Graphics Online – Web Design Guidelines
There are two main tasks involved in creating a website, design and development, both of which are made up of a number of smaller tasks. This article is intended to give you a better understanding of what is involved in website design and the smaller tasks it is comprised of.
What is Website Design?
Website design involves planning out everything related to your website and it is not something that should be rushed or overlooked. Quality website design will make the development of your website an effective and efficient process, not to mention that it will make your website far more successful in the long run. Website design is a collaborative process; you need to work closely with the designer(s) and your target audience to determine the best form that your website should take.
During the design phase you should discover how you are going to integrate a user-friendly interface that provides excellent usability. You should also research your target audience and discover who your users are truly going to be, what they want, and how they want it. After all, the users are the reason you are creating a website and they are what will make it successful. If you design your website to suit your needs and work in the way you want it to then you may realize that what you produced is very different from what your target audience desires. Research and collaboration are essential when it comes to successful website design.
Usability for your users is the key factor to keep in mind when it comes to website design; usability is the ease of use of a website. Essentially good usability will allow the user to access your website and do what they came to do without getting frustrated. Navigating around and making use of the functionality of a website should be made as easy as possible, without simplifying to the point that the user can no longer effectively and efficiently accomplish what they intended to do. Some examples of what causes good and poor usability when it comes to a website follow:
- Fast page loading
- Contingency design
- Categorized and organized
- Easy to navigate
- Effective error management
- Intuitive navigation
- Slow-loading pages or images
- inconsistency in navigational functionality or the sites layout in general from page to page
- Too much visual clutter
- Overwhelming amounts of textual content
Discovering Your Users
A website needs to be designed with the visitors in mind, if what you produce is not what they desire then your website can’t be expected to become much of a success. It is crucial to do some research or socialize with your clients and get to know what interests them most about your company, what are their characteristics? Are they elderly, are they teenagers, are they wealthy and typically have top of the line computers or are they deprived and likely have a sub-par computer or internet connection. This kind of information needs to be relayed to the designer(s), if there are particular things that, for the users’ sake, should be avoided on the completed website it is essential to identify them in the design phase rather than after the development phase is complete.
One of the biggest complaints users will have, when it is an issue, is a slow-loading website. If you know that your target audience generally won`t have the best internet connection then you should avoid making your site too flashy and image heavy. Some other great questions to ask yourself and/or your clients follow:
– How tech savvy are they?
– What browsers, software, and hardware will they have?
– What quality of internet connection will they have?
– How patient can you expect them to be when it comes to accessing your website?
– How much help must be made available for them?
– Will they understand technical jargon?
– Do they speak fluent English?
– What do users need and expect from the site?
– What are their tasks and goals?
– What information will they need and in what way would they want to receive it?
There are essentially four different ways to categorize the content of your website:
- Hierarchical (certain pages lead to other specific pages)
- Sequential (one page leads to the next page, in steps)
- Narrow and deep (fewer but longer pages)
- Broad and shallow (more but shorter pages)
If one of these four categorizing systems seems to fit your target audience best, then go with it. Regardless of how you categorize your content though, you should always give your user a variety of options to expedite the process of getting certain common tasks done. By giving the user multiple options you give them control, and when the user has control over how they do things they will consider your site easily usable, remember, usability is key. Some great tips on good website design guidelines, and things to avoid, follow:
Good Design Tips
- Use web-safe fonts, such as: Arial, Helvetica, or Verdana
- Keep screen resolution in mind, many people use 1024×768 resolution
- Some user groups will want tons of instructions, others won’t want any
- Include search functionality, just make sure it works properly instead of confusing or frustrating users
- Try to keep users informed as to where they are and how they got there, use a breadcrumb and/or sitemap
- Dark text on a light background is easiest to read
- Stick to two to four different main colours
- Ensure the sites layout, design, and navigation are consistent from page to page
- If your user has to wait for something to load then provide visual feedback on the content`s progress
Things to Avoid
- Avoid too much text, generally people dislike reading a lot, unless they’re expecting to, like an article for example
- If possible avoid having pages that are really long, causing the user to have to scroll a lot
- Clutter, whether it is textual or image based
- Using too many unique colours
- Avoid too many animations, if too many things are moving on the page the user will be distracted
- Inconsistent design
- A flashy site is OK in certain circumstances but if it causes the site to load slowly enough that the user can’t do what they intended to do then they will get frustrated and classify the site as useless