Creating better Web sites

Dated: 11 March 2001

Some sites are so good and catchy that we stare amazed at them for a few seconds that we forget the very reason we came there. And some other sites are so easy to use that we keep coming back to them. What goes into the creation of a site that will drive people to it? The first key is improving user-experience. This article delves into some of the factors that will help you create a better site.

The world is your audience

On the web you can never predict your visitors, although only those who are interested in your site and what it offers will surf in. Choose common words that are in everybody's vocabulary while writing for your site. This will help to make it readable for more people. So the first tip is that it helps to write for everyone.

Design for everyone

Not everyone uses the same browser. Some people might even be using text only browsers like Lynx to view your site. So be prepared to test your site with as many browsers as possible.

When it comes to HTML, Internet Explorer is the most tolerant of all browsers. Netscape is very strict. So it is a good thing to test with Netscape first.

Make your own little Web

It is always a good idea to have link to similar pages in your site. This would help your users see all related pages on your site. And, of course, more hits for you.

Another tip is to ensure that no part of your site is hidden from any of its pages. One good idea is to have a path bar (like Home > Computers > Internet) on the top of the every page, so that navigation within your site becomes very easy. This technique can be seen applied in all Web directories like Yahoo, Google and AltaVista.

Don't keep them waiting

Lighter sites load fast. Animated gifs, Flash animations and the like add size to your site. They do give beauty, but a site that never loads may turn people away. Taking into account effective bandwidths that we get now, a total size (inclusive of all images) of less than 40K is advisable. So design your site to load fast.

Pages with tables actually show slower, because most browsers display the table only when all the contents inside the table are available. This can be alleviated by rewriting the code to make each row of the table into a separate table itself.

Eliminate clutter

Anything that distracts the user is clutter to him. It may be colorful animations, blinking text, fancy stuff that move along with the mouse; the range is limitless. These things are not so easy to the eye. So keep them away or atleast minimal. Static (not animated) GIFs, if used properly, are more than enough to make a very appealing Web site.

Make it readable

The same old rules of legibility that we were taught in school are still valid in cyberspace. Leave proper margins on all sides. Ensure proper spacing between paragraphs. Keep text at a readable size.

Stick to readable and standard fonts like Verdana, Arial, or Times New Roman. One problem with using fancy fonts is that if they are not available in the visitor's computer, they are substituted with the default fonts.

Add life to your site

Colors set a tone for your site. It gives life to the pages. Business sites would look better in formal colors. Choose a color that renders the right feelings of your site.