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Ahhh so you want to design a web site but are not sure where to get started. One of the first things you need to address for any site, whether it is your first one or not, is to make sure the site is a clean lay out. Attractive, eye catching without being loud and loads fast. Let us repeat that one – loads fast. People hate to wait for a site to load. So do not burden the site with too many pictures. Make the ones you do use count.

Next make sure you have outstanding, fresh, catchy content. Well-written and easy to read, and says something interesting. You need to also make sure you have your keyword ducks all in a row as well. But that's another article. If you do not have something interesting to say, and do not say it in a way that captures people's attention, then you are not going to have them stay on your site very long. So, aim to have them stick with you.

Do not do complex designs. Why? Because people do not come to a website because of its design. They come because they are interested in the content and are looking for information. So, balance content and design with an eye to pleasing page layout, and well-written copy that says something. Interestingly enough, you will know intuitively if you have the right combination. How? Because if you look at your end result and go – ewwww, then it is back to the drawing board. If on the other hand you look at the site and go – hey, that looks good. Call it a wrap, and call several friends to preview your site.

Contrary to what some people say and think, white space is actually a GOOD idea. So use it well, but do not go over board. These all black web sites with white printing drive you bats. White space, used properly can enhance the look of your site and put the focus on your content. Which is the point is not it?

You can use a template system for consistency, but honestly, the best kind of a website these days is do it by hand. Yes, that is right, code by hand so you have better control of the code that does end up on the page. Now because you are just starting out, you may want to use something like Dreamweaver templates, or Microsoft Front Page – just be aware that you can wind up with some funky code in your final product that you did not generate. This can give you no end of problems.

Frankly, and this is contrary to what you will read on a great many sites, the best thing you can do for yourself, and your end use viewers, is stay away from all the fancy flashdance, jive hopping, macro this and that sites. Stick with the KISS (Keep it Simple Silly) principle and surfers will thank you.

Other design tips:

  • make sure site navigation is easy and well laid out
  • try and design for all screen resolutions – go for stretch layouts
  • make sure code and design is scalable – things change so fast it's impossible to test your site in all screen sizes and platforms. So make sure you stick to the most common denominator code that talks to as many platforms as possible
  • try and check you site in Internet Explorer 5+, Mozilla Firefox 1.0, Opera 7.0 and Netscape Navigator 6+ These are the most common browsers used. But also remember, that not everyone upgrades their browsers, to design to talk down to older versions (usually about 3 years older)

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