Web Design – 5 Essentials
There are however some basic web design essentials that we need to adhere to, and which are all too easy to neglect while we get carried away with all the latest gadgets. A common mistake that new web designers will make is to jump head first in to the latest gizmos and tools that they think will impress their clients, and display their technical prowess, while neglecting the basic usability of their website.
Essential item 1: Cross browser compatibility. A website needs to render correctly on all browsers. There are a range of browsers that are used by the Internet surfing public, and they all have their quirks and nuances. What looks great in IE7 for example may look disjointed in Safari. And may be completely unreadable in Google Chrome. The most popular browser at present is still Internet Explorer 7, but Mozilla Firefox is gaining ground. There has been a steep rise in Apple Mac users to which has led to a rise in Safari. Google Chrome is the new kid on the block but is gaining a great reputation, which is resulting in a higher amount of users. Opera is being used by a dedicated selection of Internet surfers. A good web design should be tested to work, look good and be effective in all of these browsers. A good way to achieve this is to ensure your website validates to WC3 guidelines, but they should still be manually checked.
Essential item 2: Accessibility. A good web design should be accessible to all. This means taking in to consideration people that may have poor vision, or may be unable to use a mouse. Text should be nice and big and contrast strictly with the background color. Black text on a white background is the best for visibility, but as long as the text has a strong contrast to the background it makes it easier for people to read. There should be a skip to main content link, which can allow visitors to tab their way around the website without using a mouse. All fonts should be resizable to allow users to make them larger if need be. Taking the time to comply with accessibility guidelines will save you isolating any visitors with disabilities.
Essential item 3: User-friendly navigation. A good web design will provide an intuitive navigation system for people to find their way around your website. Web users are familiar with horizontal and vertical menus, so to remain safe it is best to stick with this format. It is easy to be tempted to try a unique navigation but users may not share your enthusiasm for change and leave your site with frustration when they do not see an easy way to navigate your pages.
Essential item 4: Quick loading times. There is no use in having the latest Flash gadgets playing, and huge detailed images when it takes minutes for the page to load. Surfers of the web have notorious short attention spans and low tolerance for websites that take more than a few seconds to load. If the page has not loaded in over three seconds they may just hit the back button and look for a faster loading website. Ensure all your images are optimized to load fast, and use text links where possible.
Essential item 5: Contact details. You should make your contact details as available as possible for the visitors to your website. Email links and telephone details should be on every page, along with clear access to your Contact Us page. Your Contact page should always contain your company address, along with telephone, email and contact form. Even add a photograph of yourself or your company house to help build trust with your visitors, and make them aware that you really do exist in the real world. Anonymity is too easy on the web, and we are conditioned not to trust websites, so the more contact details you can provide the better.
These five essential items should be fundamental in the planning stage of your web design. They are easy to build in to a web design from the planning stage, but if neglected can cause a lot of work if trying to implement them at later stages. An effective web design has been proven to convert higher sales, and attract a larger volume of traffic than ineffective or unfriendly web designs. We all want to show off our skills and wow our visitors, but while doing sure to NEVER forget the essentials of good web design. Or you will pay a high price for it later.