Designing the Perfect Web Site Layout

First impressions are very important. Your Web site's "home page" should sum up the services that your company or Web site provides and give the viewer an opportunity to access recent or important information in as few clicks as possible.

  • Keep it clean and organized.
  • Use an easy-to-read font.
  • Use “quick links” and “Latest news” panels.
  • Don´t change fonts.
  • Make sure the text is a size that is easy to read. Remember to check how the text looks with different resolutions.
  • Never use ALL CAPS.
  • Never use underlining (except for links).
  • Keep your Web pages short. Try to spread out the information/animations over several pages.

Navigation

  • Your site should be easy to navigate (get around). Separate the site into several sections if necessary.
  • Most sites use a “menu bar” for navigation these can be at the top, or either site of the screen.   Keep the menu in the same position for the whole site.
  • Care should be taken to choose a menu (navigation) system that suits the volume of pages in the site.   Sites with a large amount of information may suit either an expanding or “dual navigation” type menu.
  • A site map should always be included for people who prefer this type of navigation.
  • “Home” and “Contact Us” links should be visible on every page.

Graphics and Multimedia

  • Graphics, movies, etc are always nice, but don´t overdo it.
  • Potential clients will simply leave your site if it takes too long to load completely.
  • Flash ©   movies and animations are becoming more and more prevalent, be aware that Flash requires a plug-in for the browser, so may not be visible to viewers that don’t have the plug-in. Read more about using Flash.
  • Some visitors won´t have the patience to wait for your movie to load-or even to download the Flash plug-in.
  • Plain HTML programming is still the best option for most (commercial) Web sites.

Avoid these common mistakes:

  • Animated GIF images that just keep going and going. This can get tiresome and become a distraction.
  • Flash movies that are larger than 500KB. No matter the user´s connection, this will take too long to load. Remember: Most people don´t have the patience to wait for a big file to load, and will leave before the movie has finished loading.
  • Flash movies etc. are compiled and therefore largely invisible to Search Engines. Menus and other vital content should not be ‘hidden’ inside flash presentations.

You should always use these tricks:

  • Add preloaders to Flash movies. This allows the file to load in the background while you "entertain" the visitor with some text or simple images, or just a progress bar. This way the Flash movie will run smoothly and won´t stop to buffer when it´s played.
  • Crunch the file size. Optimise your images and movies for speed.

Other Things to Pay Attention to

  • Locate company logos consistently throughout the site.
  • Spell check your Web site repeatedly and have other people check it for spelling, grammatical accuracy, clarity, and so on. Ask for critiques from friends, family and even your site´s visitors.
  • Always test your hyperlinks to make certain they´re not broken, especially after you update your Web site.
  • Be sure to check whether your Web site is compatible with all the leading Web browsers.
  • Many people still have 14-inch or 15-inch monitors. Try to make your site "scroll-free" (at least horizontally).
  • Banner advertising should not over-power the message of the site.
  • Be wary of using a visitor counter on your Web site. Counters can look a bit old-fashioned, are largely mistrusted and can be a real negative form of advertisement if you’re not getting a fair volume of traffic to your site.
  • Be interactive, add message boards and other collaborative opportunities to allow your visitors to communicate with you and with each other.
  • Last but not least, content is king! If you give away something valuable to your visitors, such as information, advice, or software, they´ll return.

Conclusion

  • Try not to see these guidelines as restrictions, rather a best practice for you to follow.
  • Be creative and original when specifying the design of your site, following the guidelines doesn’t mean your site needs to be boring or ‘the same as the rest’.
  • Keep reviewing the site content and design to make sure it stays fresh and unique, this will encourage visitors to return.
  • Become an authority on the area of interest that your site belongs to.