Web Design Basics

Imagine this scenario: a potential customer lands on your website and wants to find out about your business. She starts to surf around on your page. What is this experience like for her? Does she see a clear focal point with a short description of what your site or business will do for her? Is she able to navigate from page to page, easily finding the information she is looking for? Does she notice clear graphics that load quickly and complement the content?If your website falls short in these areas, your potential customer may become confused or frustrated and leave your site for someone else’s. Don’t let that happen! Incorporate good design techniques to not only increase traffic to your site but, ultimately, to sell more products or services.


How many times have you landed on a site that gives no indication of what it is about? Don’t do this to your potential customers! Give your visitor a clear idea of what your site is about by using an identifiable business logo and name near the top of the page with short explanatory text that conveys what you do and the service you offer.


Once your visitor has landed on your home page and has had time to orient herself to your site, you need to provide her with an easy way to move through your site. Make sure your navigational links are easy to read and understand and are consistent throughout your site. Don’t force your visitor to guess which button will lead her to your contact page – spell it out for her by adding text to your buttons. So-called “Mystery Meat” navigation is fine for a teenager’s personal website, but NOT for your business.


Don’t fill up your entire page with graphics and text – give yourself and your readers some room to breathe. If you have a text-heavy site, don’t despair, simply break up your large blocks of verbiage with headlines and subheaders, bullet points and numbers, and shorter paragraphs. Add a well-placed graphic for emphasis and you are all set.


Please, please, please make sure your graphics are of high quality and are crisp and clear. But don’t make them too large or too small; just like Goldilocks’ bed and bowl of porridge, they should be just right. Don’t clutter up your page with them. Choose an appropriate number (always a judgment call, like everything else) and stick with it. Use Photoshop’s “Save for Web” feature (or something similar for other imaging software) to compress your graphics appropriately. Use tags to add a text descriptor for those using a screen reader. Know the difference between a gif and a jpeg. Lastly, make sure that every graphic supports and substantiates your content.


Choose colors that complement your business type. For example, trendy colors work well for a clothing boutique while more somber tones are appropriate for a law office. Use darker text on a lighter background for readability. Limit the number of colors you use (it’s a website, not a rainbow).


There are many other components of a good website design, but these will get you started down the right path toward design success. To learn more, try searching online for design tutorials.


  1. Advertisements – Please don’t subject your visitors to pop-up ads for unrelated businesses or those Google ads you see everywhere. Why dilute your message? Keep the focus of your website about your business.
  2. Frames – Nasty things from the 1990’s, frames are no longer de rigueur for web design – lose them!
  3. Font tags – These are deprecated (outdated) in HTML 4.01. While they won’t become obsolete any time soon, why not start now to rid your pages of extraneous code? For more control and flexibility, use CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) instead.
  4. Tables – Way back in the old days of web design (like a few years ago!), designers depended on code-heavy tables filled with sliced graphics to lay out a design. No more. Today’s designers use
    (division) tags with a CSS style sheet to create a design. Not that tables are evil and need to be eradicated from the face of the earth, mind you; au contraire, mon ami, many sites still use them for presenting data and forms. The key is to use them wisely and as needed.
  5. Hard-to-find contact information – Why force your visitors to search high and low for a way to contact you? Don’t! Instead, place your contact information on EVERY page. You want more customers, right? Well then, make it easy for them to get in touch with you.
  6. Annoying animated gifs – If you have one of those little gifs of a flag blowing in the wind on your website, remove it immediately! These horrible creations proliferated in the early days of web design but just are no longer cool.

To find out more about design mistakes (and for a good laugh), visit webpagesthatsuck.com. For more on design that works, browse through webdesignfromscratch.com. The advice and information in these two sites, along with some of the basics covered here, will provide a solid foundation of good design elements for your business website. Good luck and happy designing!

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