You’ve finally set off to design a great web site. You have a good grasp of Flash, a great understanding of JavaScript and Microsoft FrontPage. In addition, you’ve got great ideas for content and you’ve even gone through the Web Site Design Do’s and Don’ts and got some great ideas on how to design your web site better. The problem is that with Microsoft FrontPage alone your site will be limited by the code it produces. Throwing up a lot of Flash and using JavaScript will limit it even more. HTML, the heart and soul of the World Wide Web, at its core is a simple language. Shouldn’t simple web sites be the result of it? No? How about simple looking web sites with great content? Now you get the idea.

Cut the clutter and increase the content. The best way to keep people coming back to a web site is to make sure they can find things they want quickly and also make sure that there are new things on the web site every time they show up. If you’re currently running an all Macromedia Flash web site, more power to you. If it the web site looks great, even better. But, is the content easy to find? Let’s say you’re looking at using a lot of graphics on your web site, if the graphics are the content then perfect. If the content of your web site isn’t the graphics then that’s not good. Keeping a clean, text only web site is boring too. The idea is to balance everything out, the right amounts of graphics, text, content, HTML and scripting make a great web site. Too much of any one of those things could make a great web site bad or a bad web site terrible.

Take the world-renowned search engine, Google for a prime example of simplicity. The main reason people go to Google is to search. The additions of newsgroups, news feeds, image searches, and directory searches all came after Google the search engine began. The home page is simple with the things users want most appearing dead smack in the middle of your screen. You too should accomplish this with your web site. Putting content where your users can actually see it without having to search your web site is the easiest way to make them happy. Making that content appear quickly by not overloading your web site with graphics or unnecessary “LOOK WHAT I CAN DO” client-side scripts and Flash is going to help generate return visitors.

Creating a clean and simple web site makes for easy web page design. All the pages should flow smoothly and content creation will be much simpler. If the majority of your content is text then all you need is HTML to make that content presentable on the web. If your web site’s focus is graphics then you will need to use HTML to augment the graphics in such a manner that they don’t overpower any text used. Your HTML should be within standards to ensure cross-browser compatibility. Most importantly each page should have a purpose and that purpose should be explained on each page. The entire web site should “flow”. It should easily move between topics, across topics, and within topics. The users and guests should not have to think to move about on your web site, navigation should come naturally. The framework of designing a good, clean, search engine friendly web site is laid out in the Web Site Design Do’s and Don’ts, if you’re reading this article you’ll definitely want to read the Do’s and Don’ts next.

Black text on a white background is probably your best bet for just about anything that requires reading (take this article for example). Think about it. Books, newspapers, magazines, and just about everything else you read on paper is black on white. Don’t try and reinvent how people read. Keep it simple and clean; use the de facto standard that everyone appears to find best. If black on white is too boring for your taste then stick with a dark colored text and a light colored background. Standing out in the crowd is a good thing on the World Wide Web. However, standing out in the crowd in a bad way is never good.

The number one advantage of keeping a web site clean and simple is speed. On the Internet, speed kills. If your web site loads too slowly then your web site won’t get visited much. Things that help speed the process up are use of server-side scripts (PHP) as opposed to client-side scripting (JavaScript). The server processes server-side scripts once the page is loaded. Client-side scripts are pulled down to a visitor’s computer and processed on their machine. Keeping your web site’s content on your web server is always a good idea (this includes processes). Reducing the number of graphics used on any given web page helps as well. Graphics enhance web pages they don’t improve web pages. Too much text on one page will definitely hamper web page load time but if the entire page is text then it’s not too big of a problem. Speedy web sites make for happy users. Happy users make for popular web sites.

Keeping things simple and easy isn’t hard. It takes a little design time, some restraint, and good intentions to create great, simple web sites. If you’ve read this article I would highly recommend you going over the Web Site Design Do’s and Don’ts. You can make your web site better by making it simpler.

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