Do's and Don'ts for the next Millenium

Designing a Web Page is an art. Any suggestions on how to design a
great looking web page can consequently only be a subjective
opinion. For those of you that are relatively new to web page design,
there are some guides that you can follow to help make your web
pages work better. If you follow these tips, your web page may still
be as ugly as sin, but at least it will be efficient well designed sin.


-Use Meta Tags
If you want your web site to be properly listed with the search
engines (why wouldn't you?), then you must make full and proper
use of the Meta Tags. These include using a page Title, Meta
Description and Meta Keywords. You should also try to include
similar text and keywords in the Body of your web page if

-Simply State the Purpose of your Web Site
There have been quite a few web sites that I have left without ever
fully understanding their mission. It may be obvious to you but don't
assume that your first time visitor will know. Although your design
may constrain how you do this, the simplest solution often is just to
write it. If it matches your Meta Description it will also help with
your Search Engine ranking.

-Use a Simple Intuitive Navigation Scheme
There is nothing more frustrating than a web site with a poor
navigation scheme. This is not the place to let your creative juices
run wild. Keep it simple and think in terms of a first time visitor that
is not familiar with your Web Site.

-Use Multiple Browsers.
What looks great in Internet Explorer could be a mess in Netscape
Navigation. It is a mistake to assume that all Browsers are created
equal. Install both Browser's on your machine and test your web
pages with both especially Netscape which is currently the fussier
about bad code.

-Test at Multiple Resolutions and Font Settings
It's easy to make a great looking Web Page at 1280x1024 and 16.8
million colors. You should see what a mess you have at 640x480 and
256 colors. You need to test at multiple resolutions if you want your
web site to look good to all your visitors. Also be sure to test with
both Large Fonts and Small Fonts selected from the Control Panel in
Windows. It could significantly alter the layout of your page.

-Use GIF's and JPEG's appropriately.
GIF's work best with computer generated images or images with
large blocks of solid colors. JPEG's are better for real-life images and
photographs. BMP's should not be used unless you have a good
reason. They are just too large. In all cases, keep your images as
small as is appropriate for your design.

-Include Dynamic Content
A first time visitor to your web site is the hardest and most expensive
to get. Add a job board, a discussion group, syndicated articles or
whatever you find as an appropriate way to encourage them to return.

-Get a Domain Name
A free site or a site included with your Dial-Up Service Provider is
fine for casual users. If you are serious about having an on-line
business then you must have a commercial domain. These are ".com"
names in the US, ".co.uk" or whatever country code applies in other
countries. Commercial sites will be more easily indexed by the
search engines and will increase your credibility.

-Use a Good Host for your Web Site.
There are many professional hosting companies around. For $20 to
$30 month you should not have any trouble finding one that will
provide a minimum of 60meg disk space, several GIG transfer
allowance, CGI support, visitor logs, stats, plus a host of other
professional services.

-Keep your Site Fresh
There is no such thing as a finished web site. It is a work in progress.
You are bound to find things to improve upon and correct. You must
also include new content and even occasionally change the look and
feel in order to avoid that same old stale look that is a sign of a
forgotten and neglected web site.

-Test, Test, Test
It is easy to design a Web Site that works and looks great on your
computer. The trick is to make it look good on a computer that may
be configured in some strange ancient (3 years old or more) manor
that you have never experienced. Ask friends, relatives,
acquaintances and anyone else to check it out. Post a Web Master
feedback email to have visitors to tell you about bad links and design


-Avoid using Frames
If you have a good reason to use Frames then do so. If not, avoid
them. Frames are less likely to be indexed by the search engines, they
will increase your download time and will cramp the viewers screen.

-Avoid Audio.
Again, if you have a good reason to use audio then do so. If not then
avoid it. If audio really was a great way to make your web site look
cool, then everyone and their uncle would be using it. Audi Wave
files are very large while Midi files will sound like alley cats in a
fight on some systems. If you do decide to use audio then use both
the <BGSOUND> tag and the <EMBED> tag to ensure it will work
in both IE and NN Browsers.

-Avoid Video
Not everyone has a cable modem or T1 line. Even the very best
compacted streaming video will demand a major undertaking for
your visitors. If it is appropriate for your web site be sure that it is
optional, the file size is clearly stated and any special plugins or other
requirements are clearly identified.

-Don't Spam
We all know when we get it but it is a lot harder to identify when we
send it. Windows that open automatically, Meta Refresh tags with 0
time, Meta Tags that include competitor's product names, may all be
potential forms of Spam.

This is not an all-inclusive list. Not every web site or audience is
created the same. What is great for one may be a major problem for
another. Know your web site and know your audience and be willing
to make changes as needed. That is what makes a dynamic web site.

"IMS Web Tips" ISSN 1488-7088
© Copyright 1999 Virtual Mechanics

"IMS Web Tips" is a weekly news letter for all web site managers regardless of experience who are looking for detailed information on creating, maintaining and promoting their web sites.
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