How to design a website
Designing web pages is the part that most people imagine when thinking about putting a website together. Web design trends change from year to year – so creating a website that can be easily updated is important.
Designing a website is more than the graphics – all functions of the site should provide a seamless and logical experience for the web visitor.
Your options in creating your site generally are:
- Use a site builder
- Use a content management system
- Have an expert create one for you
- Use your coding skills (in html, PHP, flash etc)
If you’re looking at this website, we’re assuming that you have decided against hiring a website designer, you have no coding skills, but you’d like to make your website yourself!
Which leaves you with the option of a do-it-yourself site builder or content management system.
If your website will consist of an application such as forums or a retail shop, or a content management system like the incredibly popular WordPress, you will be customizing the layout of the application or content management system, rather than designing a layout from scratch.
New Drag and Drop WordPress themes are now readily available, designing a layout from scratch sounds complicated but with a good theme little prior knowledge is needed.
Good website design is key
Follow these steps to get you started:
- Have a good browse around the internet, especially at sites that are similar to the one you’ll be starting up.
- When a site strikes you as being pleasing to the eye, professional, and easy to use and understand – save it in your favorites folder.
- Sketch out the design layout you want on a piece of paper. Remember that black type on a white background, and lots of white space, never fails.
- List all the important items you want to include in your website. Write the items up as a menu. Generally, you will have a page for each item on your menu.
Website colors and Elements
- Look at your the sites you saved on your favourites folder again. What are the colour schemes? How are the page elements arranged?
- If your site builder comes with templates, look to find one that suits the design you have in mind. Many site builders are not as customizable as you might imagine when you’re first starting out. Some do not allow you to have your own logo or header.
- Before adding music to your site that plays on opening a page – ask yourself this: Am I certain that the visitors to my site will like this music? Nine times out of ten, it’s best to have no music playing on your site.
- Splash pages – think carefully before you add one, especially a slow-loading splash page. Many people will click straight off your site. A splash page is a page that some people put up as an ‘entrance’ to their site. These pages are often made in Flash and consist of graphics – with a link to ‘enter’ the website. The problem is that they often annoy visitors.
- Don’t put elements on your page just because you can. Especially steer clear of animated clipart – unless your site deals with animation!
- Flashing or moving text is very distracting. If you use it, use it sparingly and be sure that it has a function and is not just a pretty graphic.
Which way does your website navigation flow
- Your menu should be logical, and your main pages shoud be accessible from every page on your site. This means having your main menu on every page.
- Menus which consist of text links are best in regard to search engines.
- Structure your menu so that no page is more than three links away from the homepage, preferably no more than two links away.
- The menu should be easily seen on the page when someone visits your site.
- You don’t need to link to every page on your site on your home page or on every page of your site. Provide logical links which visitors can follow to drill down to the information they want
Designing a website tips
The 2-second test
Website visitors may take as little as a couple of seconds to decide whether your website is useful to them or not. You need to make your website’s purpose clear and your website needs to look inviting. of course, if your website takes too long to load, your visitor may not even see your website. Using graphics/design elements high in kilobytes or megabytes may mean your site takes so long to load that many visitors do not wait before clicking away.
Many internet pages are in many ways like the pages of a book or newspaper. Lots of white space, black text and an ordered layout. It works because it’s simple and easy to read.
Graphics and color elements can add pizzazz to a website, but too much pizzazz can mean the message is lost. Often, keeping the website clean and uncluttered can allow the images within your content to stand out and get noticed.
Sometimes a color scheme can increase a website visitor’s comprehension of what the website is about. Soft, pink colors are feminine and soothing. Harsh black and canary-yellow colors are confronting. Bright orange or red can mean energy.
Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of using a mix of gradients of different colors. A gradient should not stand out.
Font and Text
Again, website pages are like books or newspaper pages. The font should match through the site. The text should be consistently the same size. The titles should be consistent. Use your header tags (h1, h2 etc) Use a font that is web-safe and easy to read. With today’s large computer screens, larger fonts generally work best 12-14 pt
No clip art or Word Art
Have you seen those awful websites with animated gifs dancing around the page? Or clip art for the sake of clip art ‘decorating’ the pages? There’s a lot of really bad clip art around too.
Word Art is great for school projects or greeting cards – not so good for website logos or titles.
Invest in a professional logo
A logo can completely change the look of a website – whether it’s bad or good. if you don’t have a professional logo, or can’t create one yourself, perhaps you could just use plain text?
All features of your websites should be in ordered alignment. If things are jumbled everywhere, it looks messy and is a turn-off to a web visitor.
If you have a white background, choose black or dark gray as your text color.
If you have a black or dark background, don’t also choose a dark text color. It can be a mistake to choose white text for a black background – the contrast can be so sharp that it makes the text tiring to read. For a black background, instead choose a very light gray or off-white or another very light color.