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Three Tips for good web design.

by Wesley E. Warren

These are some simple guidelines to keep in mind when designing a website. These are common mistakes from novice designers and is useful for beginners and even a few experts out there. I see these mistakes on small business websites and even on major national companies. Its a short article with three easy to remeber rules of thumb.

1. Don't hide the address and phone number!

Put contact information such as phone, address and email on every page, a user should not have to navigate to a contact page just to find a phone number. Large companies that are trying to cut down their call center cost have a reason to make their phone numbers hard to find, small business looking for new customers do not.

The web is so extensive that its important to promote trust, if a visitor sees your contact information everywhere they will feel more comfortable pursuing a business relationship with you. I can't tell you how many web sites I go to and have to click 3 or 4 pages before I can even tell what state the company is in, this is a waste of my time.

The only exception to this rule would be if you are working from home. Do not put your home phone number or address on the web. If you are working from home you can get voice mail or 800 number service very cheap. Companies like offer inexpensive plans.

As far as an address goes you can get a PO Box at any Post Office or your local mail store. Mail stores have a great address you can use that cannot be distinguished from a real physical address. There are also virtual offices which offer several other services for a little more- but they give you a conference room you can use to meet with clients and other nice features perfect for a freelancer.

2. When in doubt - leave it out.

Keep it simple. Design elements should not overshadow the information on the page. Make sure your text is easy to read. Don't overcrowd your page with animation or other gimmicks. Its wonderful that you have a 3D rotating ranbow arrow, but does it help or hinder the usefulness of the page?

3. Make it printable.

Now many of you will say (as I have many times in the past) that the web and print are two different mediums, web pages are not meant to be printed. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely agree, however when it is reality versus idealism, reality always wins. So what's the reality? People who go to your web site are bound to print it out, either to show their computer illiterate boss (who is approving funding for your services) or to keep a record on, for reference or whatever. Trust me it will happen. Now with this in mind, go print a web page that has white text on a black background, I will wait here...

Ok your back great, so how does your print out look? (I'm guessing you didn't really go print a page so I will describe what your print out looks like.) The point of all this is that web browsers do not print black backgrounds by default they leave them blank, coincidentally they also leave white text blank. What you are left with is a blank space where your copy should be. Now before you get all ruffled, I am not saying you should not design black pages with white text, if you must then at least create a printable version of the page the user can pull up to print. Even better create a PDF file for users to print then you can really control the end product.

I will try to provide some more tips next month.

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    © 2005 Wesley Warren
    About the author: Wesley Warren is the webmaster for Web Designers Directory and Interactive Web Sites and has been working in the web design industry since 1995 and has developed web sites and applications for hundreds of companies such as Texaco, Nortel, The State of Florida as well as consulting for the Advertising Industry on ebusiness technology.