Basics

Like so many website developers, I am self-taught on how to design and implement websites. In 1997, I designed a website for a local real estate company and was hooked on combining my skills as a developer with the creative design process. Since that first one, much has changed in the rules and methods of good design and I am always researching what the experts are saying about good design basics and principles. Some of my favorite links are listed below.

These links have been very helpful in explaining the changes in good design basics, as well as showing some of those “what not to do” design flaws. I may not agree with everything in all of the links, but they have all contributed to the design principles I use today.

K.I.S.S.

Keep it simple applies just as much to website design as it does to anything else.  Have you ever watched the top level athletes of any sport? They make whatever they are doing look so easy, you are tempted to try it yourself.  What you don’t see is the training, muscle control, and discipline that go into that polished, smooth exhibition you see. A well-designed website should be the same: all slick and polished on the surface, with the high tech wizardry working behind the scenes.

My favorite article about simple website design was written by Stephen Van Doren for Digital Web Magazine (sadly out of “print” now, but still a wealth of great articles). It describes why simplicity is important for web design and how to achieve it. I strive to follow the principles contained in that article.

Simplicity: The Cobbles of the Designer’s Path, by Stephen Van Doren

9 Essential Principles for Good Web Design, “Posts by Collis”

Website Design Tips, by Michael Bluejay

Top 10 Tips to a Great Webpage, by Jennifer Kyrnin

Content

Have something to say.  I have a website, www.eveningskylabradors.com, that has a very limited audience. I don’t breed Labrador Retrievers and I don’t offer stud service, training, or handling. So why do I have a website?  If you can’t answer that question about your website, then perhaps you don’t really need one. If you can, then keep that purpose at the forefront of your design process. Say what you are on the web for, say it quickly, and say it clearly. And my purpose for my website? Just because I like it. That can also be a good reason.

Web Content, Writing for Websites

The Three Layers of Web Design, by Jennifer Kyrnin

Is Content Necessary Prior to Web Design? by Steven Bradley

Flash and Animation

If you use flash at all, use it very sparingly.  Same with animations: scrolling banners, flashing letters, and items flying across the screen may look cool the first time, but most web visitors will tell you it is only a distraction from the real purpose of your website. Flash and animation are two of those things where “because you can” is not a good reason for doing it.

flashsucks.org

Flashy Website Might Hurt You, by Jordan Melnick

Flash – New Technology That Slows Down Users

Sound

Four rules for using sound on your website:

*Use if it applies to the purpose of your website.  So unless you are breeding dogs that also sing Christmas carols, don’t use it on breeder websites.

*If you still insist on using sound, don’t have it play automatically. I will immediately click off a website if a soundtrack starts up when I hit the home page.

*If you are still not convinced and want sound to play automatically, then at least give your visitors a quick way to turn it off – if they stay on your site long enough to find the “off” button, that is.

*Never use sound on pages your visitors will visit or refresh frequently – like your home page.

I should note that there are exceptions that make the rule, or rules in this case. One of my clients specifically requested music to play automatically on the home page and again on her Memorium page. I fought it, but lost – after all, the customer is always right…right? So I did it and I have to say that the song on the Memorium page really does add to the emotions evoked.

Should Sound Be Used on a Website?by Adam Hayes

SEO

Ask 100 different website developers and you will probably get 100 different definitions of what SEO is and how to best achieve it. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Beginner’s Guide to SEO

SEO Web Design