Introduction to Site Design It has been said for ages that "first impressions last a lifetime", and as we enter the information age, this old saying still rings true. In today's dynamic, competitive Internet world, creating a base of regular visitors is one of the keys to success, and the design of your site is extremely important because it is, in a very real sense, the first impression you make on millions of Internet users worldwide. An attractive, user-friendly site design can be the difference between success and failure, and therefore a good amount of time should be devoted to making your site as good as possible. Designing a good site, however, is a lot more difficult than merely dragging and dropping some pictures and text onto a page and arranging it to look nice. Successful sites must try to come up with the perfect marriage of form and function, making sure that neither component is lacking or in excess.
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when designing your site is that there is by no means one site design that is best. In fact, the nature of your site, its content, and its theme should all be carefully considered in order to ensure that your site has the look and feel you desire, without sacrificing the user-friendliness that will keep the hits streaming in. So before you open up Dreamweaver and start creating tables, and inserting text blocks and images, sit back and think about what it is you want your website to portray, and how you want visitors to feel when they visit your site. If your site is a personal website, think in terms of how you can exhibit your personality and style. If your site is a commercial website, think in terms of how you want your customers to feel about your products and services. A good deal of planning beforehand will allow you to choose the correct theme for your website, saving you the headache of going back and trying to get it right afterwards.
After you have come up with the look and feel that you feel is most appropriate for your website, the next step is to research what other websites with similar objectives have done. Spend some time looking at existing websites, and make notes of their respective positives and negatives; then think of how your site can incorporate the positives, while avoiding the negatives. You can learn a lot about what works and what doesn't by looking at the layout, color scheme, text, and images of other websites, and then use that knowledge to get the most out of your site.
Once you have completed your research, and come up with an idea of what you want your site to look like, the next step is to plan your site. The best way to do this is to start by drawing a sitemap, covering all of the pages you plan to create. By drawing a sitemap, you will be able to see clearly exactly how your site will work, and which links you will have to create to make it work the way you planned. Drawing a site map is easy and will save you a lot of time in the long run. For an example of a site map, please see below.
Regardless of how beautiful your site is, if users can not navigate it, they will simply find another site. Try to lay out your site in a clear, logical manner, and avoid using image-based mouseover links. This will help ensure that your site is easy to navigate, and will still leave you plenty of room to add your personal design touches
As we all know, images add a lot to a website, but it is important to understand that they also add a lot of size to web pages, size which can increase loading time. As a result of this fact, you should try to use the minimum amount of images on each page. Try to limit your pages to a total of 30kb, including text, background images, and images. This will ensure that all pages will be loaded in about 5 seconds, even if the user happens to be using a dial-up connection.Another thing to consider when deciding the amount of images to use on your web pages is that each file on a web page requires a separate HTTP request to the server. What this means is that using a lot of small images, which add up to less than 30kb is still going to slow down your site considerably.
When using tables in the creation of your site, it is important to make sure that you do not use one table for the majority of your site. If you do use one table, users will not be able to see any of your content until the entire table has been loaded. In order to avoid this problem, break your page into at least two tables. The top table should contain your page header and some links, while the bottom table should contain the remaining content. This will allow the user to see part of your page quickly, so that they do not get discouraged by a long wait.
When you have finished designing your site, be sure to take a look at it in several different browsers. Sometimes your "perfect" design will look atrocious when viewed with a different browser, which means you will have to go back and fix your errors. Still, it is much better to catch your own errors before your visitors do.
One of the most helpful trends in web design that has gained popularity in the last few years is the in-site navigation bar, which helps users know exactly where they are in your site. Typically a navigation bar looks something like this: You are at: Home>My Hobbies>SportsThis means that you are currently in the Sports page of the My Hobbies Section of your site. Navigation bars are by no means essential to a good website, but are a helpful tool to make your site more user-friendly to users.
Over the past year or so, a number of plug-ins have been developed allowing you to add advanced graphics and animation on to your website. Before you load up your site with these animated graphics, it is important to understand that most users do not have these plugins installed on their computers, nor do they have the patience to download them before viewing the site. The exception to this rule is Macromedia's Shockwave Flash Plug-in, which is installed on most computers.
One of the most important things not to forget when designing your site is the importance of meta tags. Site description and keyword Meta tags are the most important factors in getting recognized by search engines, which will bring your site more hits. When writing your site description remember to keep it clear, concise, and to the point, and do not load it up with keywords, because it should make sense when displayed on a search engine results page.