Part 2 of 2
We live in a technologically fast-paced world. Even brand new users today can make use of easy to master web design tools that add functionality, tools only a web programmer could have dreamed of just a couple of years ago. And that’s great, right?
Well, not quite.
The accessibility of such web mastering tools has resulted in probably thousands of “junk” websites, ones which have so much going on on every page that the average web surfer is completely overwhelmed.
Some of these web pages have as many as 7 or 8 distinct content areas contained on one screen… flashing header graphics, followed by several heavy paragraphs of text, then opt-in forms, the whole page sprinkled liberally with Google ads, Amazon ads, affiliate links, audio and/or video buttons to push, and sometimes even more.
Don’t be tempted to make such glaring mistakes. It’s unlikely that most web visitors will successfully navigate such a site. There are too many decisions to make, too many distractions. And the content is completely lost among all the flash and advertising.
So, what’s the answer?
Most successful webmasters today–that is webmasters who have repeat and regular visitors coming back to their site and who are making money and/or getting some other desired response–will tell you that what really helps is clean and simple web design. Usability is the key.
Great website designs focus on 3 basic values: simplicity, clarity, and speed.
In other words, you need a site that is visually appealing, but at the same time loads quickly and is easy to navigate.
To design a site that has visual appeal, you can make use of simple graphics, color, and graphical text.
At all costs, stay away from flashing animations and busy backgrounds. In fact, a white, cream, or light yellow background with black or dark blue text is best, if you want the majority of visitors to be able to read your text easily. Remember, simple contrast in text color/background color helps make the reading experience easier on the eyes.
It isn’t necessary to be an accomplished graphic artist to design a visually pleasing content site. Grab a photo or two from free stock photo sites, add some colored text and a tagline using a graphics program like Windows Paint, GIMP or or your program of choice, and that’s all that is needed for a header.
Navigation should be simple text links or buttons, either across the top, right under the header, or down the left or right side of the screen. Make sure the text labels clearly indicate what the user will find when he or she clicks on them.
An opt-in form and one or two simple ads can also be placed in the left or right panes, with your content in the main center panel. Your content pane should be the largest area on the screen, so that it draws the reader’s focus.
Clean and simple web design extends to the layout of your content too. Text is most readable when it is in “chunks.” This means short sentences and paragraphs of no more than 2 to 4 sentences each.
Make liberal use of colored subheadings and bullets. Sprinkle a graphic or two per page to break up the text and add visual interest. Use margins (padding) around your text, so that it doesn’t bump up against the edges of your navigation and ad panels. Lots of white space is crucial.
For more information, visit Alertbox, by Dr. Jakob Nielsen, an expert in web usability.
In summary, many beginning webmasters (and even some more experienced ones!) think that squeezing as much functionality into every page as possible is the right approach. It isn’t. What will keep people on your site and keep them coming back as well, is great content and a clean, simple, easy to navigate design.
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