Designing a website

Design follows function.

 You would not ask an architect to design you a building without telling them what it was to be used for, how many rooms you wanted and so on. The reason I mention this is that many people who come to me for a website have a wonderful idea for styles, graphics and must have the colours just right. My response is I build websites not pictures, if the look of the site is the main focus or in some case the only focus then I would imagine you are building a website for you and your Mother, because chances are they are the only people who will stop by and admire it.

A house is build without curtains or wallpaper.

The first thing that should go onto a website is the content and links to other content, in essence a White Site. This is a site without styles, without graphics, without colour. It is a basic site, black text on a white background and it should be able to sell your idea, product, service, just as it is. Then when you add styling, graphics and colours you are just adding dressing to an already working, functional site.

What you see is not what others see.

Try this – view any site on the internet, then turn off images and disable styles (the Firefox browser is probably easiest for this). Then you will see what the Search engines see. If you can look at sites, that interest you, in different browsers, with different settings, on different computers with different operating systems, on a PC and a Mac. Now maybe you can see why the only thing constant and therefore the only important thing on a website is the words that you write.

Visitor actions.

Imagine this, you have done a search on Google and you have been presented with 1,137,489 results and you are not sure if any of them is the right one for you, so you look quickly down the list at the titles until something looks like a possibility. You click on it and you are presented with an hourglass spinning, next click is the back button. You try another link and get a page which has some wonderful floating graphics and maybe a link that says click to skip intro, next click the back button. The next site you try opens quickly, has lots of information, in lots of boxes and columns with lots of animated adverts, next click the back button. If this is your experience then do not make it the same experience for your visitors.

Write for the web.

A webpage is not a book and it is not read like one either. No matter what wonderful prose you have composed for your site, very little will be actually read. Like the paragraph above, visitors are in a hurry so the scan your page trying to find the information they want, so you have to make it easy for them. Make the first paragraph a summary of the rest of the content on the page. Give a heading to every paragraph which states in the first couple of words what the paragraph is about. Then re-write it because it is not easy but the more scannable you can make your page the more chance there is of keeping your visitors away from that back button.

Written by Keith Hirst

Keith Hirst

Website Development, Raspberry Pi enthusiast and all round fun guy.