10 Ways to Improve Website and Web site Design
December 6, 2005 Category: Web Design
These suggestions are in no particular order: what may be useful for some will be either obvious or irrelevant to others.
These website design suggestions are in no particular order: what may be useful for some will be either obvious or irrelevant to others.
1. Seven other ways…
The WAG website lists “Seven ways to improve your web site design” – so Number 1 in this list is to pay attention to the seven other ways:
· target users;
· keep up to date;
· proof read;
· make main pages easy to find from all points;
· fix broken links;
· adapt your writing style for the web;
· work with search engines.
2. Keep it simple, part 1 (website design)
Restrain yourself: there’s an awful lot you can do when you create web pages, but don’t try to do them all on a single site!
The better sites tend to make consistent use of a limited range of colours, fonts and graphics, and all pages share a look (without necessarily looking identical).
3. Keep it simple, part 2 (technical)
Users don’t like having to install plug-ins (and some can’t, eg in schools); if you have good reason for relying on plug-ins (such as for virtual reality demonstrations), make sure it’s clear to users what is required, and don’t put it on your home page.
FrontPage’s ‘hover button’ component makes Java rollovers effects easy to apply, but at best they’re slow to load. At worst, they lock up the browser while loading, giving the impression that the computer has crashed…
4. Make life easier for yourself
…because no one else will.
If you find maintaining your site a chore then you’re likely to find it easier to put it off and do more important things.
Organise your site so that you have a few key pages that need regular attention (what’s on, news, deadlines, announcements); then other pages can have less frequent attention.
5. Don’t break other people’s links
…and you can hope they won’t break yours.
Deep-linking from one site to specific pages within another site is becoming commoner. It’s useful to your users and helps bring traffic to your pages. But it does mean that any reorganisation of your site risks breaking these links, closing routes into your site.
So try not to move or rename files – particularly your main pages.
Making your web pages accessible is both a legal requirement and good practice: accessible design is good design because it forces the designer to provide clear navigation and well-structured content.
Groups with special accessibility needs:
· those who find mouse control difficult
· people with old, slow computers
· ALT text
· avoid frames/columns
· don’t use colours to distinguish key features
More information at:
7. Spread the word
Encourage people in your department/section to use the web: there’s so much information on our websites that is under-used, if only people thought to use it.
· send links in e-mails and not content
· frequently asked questions: give the URL when you get asked the same old questions
· give users reason to return: news, events, deadlines, etc
Encouraging use of the web in this way can save time in other areas as duplication of effort is cut down.
People don’t like to wait: they use the Back button if the wait is too long. So cut down on the graphics on important pages and limit page-length.
Bandwidth is increasing, but only for high-end users. And when that high bandwidth is here, users will expect instant pages, rather than waiting the same time for more.
Web accessibility expert Jakob Nielsen says low-end users won’t benefit fully from increased bandwidth until 2008, and international users will take even longer.
So we’re stuck with minimal design for some time, assuming a typically slow home connection.
9. Feedback and constructive criticism, part 1
Jakob Nielsen (again) says you only need 4-5 people for quality feedback, particularly if you watch how they use your site. When you see the first person struggle with your wonderful navigation system you blame the user; when you see the second struggle, you wonder how you chose such illiterate guinea pigs; when you see the third, you start to see a pattern…
10. Feedback and constructive criticism, part 2
Become a critical web user. Look at other sites as you use them and try to analyse why you find some sites easy to use and others hard.
Look for the subtle things, like how they’ve used graphics and colours.
You can’t use the content from other sites because of copyright laws, but you can certainly learn from them and use them as the inspiration for your own efforts.