Designing your own website? Read these tips for a good grasp of the basics, to help you create a site that works easily and effectively.
Is your website purely for personal use or for educational, informational or commercial purposes? The answer to this will help you set down clear and measurable objectives while going through the design process.
Once your goals are in place, think about your target audience. Is this a local, national or global audience? When you have identified this, you will be able to tailor your website to meet their expectations.
A basic website consists of text and structure. Use simple and clear language to deliver your information. Don’t clutter the site – rather, use white space to break up the information into logical segments.
Make sure that important information doesn’t get buried – structure your content logically, so that important information gets priority. Do several rigorous checks to ensure your website content stays true to the purpose of the site.
Once you have set out your basic website structure and text, you are ready to look at aesthetics. Color and graphics are vital design tools to help promote your website.
Playing around with fonts and background colors is fun, but make your choice carefully. Are your combinations easy to read on screen? Avoid textured backgrounds and italic characters that make reading difficult; also, underlined words can easily be mistaken for links.
Select colors that are suitable for use on a variety of web browsers and operating systems.
Graphics, either line drawings or photographic images, can enhance your website a great deal. The thumb rule here is – less is more!
To increase the speed with which your website displays, photographic images should be in .jpg format and line drawings in .gif format.
Avoid using complicated, animated graphics. They may look impressive but add little value to your content. Use simple, static images to complement your website content.
Organize your website logically so that users can easily navigate across pages without getting lost. It is a good idea to put a “home” link on every page, so your visitors can easily return to the first page.
Marketing your website
Once you are done with designing your website, what’s the best way to promote and market it? You can do this both within the site and through other methods.
Search engine optimization
Incorporating keywords and metatags in the website can improve the chances of your audience finding the site on the Internet.
Determine critical keywords that are appropriate to the content of your site and make sure these words appear logically on your home page.
Metatags are embedded in the HTML source code for your web pages and reinforce administration information about the page. You can include a title metatag, which appears in the top line of a browser and a description metatag, which should encapsulate what the site is all about and contain site appropriate keywords. You can also use the <alt> tag to images to add metadata including keywords.
Promote your website
If your website is for commercial purposes, make sure the URL and/or address features in publications – both print and other media – and is mentioned in speeches.
Can you promote or list your site with professional organizations?
Where possible, exchange links with other, similar organizations. Consider incorporating a blog or electronic newsletter on your website to increase interest.
Make sure you monitor traffic to your site to take advantage of the most popular pages. Check search engines and directories for your website listing.