Basics of Web Design

Follow these simple tips to make webpages reader friendly

Businessman with website diagram
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Pay attention to the basics as you design your webpage, and you'll be rewarded by return visitors. These simple tips help you deliver reader-friendly pages that welcome viewers. 

Choose Website Graphics Carefully

  • Optimize the images for your website. They should be large enough to deliver excellent quality on a computer monitor and small enough to allow for rapid page loads. Slow-loading pages are annoying, and unnecessarily huge images are a primary cause of slow-loading pages. It's easy to optimize your images.
  • Use graphics that fit the content. Just because you have an adorable photo of your dog doesn't mean you should put it on your website. The graphics should support the content of the site. The exception to this is for design images that are part of the design of the page and are not intended to illustrate the content.
  • Use animated images sparingly. Flashing graphics can be distracting or annoying to some people. 

Stick With Basic Layouts

  • Stick with standard layouts. Using six or eight frames on one page is just overkill. Designing a page to scroll to the right and never down confuses viewers. These layouts may be clever and fun to build, but they can drive away your readers. The reason that the basic layouts are so popular on websites is that they are familiar to the viewers.
  • White space is more than a CSS property; it is an important design element of your layout. You should be aware of the white space on your pages and its effect on how the content is viewed. Using white space as a design element is just as important in a webpage layout as it is in a paper layout.
  • Use graphics as elements in your layouts. Graphics can be more than just graphics when you use them as actual elements in your layouts. One example occurs when you wrap text around an image, but any image you have on your site is a layout element and should be treated as such.

Choose Sans Serif Fonts

  • Use serif fonts for headlines and sans serif for text. If you've taken any type of print design class, this is exactly the opposite of what you were taught, but the web is not print. Sans serif fonts are much easier to read on computer monitors because the screen resolution of monitors is not as high as it is in print. If you use serif fonts for normal text, the serifs can blur together on the screen making them hard to read. 
  • Limit the number of different fonts. One of the best ways to make your website looks amateurish is to change the font over and over again. Limiting your page and site to two or three possibly three standard fonts makes it easier to read and looks more professional.
  • Use web safe font families. You can choose to use Rockwood LT Standard as your font-of-choice on your page, but the chances that your readers have that font is low. Stick with fonts like Verdana, Geneva, Arial, and Helvetica or other web safe fonts. They may seem boring, but your pages will look better, and the designs look as you intended on more browsers.

Advertising Is a Necessary Evil

  • Don't be greedy. If you have control over the number of ads on your site, be aware that your readers are not coming to read the ads; they are coming for the content. If the ads overwhelm the page content, many readers won't stick around long enough to read your text. Minimize ad placement for return viewers.
  • Treat ads as you would any other image. Keep them small, avoid flashing ads, and keep them relevant. Just because you can have an ad on your site, doesn't mean that you should. If the content is relevant to your readers, they're more likely to click on the ad.

    Remember Your Readers

    • Test your pages in multiple browsers. Writing webpages that work only on the most modern browser is a bad plan. Unless you are creating a website for a corporate intranet or a kiosk where the browser version is fixed, you'll have problems with people who aren't able to view your pages.
    • The same is true for operating systems. You can't assume that just because your page works in Opera, it will work in Safari.
    • Write content the readers want. Make sure that your content covers topics that your readers want to read and that it is updated regularly. Stay on your website's topic and keep the content interesting.