5 Easy Choices For a Better Website.

Posted on 1/7/2012 | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Are you planning to design or redesign your website soon? If so, then here are a few tips that will hopefully guide you to some better decisions in that process.

Don't use music

You may be tempted to add music to your website. Resist this urge! When you create a website, you want to encourage visitors to stay a while, and come back from time to time. Music will only deter this. Most people find music on websites annoying. Many of your visitors will be listening to other music when they hit your site, and then suddenly your music starts playing too. Now they have to scramble looking for an off button. Some percentage of these people will just hit the back button and get out of there. If you really want to add music, you can make it optional. Allow users to hit play if they are so inclined. I used to say that some specialty sites would be exempt from this rule, but I really think music should be left off regardless of the site now. Too many people can't stand it and I do think it will hurt more than it helps.

Keep text styling consistent

When working with the text on your site, try to limit your text styling to headings and perhaps bold. Resist the urge to mess with font size and color options. Your site's stylesheet will provide formatting for the different headings, and that should be used to organize content, much as you see here in this article. Each section has a heading tag and the stylesheet formats it as it should be. There are a few reasons to stick with this guideline: 1. Your content will look most professional when only a few different font styles are used throughout the site. It keeps things clean. When you start to add lots of text in larger font and different colors, it really takes away from the even flow of the site. The structure breaks down, visually. 2. If you just use headings and basic formatting, you make it much easier to rebrand your site down the road. When you build a new design, you can just change the stylesheet or your template, depending on the web system you're using, and all your content can be reformatted without editing it all. When you use the formatting tools like font, size and color, it places those rules in-line and it overrides whatever is in the stylesheet.

Trust your designer

When you chose a web or graphic designer, you probably looked at their work and thought how great it looked and how you wished you could have a site like one of those. When that designer comes up with something for you, they will put all their passion into it and make something great. They want to make your site look great too. Once you have some mockups in hand, there is an opportunity for you to review them and make comments or request changes. Resist the urge to ask for changes just for the sake of asking. Not everyone does this, but it does happen. Too many changes can mangle up what once was a great design losing all the flow and purpose that it had before. That's not to say you should never ask for any changes; if you have things you'd rather see or not see, bring them up to your designer, but be aware of how they may affect (and possible, take away from) the design as it is. When in doubt, ask your designer what they think of the changes you propose. The best thing here is an open and honest discussion.

Avoid Flash

Wait, avoid flash? But all those cool sites I've seen with sweet animations and effects were done in flash! Believe me, I was reluctant to admit this one for a while myself, but flash is dead. You don't want to use it. There's a few reasons why. 1. Design aesthetics. People searching the web are less patient than ever. They want what they are looking for, and they want it now. When you make a site entirely of flash, you wind up abandoning the standard type of navigation that users are used to. Usually sites have a top or left hand navigation with a series of clearly visible buttons. Your website visitors are used to this. Don't go throwing them a curve ball and make a series of cryptic icons because they look cool. At least some percentage of your visitors will grow quickly tired of this and hit the back button and move on to another site. 2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO). In short, SEO is the practice of making your website perform as good as it can in the search engine results pages for the terms that are important to you. When you build a site with Flash, all the content you place is invisible to those search engines, and good content is your most important asset in the SEO race. This reason is enough for me by itself to skip flash. 3. Flash is completely unsupported on Apple's mobile devices (iPhone, iPad and iPod). I won't get into the debate about why Apple made this decision, or if they should have, but on a web where more and more people are browsing with these devices, you don't want to have content that a larger and larger percentage of your audience simply can't see. 4. There is an alternative! New technologies are now available that will allow you to achieve many of the same types of effects you used to need Flash for. You can use Javascript libraries, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and simple html markup to make your site more interactive. The best part? It keeps your content visible for search engines and it works on apple's devices (for the most part).

Don't use icons instead of text buttons

One design element I've seen people been drawn to is icons. Icons are OK in my book. The problem comes when you use an icon without text along with it. How am I supposed to know that the little rolodex icon is your contact page? This will frustrate your users and just drive them away, and the whole point is to get people to stay on your site and read what you have to say. You might think, well, let's just show the text when you mouse-over each icon. Although slightly better, you're still forcing your users to hunt and peck through all the icons to find what they want. As fun as it may seem, your visitors have zero patience and just won't do it.   Let us know your ideas in the comments! Agree with these? Disagree? Let us know!


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