Top Tips for Web Design
Design is never straight forward and web design has the additional unpredictable complication
of technology thrown in. This means that you need to consider the consequences of your design
decisions and how it will effect the most important people who see your site, the users themselves.
The following tips should help you consider this and have a positive effect on your site and its users.
1. Navigation and Functionality
You should never sacrifice overall functionality for artistic extravagance. It is highly
unlikely your site will ever achieve its purpose if the people who visit it cannot clearly
and easily navigate around it.
Your site should look good but first and foremost consider how someone who knows nothing
about the site would think when they landed there.
Something occurring in website frequently these days is Mystery Meat Navigation. This
is a term coined by Vincent Flanders and it is used to describe site where navigation structures
are so obscure and difficult to process that users cannot identify them at all and end up running
there mouse across whole sections of a screen just to identify hyperlinks.
People say images are worth a 1000 words and in web design that's true in two ways. Firstly
an image can do a lot more than text in some situations but secondly they are much, much bigger
files with a longer download time.
It is widely accepted that users will click away from a page that takes longer than 5-10 seconds
to load and every time you put an image in a page you are increasing the likelihood of this
happening. Additionally each image you embed into a page design activates an additional HTTP
request to your server so dividing an image into smaller ones or using lots of small images
across a page does not solve the problem.
ALT tags should also be factored into the code of a website. They are a huge help to
people who have either images turned off in a browse, mobile browsers that can't read the images
or a random error preventing the image from showing. They also hold a small SEO benefit.
It is advised that you use CSS and not tables to format a document but in some cases
tables can be necessary. Remember one thing however, a table cannot be displayed until it has
fully loaded. This can potentially cause a huge problem for users as they wait for the page
to load, nothing appears then out of nowhere the whole page is done.
Someone is much more likely to click away when nothing is loading than when they can see progress.
Don't design sites to use fonts only you have, chances are they will be converted into
some dull font and ruin the effect you were trying to achieve. Save special fonts for specific
headers and convert them to images. Make the rest of your site in standard fonts so that as
many browsers as possible will see it in the way you meant it to be. Recommended fonts for
high scale compatibility are Arial, Verdana, Courier, Tahoma and Helvetica.
Plug-ins hold a lot of potential for both users and designers but it can easily be misused
Plug-ins have a many forms and uses, the most popular being Java and Flash Player. I
have heard a lot of people say that these plug-ins are "safe" and that everyone has them but
this is simply not true. Every plug-in has a stack of different versions and connects differently
depending on the browser the user is surfing with.
Think if your users will really want to browse to other sites to download a plug-in, restart
the browser then navigate back. If the answer is no use other tricks at your disposal to make
your page unique and save the big guns that are Flash and Java for times where it is essential.