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Website Design & Development Tips

Whether creating a brand new website, or redesigning an existing web application (webapp); a different set of tactics must be used unlike other traditional offline print mediums such as a newspapers, books, or magazines.

There are numerous factors to be taken into consideration to make a website or webapp as effective as possible.

For this reason it is important to note some general tips that should be adhered to when planning for a new website, or re-designing an existing site or webapp.

General Design Tips

  • Make sure the website design & layout is mobile-friendly and appears consistent and accurately on all devices (smartphone, tablet, desktop, etc.) for ease of use and consumer confidence.
  • Use one responsive site to avoid requiring users to visit a different website or use different navigation depending upon the device they are using.
  • Forget page counters as they look messy and amateur. The website's hosting account statistics or Google Analytics will be able to reveal a great deal more about website traffic and consumer behavior than a hit counter.
  • Flashing, scrolling or blinking text is often too distracting and again looks amateur. If there is a need to draw attention, it can done with a professional graphic image or using bold or stylized text.
  • Keep the website look and feel consistent throughout all the web pages. This is a main key to making a website look professional.
  • Keep the website navigation in the same place. Visitors are often frustrated and leave websites where the navigation menu constantly moves and changes.
  • Don't use irregular navigation. For the most part, people are used to (and expect) top, right or left hand navigation menus. Non-standard navigation setups can cause confusion and caue the visitor to leave the website when they can't easily find where to go next.
  • Attempt to keep website pages around 100k maximum in size. This keeps the website loading fast regardless of browser (Safari, Firefox, Chrome, IE, etc), connection speed (high-speed cable, WiFi, cellular), or computer platform (e.g. smart phone, laptop, tablet, etc).
  • Don't use busy backgrounds. The goal is to focus the visitor's attention on the content ( business information, services, products, etc), not the background of the website.
  • Avoid using ALL CAPS as this too can be distracting. As well, in the online world this is considered "yelling" at the reader.
  • Avoid using italics or bolding on anything more than a few words at a time to draw attention. Anything more is distracting, and the italic or bold looses it effectiveness.
  • Keep the website color scheme simple. Too many bold colors, or too much design can be distracting or offensive.
  • When using images as buttons or links, make sure they look like they should be a link or button. Make links obvious to navigate the site.

Website Function Tips

  • Flash should be avoided when possible as it is not 100% cross platform compatible. As well, many users might have disabled Flash plug-ins, or not yet installed.
  • Many of the same features found in Flash and similar technologies can be found by utilizing HTML5 which is cross-browser compatible on all platforms including iPhone and iPads. As many may know, Flash does not work on iPhone, iPads, etc.
  • Keep away from frame-sets. Frame-sets can often cause many issues with browsers and search engines. Overall, frame-sets are not friendly for search engines, or mobile-browsers.
  • Keep away from using background music on a website page. Not only are music files often large and take time to download, but no one likes going to a website and suddenly being startled by music playing unexpectedly.
  • Avoid using pop-up windows. Lots of browsers have pop-ups disabled due to spam pop-ups. Often visitors find pop-ups annoying.
  • Avoid automatically resizing visitors browser windows. Instead, either make the website fluid and respond automatically to the visitor's window size.
  • Make sure the website has custom 404 error pages setup should someone encounter an error on the website.
  • Make sure the website can be viewed in all browsers, including the extremely popular internet capable smart phones and tablet-computer browsers including iPhone and Android phones.
  • Avoid chat rooms and message boards unless the website has a very large base of visitors. Nothing looks worse than an empty chat room or bulletin board.
  • Avoid javascript heavy websites. Javascript is okay to use sparingly as absolutely needed; but in general, javascript should be avoided as it is not always 100% cross browser compatible, and many people have javascript turned off. Some browsers on smartphones may not display javascript.

Search Engine Ranking & Optimization Tips

  • Avoid using tricks (often referred to as black-hat) to gain better search engine ranking.
  • Search engines are constantly changing and learning to recognize black-hat tricks. Some consequences might just be a lower ranking while other search engines have been known to blacklist and ban sites for good!
  • Using one responsive website (instead of a desktop version and mobile version) will assure Google, and other search engines, index all pertinent content, not just the mobile content as Google is currently doing.
  • Natural search engine optimization will give a website the best long-term effect.
  • If there is a need for immediate traffic, consider a campaign similar to Google AdWords (now Google Ads) or SMM (social media marketing) such as Facebook Ads.
  • If Local SEO is a major factor, make sure the website is accurately listed in all major directories. Google uses such directories to help establish authority on business locations and contact information; the more accurate the information across all directories, the higher the potential ranking in search results.
  • Avoid redirecting visitors from one domain to another unless absolutely necessary. This is bad for search engine optimization as well as confusing for some visitors who might not understand what is going on. If a redirect must be done, a 301 Redirect is the best SEO method.
  • Page titles should be short and concise, yet make sense to a reader. Preferably the titles should utilize important keywords or phrases, while using semantic H tags (such as H1, H2, H3, etc).
  • Avoid "under construction" or "coming soon" pages. Instead, put up a simple page that at least describes the service coming soon, and perhaps allows users to register for more information. A blank under construction page not only looks bad to visitors, but can actually hurt website search engine ranking.
  • Create a site-map that works as a general directory to all the website pages. If the website uses a dynamic CMS type system this can probably be easily accomplished with a couple hours programming.
  • Be sure to use the proper "ALT" and "TITLE" tags for images and links. These tags are important for search engines and optimization; they tell the search engines what the image is about, and what to expect on the other end of the link.
  • Keep website links and navigation simple stylized text as much as possible for good search optimization.

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