Key #2: PROJECT A GREAT IMAGE
"You only get one chance to make a good first impression."
This cliché, like many time-worn and oft-repeated sayings, rings true.
For better or worse, first impressions are often visual. You need content and substance to your web site, of course, but the design and image are just as important.
So, what exactly are the crucial elements of good design? First, let's take a look at the most common design complaints:
Your design may not look the same when viewed by older browsers. Tables, colours and other elements may look different. Pages that load perfectly on one browser may crash another browser. Some visitors do not have plugins like Java, RealPlayer, and so on. Make sure to test pages on older versions of Netscape and Internet Explorer. Also, some users prefer Opera and the text-based Lynx. Is your site functional on these browsers as well?
In addition to older browsers, some potential clients may be using older and slower modems.
Do not weigh down your pages with slow-loading graphics. There are many tools available on- line to shrink image sizes and determine load time. Visitors will quickly hit the <back> or <stop> button if your page takes too long to load. They won't even see your great content if your design bogs it down!
Use animation sparingly. Avoid blinking text. Both can distract from your content. Remember someone will buy your product or service based on your description, not your dancing animation!
Each page should have a link back to the main/index page. Consider adding a navigation bar with links to key sections.
Check to make sure there are no broken links. If your site has many outside links (that is, links to pages that are not on your site), you should check them on a fairly frequent and regular basis. There are many automated bots that will do this for you.
Consider designing a site map that lays out all the sections.
We have listed a whole bunch in our Library of Links section. Also ask others what they think of your design. Since visual appeal is so subjective, it might be useful to get more than one opinion.
UPDATED: October 16, 2002
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