OWP News

My Website Development Rules

Filed under Helpful Information by on 5/19/2009

Maybe its better stated, "Rules for my websites!" When developing a new website there are some guidelines to consider before starting the project. After all, we want our project to be a success, after development, and into the future as well. For this obvious reason, it is a good idea to have a list of rules and stick to them. But wait, rules are made to be broken, right? Maybe it will help if we explore why it is we follow these rules.

  1. Keep a consistent look
  2. Content is king!
  3. Must have easy to use and consistent navigation
  4. Colors have meaning
  5. Just because you can isn't good enough
  6. Limiting your audience is bad
  7. Having a website is not advertising

Keeping a consistent look throughout a website conveys a professional image. This holds true for nearly every element of a website. From colors and fonts to forms and menus, consistency will always pay off. I have been to many professionally designed sites that have a wonderful home page and then I go to an internal page and wonder if I'm still on the same site.

Content is the king of your website. That is why your visitors are there. It is why you have a website. You have something to offer them, and they are interested in it. Whether it is copy or images, it must be relevant and of high quality. It must be easily accessible and aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

Easy to use and consistent navigation is essential. Visitors to your site want to find what they are after as soon as possible. They do not want to feel lost. Menus for navigation must be well thought out, leading to the key areas of the site. Shortcuts to popular areas are nice to have on the home page. Statistics show that if visitors can't find what they want in 2-3 clicks, they will move on to the next site.

Colors have meaning on the web. They invoke conscious and subconscious feelings. Matching your website color to the proper "emotion" is not as important as avoiding matching it to the wrong one. When pairing colors together, quite often the emotion is changed. A good rule of thumb is that colors usually go well with members of the same family. Warm colors for a background look best with a logo with warm colors. Same thing works for cool colors.

Just because you can include a gadget or the latest "cool" technology for your site, doesn't mean you should. It must add something of value to your site that is also useful to your visitors. The wrong technology used in the wrong place leaves a site feeling unprofessional. We have all been to those sites that have an "intro" page that has "flashy" graphics. Usually they add a "skip intro"button to the bottom. Why is it there if it can be skipped? Maybe they should provide a "skip website" button instead.

Limiting your audience is always a bad idea. The purpose of having a website is to connect with all of your visitors in some way. Anything that may limit which visitors can use your site should be avoided. Believe me, there are plenty of mistakes a designer can make in this area. Have you ever been to a site that says somewhere at the bottom, "Best viewed at 1024x768 resolution," or "Must have JavaScript enabled?" Those sites are limiting their audience. As a designer there are many usability problems to address and overcome when building a website. Browser and screen reader compatibilities, screen resolutions and monitor sizes, style sheet and JavaScript conformity are just a few issues to consider.

Contrary to popular belief, simply having a website is not advertising. A website is more of a tool, or a method of communicating between you and your audience. A website can be part of your advertising package, but failing to advertise your site in some way, will certainly spell doom. Even the best website will not get visitor traffic if no one knows it exists or it can't be found. It is also a misconception that all you have to do is put up a website and it will be found through search engines, and then you will have customers. Obtaining top placement on search engines takes time and/or monetary investments. The amount of time or money required depends on the competition of your website's keywords and category. Some popular forms of website advertising are banner, pay per visit, pay per view, link building, link swapping, forums and search engine optimization.

Building a website really is all about balance. A site that is too strong in one area may inadvertently weaken another. Thinking back to my architectural design classes, we used the phrase, "form follows function." I feel that it also applies for building websites. Applying it, you start with the content and the functions of the site, consider the purpose and the audience, and then shape it into a form that satisfies the design requirements.


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