Saturday, October 4, 2008

Website Design: Ten Tips From A Newbie

Hello everyone. As a newbie at building a website, I'm going to dare offer 10 tips that you may not have heard yet.

First, trust your own intuition. Geez, everyone out there is a know-it-all about designing a site. As for me, I am trying to keep mine very simple and uncomplicated.

Second, know that your girlfriend probably has a better eye for what "looks" good than you do. My girlfriend's input has been invaluable. My title banner looked fine to me but horrible to her. My buttons (which are a royal pain to make) looked great to me, but horrible to her...


Alas, swallowing my pride, I yielded to her aesthetic wisdom, listened, and changed them. And, I'm glad I did because they do indeed look much better.

Third, Macromedia Flash and Fireworks are not what they are cracked up to be. Sure, they are all the rage in web design of glitsy sites. But, something told me to avoid them whenever possible. After all, if a site is worthy, why does one need a bunch of "glitter?" Somehow, I can't picture my visitors as being the types who would want a bunch of slideshows, flash animations, and all of that jazz. They just want to find some great altar cards is all.

Still discussing point three, I wanted fancy Flash or Fireworks buttons. They are hyped to make things better for the visitor. But, if someone doesn't have a Flash enabled browser, they couldn't use the buttons to navigate the site!! Doh. So, I found a workaround method: Use Adobe InDesign to create the buttons, then, using Fireworks, I added the words to them. Then, exported to Macromedia Dreamweaver, I used Dreamweaver's ability to make a Navigation Bar with the buttons. My visitors will still have to enable Active X, unfortunately, but that's not nearly so scary for many people as Flash is. The important thing is that the buttons can still be viewed and used even if my visitors don't enable Active X.

Point Four and maybe the most important tip that I have read: when naming files for use in a site, use hyphens instead of underscores. Search engines, especially Google can tell what a file contains if hyphens are used. An example: large-print-altar-cards-image.jpg.

Fifth, the name of the web page is vital in rating high in search results.

Sixth, without content, i.e. something worthy of reading or shopping for - forget about success.

Seventh, make links open in a new window so that your visitors don't lose track of where your site is. To open links in new windows, choose "Blank" in a Target's choices Dreamweaver.

Eighth, use PayPal for transactions. No mess, no fuss. I sure don't want my customer's credit card numbers stored on my site. God forbid that they should get stolen somehow. With PayPal storing that information instead of me, I can sleep much better at night.

Ninth, don't build a site full of pictures. Store them in the available online photo gallery sites like Picasa Web Albums and Flickr. Just link to them. That keeps your site size nice and small.

Tenth, always keep in mind that one's visitors are most important. If your site is worth visiting, easy to navigate, and improves the lives of your visitors, then, by all means, keep doing what is right and working. Otherwise, throw it out of the window and start all over again!

That's just some observations of this web site beginner designer. It has been overwhelming but well worth the effort. And, I have much to learn still ...

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