Top Ten Tips for Web Page Etiquette

When designing a web page, many details have to be kept in mind. The effort can be daunting, but a well-designed web page is worth it. As a list to consult in the wee hours as you’re finishing off your creation, I present Dave’s Top Ten Tips to Web Page Etiquette:

10 – Small is Beautiful

A large Web page is a pain to download. Yes, there are exceptions where the size of the file is necessary. But it’s far more likely someone just went overboard with the exotic backgrounds and way too many graphics. Use carefully selected images to maximum impact, and get a good image compression utility. Even with the popularity of broadband, there ARE people still using dial up modems.

9 – Be Kind to ‘Others’

There’s are people out there without FireFox or Internet Explorer (we sorrow for them, but they are there). Exotic effects may not translate well, such as browser-specific Javascript or CSS. Test on various browsers, and have a fall-back plan when and effect fails. Make sure their impression is the best possible.

8 – Special Effects Should Be Special

A common situation with new designers is the font glut; trying to put more fonts than necessary on a page. The result is rarely well received (unless you’re trying to compose a ransom note, in which case it is never well received). Likewise, a Web page can be dotted with too many font styles and sizes, a variety of picture ‘looks’, various colors and effects on each page, and so on. It’s a rare web site that can break this rule and not appear amateurish.

7 – Push the Envelope at Your Own Risk, not Others

Javascript, Flash, and other effects are great, but browsers may optionally NOT use them – what then? I once had a browser without Flash – and I was actually stopped at some sites, since there was no further navigation on the home page for non-flash users. Beware.

6 – Make it a Good Read

Even with lots of pictures, an important feature of every web page is the text. Is yours readable? Most browsers allow you to customize the default font, but it can be overridden. There’s a reason most every printed page you look at has a similar looking font; everyone is trying to use a text style that is easy on the eyes. For short text, all capitals or non-standard fonts are fine, but for paragraphs of text, consider the standard text styles. And while we’re on the subject, black text on white is still the most readable.

5 – Size Up Your Screen

The display window on a browser can vary over a wide range. Buttons, screen resolution, computers (for instance, Macs have a different screen width than Windows computers) all contribute to a page not looking exactly the same on different viewers. Avoid extremely wide bitmaps, large tables, or trying to format text placement exactly.

4 – Make Traveling a Breeze

Are links easily visible? Do you have both text links and graphic links (in case someone visiting doesn’t display the graphics?) Does your pages follow a pattern that’s easy to follow, or do new pages sprout out at random? If the Web design is erratic, that transmits itself forcefully to the viewer.

3 -Imitate, Don’t Plagiarize

Having a fire-engine red site with white lettering is one thing; adding the words ‘Coca-Cola’ in that company’s distinctive lettering is another. Imitate styles that catch your eye, but don’t imitate too closely. Besides the possible legal infringement, you are going to be viewed by some of the toughest critics, Internet visitors. And if they think it’s a rip-off, you won’t win any Web popularity awards.

2 – Edit, Edit, Edit

If you’ve ever experienced a magazine deadline, you know the amount of editing needed. The words you’re reading now don’t just happen; they’re the result of careful editing. Don’t scrimp on a Web page. One misspelling will shine like a beacon to a visitor. Poor grammar announces poor editing skills. Edit until you’re satisfied, and then edit some more. And then some more. Then use a good spell checker and check for grammar. If it seems like a lot of work, then you’re getting the idea.

And my #1:

1 – Test, Test, Test

Nothing is as infuriating as visiting a Web site, and jumping on to a link that doesn’t exist anymore. Or having a cool applet or download fail for some mysterious reason. Once the page is up there, visit it, and visit it often. Take the tour you expect visitors to go through. Push all the buttons, follow all the links, and play all the audio extensions and Java applets you have. And every mistake you find, fix it, and go through the whole process again., And do it constantly. One thing the users of the Internet come to expect is instant gratification. For better or worse, if you deny them it, they’ll take it personally, and might avoid your site in the future.

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