Web Design & Internet Marketing Tip Sheet

Website Content Recommendations

Make Sure You Know Your Audience
It’s important to know your audience. If you write for a site that sells toys you’ll use other words, colors, Images etc. compared to a site for online banking. Write and design with your visitors in mind. Don’t get tempted to write for yourself.

Make Sure You Write About the Subject
Write about the subject. Saying: This page is about breeding goldfish talks about the page. Instead, start right away with the subject. Breeding goldfish is a popular hobby….

Use Short Sentences
Use short sentences. The World Wide Web is fast. Your visitors want to get your info in a snap. So read and reread your text. Then cut out as many unnecessary words as possible.

Use Correct Spelling
OK, this one will turn against me….Use correct English or whatever language your site is written in. As a standard routine use a spelling checker but don’t rely completely on it. Human proof reading is necessary.

Don’t Use Unnecessary Words
Do you have a cool site with hot subjects? Or a hot site with cool subjects? On some hype-sensitive sites these kind of words might be useful but on most sites you’d better refrain from meaningless words.

Don’t Use Internet Jargon
Avoid jargon. That goes for Internet jargon but also for jargon for any other subject. Only if your site is focused on a selective group of specialists jargon might make sense.

Don’t Make The Writing Too Technical
Don’t write technical. Your visitors don’t care how you created your site and that you prefer Perl over TCL/TK (or the other way around). Instead write about your subject.

Make Use of the First Screen
Be sure to put important text on the first part of your page, the part that will show up first on a screen.

Address The Issues Right Away
Your visitor wants to know immediately what she can find on your site. Keep that in mind when designing your site. Present the important issue(s) of your site on the first page.

Make the Title Descriptive
The text for the tag <TITLE> should be descriptive. The title shows up in the results of search engines. A descriptive title makes clear what people can expect on your site. The title is also shown in the history list of browsers.

Use Short Pages
The World Wide Web is not a book. People don’t read it sequentially. They want to select a small piece of info and decide what info they want to read next. So you should provide small pages. Cut long pages in pieces and connect them through hyperlinks.

Keep it to One Topic Per Page
Try to write one topic at one page. If your page gets too large, try to rewrite the text in two minor topics. Avoid using pages that force people to read sequential. In that situation the links only interrupt the process of reading.

Links Should Include Explicit Text
Phrases like Click here or Check this link distract from the content And are to be avoided. Try to write your text in such a way that a link is a natural part of the sentence. Instead of SpiderPro is perfect reading on a rainy afternoon Click hereto visit it try to write something like On a rainy afternoonSpiderProis perfect reading.

Make Comments on You links
Add value to your links by annotating them. You visited the linked site otherwise you wouldn’t publish the link in the first place. Right? Share your knowledge and add a description.

Update You Website Regularly
Be sure to check your pages on a regular base and to update themif necessary.

Display the Date of the Update
You update your pages on a regular basis. Don’t you? Make clear to your visitors how recent or (out-)dated your information is. Provide the date of the last update. And don’t forget to change the date if you change a page…

Ask For Feedback
You can learn from your visitors. Ask for their feedback and give them an e-mail address to reach you.

Tip on Website Navigation

Use Explicit Addressing
Navigation should be clear. Links likeBack,Next,Previous, or clickable images of arrows, do point in an unclear direction. What is ‘Back’. The page your visitor came from? The preceding page in your own website?

Check Your Links
OK, it’s a cliché. But anyone who surfs the web will agree. Check your links frequently. Don’t just check them to avoid 404 errors. You might find that an external link still works but that the content behind it has changed.

Don’t Change Your Links
Figure out a good addressing scheme and stick to it. People will create links to your site. Be sure not to break these links.

Always Supply Text Links
Supply textual links. Using only clickable images or image maps makes your site unusable for anybody that disables images.

Ensure There is a Home Link
In the rare case people get lost in your site, a link to home comes in handy. Supply such a link on each page.

Use Navigation at Top & Bottom
Supply navigational aids at the top and the bottom of your page. If you do, people probably won’t need to scroll to navigate.

Use a Table of Contents
Do use a table of contents, preferably as a menu. Without it your visitors will get lost.

Create a “What’s New” Page
Returning visitors are interested in the latest additions on your site. Create a What’s new page to supply that info.

Avoid Using Too Many Menus
Supply short routes to information. Avoid too many menus and submenus, instead use larger menus with more items. People will appreciate it getting to the desired info quickly.

Make Sure Your Menu Items Are Related
Menu items should be related, don’t mix them randomly. Try to share comparable items in one menu. You can use a larger menu for more itemgroups if you separate these groups in a clear way.

Don’t Link To Unrelated Pages
Use only hyperlinks within the context of your page. People will feel lost if you try to use too many links.

Don’t Make Your Links Repetitive
You shouldn’t repeat links in the text. I.e. you have a page about beekeeping and want to link it to to a page that describes different kinds of honey. Then don’t link every occurrence of the word honey. The only exception are links in a menu. You can repeat menu links, i.e. on the top and on the bottom of your page.

Make The Navigation Structure Clear
Navigation must be clear. Unless you run some kind of experimental site be sure to avoid experimental buttons that make visitors have to guess what they mean.

Make Sure There Are No Dead End Pages
A dead end page is a page that is linked to by other pages but itself has no links. A visitor gets trapped in a dead end page and needs his backbutton to get away. Don’t use dead end pages.

Don’t Imprison Visitors
You can imprison your visitors. I.e. by redirecting them to a page without taskbars and icons. But your prisoner will escape eventually and never return.

Don’t iFrame Other Sites
You can load pages from other sites within a frame of your own site. Don’t! It might ruin the look and feel of the framed site. And it gives the wrong idea that the framed site is a part of your own site. Load all pages in a full page.


Design Criteria

Ensure That Your Design is Consistent
Your site should stand out as a whole. Use the same look and feel for all the pages at your site. This way your visitors have a sense of recognition when they visit various pages. Using style sheets makes it much easier to maintain the look and feel of numerous pages.

Use Recurring Visuals
Repeat visual elements (images, colors, fonts etc.) on several pages. This will add to a consistent look and feel.

Use Light Background Colours
Dark backgrounds tend to make text less readable. So avoid dark colors or dark background images. If you do need them, use a nonserif font for the text (like Arial, Universe, Helvetica) and be sure to not to use a small font size.

Don’t Clutter Your Pages
A page with text pushed aside against the border of a table – or an image – looks awful. Don’t cram your pages, use cols pan and border span for tables and vspan and hspan for applets and images.

Don’t Make Them Scroll
Tables are very flexible. They’re able to get almost anything more or less visible on a screen. But by putting large elements in a table cell you might force the cells to become too large. Thus making horizontal scrolling necessary. So limit the number and size of pictures, long words (e.g. long links), predefined text etc.

Easy With The Frames
Use only a limited number of frames. Always check if the screen doesn’t get crammed if a low resolution screen is used.

Use Vertical Alignment With Table Cells
You do you use table cells to get your info on the right position? Then be sure to align the content vertically.

Bandwidth Considerations

Only Use a Few Colour With Gifs
Minimize the number of colors in your GIF images. GIF’s can be stored with a maximum of 256 colors. Minimizing the number of colors to 16, 8 or even 2 dramatically reduces the size of the GIF-file and therefore improves performance. Choose as few colors as possible without ruining the image. You might test both reducing colors with error correction or by selecting the nearest color.

Compress Your JPEGs

Improve the performance of your site by reducing the size of your JPEG-images. JPEG can be saved with different compression-percentages. A high compression results in a smaller file size but also in a less perfect image. Test several compressions for each image you want to use. For different images the acceptable compressions will differ.

Provide Thumbnails for Large Images
In some cases you do need large pictures that take a while to load. I.e. if you’re running a website on modern art. In such a case do provide small copies of the original images (thumbnails) that link to the original ones.

Re-use Images
Once images are loaded they are stored in cache. If you use the same image in several WebPages the image will be loaded the second time in a breeze. It is necessary to have the image in the same location. Also be sure to use exactly the same filename. Even if a browser can handle differences in uppercase and lowercase, your browser cache can not.

Don’t Use Image From Other Websites
If you use images from another site (i.e. an image archive ) do copy them to your own site. Looking up other servers to get the images would introduce overhead and an extended load-time.

Don’t Use Images as Text
Avoid creating images of large pieces of text. It gives you more possibilities but it costs valuable bandwidth. If you do need textual images be sure to reduce the number of colors.

Presenting Text-based Content

Don’t Use Small Serif Fonts
Serif letters are developed for printing. They don’t look good on a computer screen. At least not in smaller fonts. You should avoid these letters, especially if the serif is tiny, like Times.

Don’t Yell
DO NOT USE ALL CAPITALS. It takes more time to read text that consists of only capitals. Besides, using all capitals is the online equivalent of shouting.

Go Easy With The Bolding
Bold text is meant to give some focus to a part of your text. Don’t put whole paragraphs in bold. It has the same effect as shouting. Keep focus – and bold text – short and functional.

Go Easy With The Italics
Text in italic is hard to read on a screen. The resolution of a screen just isn’t capable to present italics without distorting them slightly. This is even more noticeable if you use a small font. So don’t use italics for larger portions of your text.

Use a Large Enough Font
Don’t use small fonts (font size smaller than 4). Small letters are hard to read and that’s even worse on a computer screen.

Stick With a Couple Fonts
Using all kinds of fonts on one page – or in one site – is a very bad typographical practice. Unless you run an online font-archive.

Use Good Punctuation
Present information survey able. Present it in small chunks. Use headings to separate them. Use lists to avoid long textual summing ups.

Graphics & Colour Combinations

Use Transparent Images
The presentation of images often improves by giving the images a transparent background color. They’ll better integrate visually with the background.

Use Interlacing
Interlace larger GIF-images. The visitor will get a quick feedback while the image is still loading. For very small images – like bullets – interlacing makes no sense but in all other cases it does.

Don’t Overuse Images
Too many images slows down your site. Don’t chase your visitors away; limit the number of images.

Break Up Larger Graphics
If you use large images you can break them up in several parts. You can combine the parts in the webpage to form the original image. Doing so the image-parts can be downloaded parallel, thus reducing download time.

Don’t use PNG
PNG is a great format for graphics and will eventually replace GIF. But right now many browsers are in use that don’t support PNG. For the time being stick to GIF and JPEG.

Always Use a Background Colour
Even if you do use a background-image, still provide a background-color. The background-color should approximately be the main color of the image. If text has a color that contrasts with the background-image, it will still be readable before the background-image is loaded.

Use a Browser Safe Palette
Use a browser safe palette for your colors. This will prevent colors from dithering on older monitors.

Limit The Colour Scheme
You have access to 16 million colors. Be selective – don’t try to use them all. Too many colors distract form what you’re trying to say.

Cross Browser Compatibility

Use Alt Image Tags
Quite a few people disable the automatic load of pictures in their browser. Don’t blame them, some images take a lifetime to load. By defining an alternative text with the attribute alt in the tag <IMG>you can take care of imageless browsers.

Ensure Browser Compatibility
You believe I’d change my browser just to visit your site? Wake up! Saying Best viewed with my favorite browser only has the effect that you drive off people with other browsers. Test your site with the favorites. It should be readable with all the important browsers.

Validate Your Pages
Validate your pages. This is the best way to find errors that won’t show up in some browsers but might be the cause of trouble in other browsers.

General Web Design Tips

Don’t Use Pop-ups
Remove your litter. If you want to use popup screens, be sure to close them when the visitor leaves.

Use White-hat SEO
Trying to mislead search engines by repeating keywords will turn against you. Search engines recognize many of these attempts and will react on it by giving your site a lower ranking. Or by not placing it at all.

Be Honest With Visitors
By adding keywords that are specific to adult sites (like ‘XXX’) you might get some traffic. But those visitors will leave quickly – unless you do have an adult site, of course.

Promote Your Website
Register your site at search engines and directories. This is still the most important way to attract traffic.

Use Your Web Stats
Use the statistics of your site. It’s a good opportunity to check for errors like the dreaded 404’s. But statistics are also invaluable for marketing purposes. What are popular pages? Which countries do your visitors come from?

Count Real Visitors
Hits are meaningless. A page with 5 images produces 6 hits. And visited 3 times it produces 18 hits. If you want a counter on your page, be sure to count the sessions: real visitors.

Make Contact Info Visible
Give your visitors a way to get in touch with you. Their feedback is invaluable. Supply a e-mail address or a reply-form.

Be Robot Friendly
Search engines use robots that scan all your directories. Be sure to provide a robots.txt file to make clear which directories and files should not be indexed.