Good Web Design

Although there is no right and wrong in web design, having spent a number of years in industry involved with the design, specification and use of the Internet, my colleagues and I have come across a number of areas that annoy people.

There are a number of articles on the Internet that talk about what constitutes good design and what the common mistakes are. One of my favourites is that of Jacob Nielsen. (See http://www.useit.com/alertbox)

Summarising, I have come up with the following top ten mistakes:

1

Overly Long Download Times

Generally reckoned to be the most prevalent problem with web design. In a web survey 84% of sites exhibit long download times. Most people will only wait about 10 seconds for a web page to download. This means web design must take this download time into account.

2

Using Frames

Splitting a page into frames is very confusing to users. You can't bookmark the current page, URLs stop working and printouts become difficult.

3

Splash Pages

You know, those useless front pages that take ages to download and have no content, except an "Enter" button.

4

Scrolling Text, Marquees and Constantly Running Animations

Page elements that move incessantly should be avoided. Moving images have an overpowering effect on the human peripheral vision. Users should be given peace and quiet to actually read the text.

5

Complex URLs

Making URLs simple and human readable, with directory and file names that reflect the nature of the information space can help people understand where they are in your web. In addition sometimes users need to type a URL, so the use of short names and all lower case characters with no special characters and spaces is an advantage.

6

Orphan Pages

All pages should include a clear indication of what web site they belong to. Every page should also have a link to the home page as well as some indication of how they fit into the web structure.

7

Moving Pages to New URLs

How many times have you gone to a bookmarked page or clicked on a link to find the page is no longer there. Changing or modifying the URL of a page could lead to people finding it more difficult both through search engines and referrals from other web sites.

8

Outdated Information

When pages are out of date then it is essential to remove them from the web or at least see that they are updated.

9

Including and Linking to Non-Standard Files Without Warning

Including non HTML files in your web can in many circumstances simply be laziness on behalf of the web designer. When you have to include such files it is essential to provide an explicit warning as the user may not have the necessary software installed or it will start up a new application with additional delays.

10

Lack of Navigational Support

Don't assume that users know how to navigate your site. Webs should be designed with a clear sense of structure and this should be communicated with the use of a site map and explicit navigation.

So what constitutes Good Web Design? Well the key element is to avoid anything that makes for bad web design, and addressing the following requirements of Good Web Design:

Download Times

Pages should download quickly, and definitely in less than 10 seconds under normal circumstances.

Site Navigation

The web should contain neat, consistent and intuitive navigation, such that visitors to the site will be able to answer the questions: "Where I am?" and "Where do I go from here?".

Page Layout

Being aware of the practical limitations of web page format, laying out the information in a way that the readers eye is led from one item to the next. Every page in the site should look like it belongs to the same site, with repetitive elements that carry throughout the pages.

Text / Typography

The background must not interrupt the text and the text must be big enough to read. Columns of text should not be too wide for reading on the screen.

The imaginative use of different fonts, e.g. decorative and stylised typefaces for headings and logos, and conventional serif and sans serif fonts for body text.

The Use of Colour

Colour is subjective. What one person likes another detests. Colour must take into account the basic link colours, which should be maintained as the web standard, and the contrast between text and background.

Textures

The use of textures can enhance a web site by giving it a "feel". A texture can be rough, smooth, warm or even cold.

Use of Photographs and Images

Photographs and Images can really enhance a web page whilst helping to illustrate the product, location, person, etc. Framing, softening edges, multiple images are all ways they can be displayed with wrapped text if desired. The key use of graphics is to break up large areas of text.

Who is the Audience

What is your audience expecting? An electronic version of a brochure? A way of booking on line? Purely as a source of additional information? What is the age of the audience? All of these can impact on the design of the site.

How will it be Maintained

Information must be kept up to date. If it contains dates or prices, then these should be accurate. If information becomes out of date then it must be removed or updated.

Copyright 2007 "your-own-page"