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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Building Websites, part 1

Several of my buddies have talked about setting up their own websites. So I thought I would talk about design tips.

Disclaimer first: I am a professionally trained graphic designer, not a web designer. My website was created using Dreamweaver and I learned that on my own. There is other software out there, or you can build your site using HTML. Here is a great tutorial aimed at kids, but it is just as useful for adults.

What I hope to do for the next couple of days is give you some design tips to consider as you plan your website. I’ve come across some awesome websites, but there are also a lot of bad ones. Don’t be one of the bad ones.

I have to admit, a blog is easier to maintain, but a website is just more unique and aesthetically pleasing. The main function of a website is to deliver information about your product--in this case, you and/or your book.

Navigability and Readability: Navigability should be self-explanatory. You want folks to be able to travel from one page to the next with ease. Every link should work; every page should pop right up.

But here is where Murphy's Law comes in. All browsers are not created equal. The plainer your page, the less trouble you’ll have. But every time you add an element, whether it’s a picture or a block of text, you run the risk that someone’s browser won’t be able to see it.

Fonts: Stick with simple fonts that can be read by any browser. San serifs are fine if they have clean lines and the size is large enough. If you use a serif, stay conservative.

You don’t want to tire the reader out with any of the more lavish fonts. Save them for headlines and banners. Remember too, that many browsers won’t support the fancy fonts. You’ll have to save them as jpg files if you want them to show up.

White Space: Not only is the font and size critical, but also the amount of white space. The eye needs a place to rest.

Say you visit a site that has a six-inch block of text. No matter how fascinating the information is, your brain has already decided that it’s boring because reading that much copy is exhausting.

Break your copy up in small bite-sized paragraphs. Visitors can nibble one paragraph at a time. They’ll keep reading if you truly are that interesting.

Sound bites: No matter how cute you think they are, try not to use them. Trust me, they’re irritating.

Music: Your favorite song has personal significance only to you. Don’t force your pleasures on others. You want visitors to feel welcome.

Web animation: If I told you how web animation was created you’d be slapping them in left and right. It’s a really neat process. And it’s easy to get carried away, especially if you created the animation yourself. But it is intrusive and takes a long time to load, especially on dial-up.

Remember, Writing = Business.

Tomorrow: Color & Photos