Web Design Best Practice can be summed up as a website that always keeps the end user, your customer, in mind.
Web Design Best Practice delivers sites that:
- Can easily be found in Google
- Load quickly
- Contain the relevant information they are seeking
- Are easy to read
- Are easy to navigate
- Look good on any screen. This is referred to as responsive.
It doesn’t matter how flash or pretty the graphic design is, a website should satisfy these 6 points first.
“When the final design seems too simple for the amount of
work you have put in, then you know you are done!”
Search Engine Optimisation
Frankly, a lot of nonsense is talked about Search Engine Optimisation (or SEO) and there are companies commanding huge fees for providing this mysterious service.
But don’t be fooled!
SEO simply means designing the site so that it ranks well in Google and other search engines. This is not hard to do, and I incorporate it in the original site design, right from the beginning. Within 6 weeks from launch, most sites I design show up on the first page of Google when the appropriate search words are used.
Adding keywords is important, but we do need to be a bit careful.
Most major search engines, and certainly Google, do not spider or index the keyword meta tags anymore. For those that do, if the keyword is not also in the copy of the same page, it’s considered spam which could lower your rankings, not raise it.
Ideally, the Title Tag should contain fewer than 100 characters while the Keyword and Description tags should contain fewer than 256 characters each. Most search engines will only consider data within these character ranges when indexing a web page.
The reality of all the promotion of SEO is that if your site contains the content people are looking for, the search engines will find it.
However, if you add too many keywords, or add keywords that are not relevant to the page content, there is the added danger that Google will consider it “keyword spamming” and not index your site at all.
Back in the late 90s, website developers used to try and fool the search engines. This was especially true of porn sites. Remember how you would type in a query like “death of princess diana” and then have to scroll through pages of porn links before finding the relevant sites you were really looking for?
This happened because the porn sites wanted to increase their search engine rankings, so they added keywords based on the current event topics they knew people were searching for. It rendered the search engines almost useless and, unless you were a really adept searcher, very frustrating.
Today Google is really the only search engine worth worrying about.
It is used by more than 99% of people and if your site ranks well in Google, it will rank well elsewhere too.
For this reason, I develop sites using Google Webmaster Tools and follow their recommendations. Google explain how they rank sites in searches here.
I include this SEO service in my basic website development fee as I consider it an essential part of web design best practice
The first question that you should ask when considering your website is “why are people looking for me?” So tell them who you are, what you do or sell and where you are on the first page.
Tell people what you sell and why you are different to others who sell the same thing. It seems ludicrously simple, but if it is, why do so many forget it?
For the vast majority of businesses physical location is important and people will search using the terms “Adelaide Hills” or “Hahndorf”, so these should be on your home page.
Nothing makes me hit the back button faster that orange text on a royal blue background. In fact I generally avoid any site that appears to have been designed to induce a migraine!
Body text should be dark text on a light background because computer monitors generate an annoying “glow” when white text is placed on a dark background.
As for fonts, there are advantages to a serif font that is large enough and clearly designed for the web. If you prefer sans-serif fonts, use ones like Verdana and Tahoma, which are nice and clear.
Above all, do not use non-standard fonts.
Designers have hundreds of fonts loaded into their computers, but the end user generally only has the fonts that are standard, so trendy fonts will be wasted on them and may even make the page unreadable.
Your site should look best when the browser font size is set to the default of “medium”. However users should not be restricted to only using one size of font. It might look messy, but users with poor sight really do need to be able to use the larger font options and get understandably annoyed with sites that don’t allow that option.
Paragraphing is important.
Break your text into far more paragraphs than your grammar teacher told you was correct at school.
Short snippets of information are easier to read and line breaks to begin new sentences help immensely.
“Clear text is a hallmark of good web sites”
If you site contains just a few individual pages, put them ALL on the same menu and make sure the menu is repeated on every page of your site. Multi-level menus look cool but are frustrating to navigate if they are not absolutely necessary.
Give your menu buttons names that make sense so that people know what they are about before they click.
Don’t have people wandering away from your site and getting lost.
Links to other sites should open in a new window so that the user still has your site open too.
If you have lots of links to other sites, check them regularly to make sure they still work.
Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, and for that reason, there is no right or wrong when it comes to the design you like for your own web site.
I will willingly admit that some sites I design are not to my taste, but they are always to my customer’s taste and comply with the rules of good design. For this reason, as you browse my portfolio, you will see that all the sites I have developed are quite different.
You will find some designers who are very precious about their “art”, but really it is simply a matter of taste. However, there are some basic principles to bear in mind. I design so that the site will look best on a standard size screen.
Many graphic designers use huge screens and some design sites to suit those screens, completely forgetting that most people don’t have that luxury, with the end result that viewers are forever having to use the horizontal scroll bar to see the whole page.
Designs for websites must always remember the “top left” principle, meaning that the top left corner of the screen is the most important point. All pages load from that point, so that is where your logo needs to be.
Menus should be either horizontal across the top or vertical down the left side of the screen. That is where users expect to find them, so let’s make it easy for them!
Pages should have a consistent look so that the user knows they are still on your site.
Finally, white space, or empty space, lets the viewer’s eyes rest and makes the important information stand out. There is no end of space available on a website, so absolutely no excuse for cramming in too much on a single screen.