fast broadband connection. Photographs should be reduced in size and converted to gif which is much faster loading than jpeg. You can then invite your visitor to click on the link to see a full-size jpeg version of the photograph. Similarly, flash animations should appear elsewhere on the site with the visitor warned in advance that he is about to visit a page which may take a long time to load.
  •  Dark text on a light background is easiest to read. Light text on a dark background should be used sparingly and only for special effect.
  •  Most forms on the internet have the reset button and the submit button next to each other. If your visitor has completed a large form and accidentally clicks on reset rather than submit do you think he's going to laugh and start again? No, he's going to curse you for putting the buttons next to each other as he goes to your competitor's site. The reset button should be at the top and the submit button at the bottom.
  •  Pages which use new technologies such as HTML 5, CSS (style sheets), and javascript should be designed in a way that allows them to "degrade gracefully": i.e. work in browsers that do not support those technologies.