web design resources
Designing A Web Site for Success

Designing A Web Site for Success

Teacher: Shelley Lowery

There are millions of web sites on the Internet today with thousands more being added each day. The competition is fierce and in order to be successful, you must stay one step ahead of the game.

One of the most important aspects of your success is your web site. Your web site is a direct reflection of you and your business. The appearance of your web site is the most important factor in determining your sites value. If your site doesn't look professional or pleasing to the eyes at first glance, its perceived value will be low. The perceived value of your web site will have a great impact on your chance of success or failure.

On the other hand, you may have a great web site, well designed and a quality product or service, but if it takes too long to load, the value will still be perceived as low. Why? Because your potential customer will not wait. Ultimately costing you business.

According to two surveys, conducted by Forrester Research and Gartner Group, ecommerce sites are losing $1.1 to $1.3 billion in revenue each year due to customer click-away caused by slow loading web sites.

The main page of your web site should load within 8 seconds or less with a 56K modem. To keep your load time down:

  • Avoid using large slow loading graphics
  • Avoid using large or too many animated graphics
  • Limit the number of banners to no more than two per page
  • If you must use Java, use it sparingly
  • If you're using Flash, provide your visitors with an alternative link to skip the intro

Another consideration of great importance is the Search Engines. You must specifically design your web site to rank high in the Search Engines. If your site isn't listed within the top thirty search results, your potential customers won't be able to find you. When optimizing your page for the Search Engines, it is essential to include all of the following:

  • META Tags

    META tags enable the search engines to determine what keywords are relevant to a specific site. They should be placed between the <HEAD> and </HEAD> tags of your HTML.

    • The META "keywords" tag will contain a listing of your most relevant keywords and keyword phrases that best describe your web site. List your most important keywords first and separate them with a comma.


      <META name="KEYWORDS" content="your keywords, keyword phrases">

    • The META "description" tag will contain a descriptive, readable sentence describing your web site. This sentence should contain your most relevant keywords and keyword phrases. Keep in mind, some Search Engines will display this description when your web site is returned in a search query.


      <META name="DESCRIPTION" content="A descriptive, readable sentence containing your most relevant keywords and keyword phrases">

  • IMAGE ALT tags

    An image alt tag follows your graphic address in your html code. These words will be displayed in place of your graphics through older browsers or when your visitors have their graphics turned off.


    <IMG SRC="yourimage.gif" WIDTH="300" HEIGHT="50" BORDER="0" ALT="A descriptive sentence containing your keywords and keyword phrases">

  • TITLE Tags

    The TITLE tag is the first thing that a user sees when your site is returned by a search query. It should let your potential visitors know exactly what your web site is about and contain your most relevant keywords and keyword phrases. Avoid non-indexing filler words such as, a, an, the, welcome and home page.


    <TITLE>Your site name: Readable site description with keywords and keyword phrases</TITLE>


  • TEXT

    Another very important part of optimization is your text. Your web page should contain plenty of readable text containing each of your keywords used in different variations.

Design Guidelines:

(1) Your main page should specifically let your visitors know exactly what you're offering. If your potential customer can't find your product or service, they definitely won't waste a lot of time looking for it. They'll go on to the next site and probably never return. They're visiting your site for a specific purpose. They want something your site offers.

(2) Create a page to display your "Privacy Policy" in regard to the personal information you collect from your visitors such as, email address, Internet Service Provider, etc.. Explain your reasons for collecting the information and let them know how the information will be used.

(3) Create a page about you and/or your company. Include your name, company name, photograph, biography, address, phone number and email contact information.

(4) Display your copyright information at the bottom of each page.

(5) Keep in mind, your visitors may enter your site from pages other than your main, so make sure you include good navigational links on every page. Place your navigation links together at the top, bottom, left or right side of the page. Use tables to neatly align your links and maintain a nicely organized and uniform appearance throughout. Try to keep the number of clicks required to get from your main page to any other page on your site down to four and place your company logo on each page.

(6) Use caution when selecting your background and text colors. Busy backgrounds make text difficult to read and draw the attention away from the text. In addition, always be consistent with your background theme on each page of your site. Keep in mind, colors affect your mood and will have an affect on your visitors as well. Bright colors such as yellow and orange, cause you to become more cheerful or happy, while colors such as blue and purple have a calming effect. Dark colors such as brown and black have a depressing effect. A good rule of thumb is to use colors based upon the type of effect you're trying to achieve.

(7) ALWAYS check and double-check your site for spelling errors and make sure your images and links are all working properly. If you have several errors, this will make your site appear to be unprofessional. If you are designing your site using an HTML editor, use spell check. Proper grammar is also very important.

(8) If you must use frames, use them sparingly. Frames, if not used properly, can make your site look unprofessional. Avoid making your visitors have to scroll from side to side to view your content. This can be very irritating and cause your visitors to leave.

(9) If you must use Java on your site, use it sparingly. Java can be slow and has a tendency to crash browsers.

(10) If you're using pop-up windows to display special offers or ezine subscription information, try to use a JavaScript that utilizes cookies. This way, the window will only be displayed to your visitors the first time they visit your web site.

(11) View your web site through different browsers and screen resolutions so you will see how your visitors will view your site. Visit:

SiteOwner - Check your web pages for HTML validity and browser compatibility.

NetMechanic - Provides a variety of free services for your web site including; browser compatibility testing, graphic file size reduction, link check, HTML check, load time check, spell check and more.

(12) Continually add new content to your site. Give your visitors a reason to keep coming back.

Web Design Mistakes to Avoid:

- Animated bullets
- Broken links and graphics
- Busy, distracting backgrounds
- Confusing
- Different backgrounds on each page
- Large fonts
- Large scrolling text across the page
- Large slow loading graphics
- Large Welcome banners
- Multiple banners and buttons
- Multiple colored text
- Multiple use of animated graphics
- Multiple use of different fonts
- No contact information
- No Meta tags
- Over powering music set to AutoPlay
- Over use of Java
- Pages scrolling to oblivion
- Poor browser compatibility
- Poor content
- Poor load time
- Poor navigation
- Poor organization
- Poor overall appearance
- Poor use of frames
- Poor use of mouse over effects
- Poor use of tables
- Pop up messages
- Scrolling text in the status bar
- Spelling/Grammar mistakes
- Text difficult to read
- Too many graphic and/or line dividers
- Too many graphics
- Too much advertising
- Under construction signs

If you've never designed a web page, it would be wise to become familiar with HTML. (Hypertext Markup Language.) A great place to start is NCSA Beginner's Guide to HTML:


Take some time to research and plan your web site. Your success depends upon it. The simple, well-designed sites make the sales.

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