Design Tips and Tricks

1- Creating a Website with Flash:
Despite the good intentions, most of the Flash that Web users encounter each day is bad Flash with no purpose beyond freezing your browser. Gateway pages and Flash intros are almost extinct because they are so bad that even the most clueless Web designers won't create them, even though a few even more clueless clients continue to want them.

Flash is an environment that isn't boring, can be compelling but also decreases the users attention and drives them away.

2- Non-Standard Links:
Visitors really enjoy, and also Search Engines, a regular link because it will take them to a defined destination and not an advertisement. The standard link doesn't move, flash, jump or make noise so it keeps the voyage simple.

The following are the main guidelines for links:
- Text links, use colored, underlined text (don't underline non-link text).
- Differentiate visited and unvisited links.
- Don't use "click here" or other non-descriptive link text.
- Avoid JavaScript or other fancy techniques that break standard interaction techniques for dealing with links.
- In particular, don't open pages in new windows (except for PDF files and such).

3- Optimizing Your Site for Search Engines:
Many Search Engines reduce your chances of being seen because they're unable to handle typos, plurals, hyphens, and other variants of the query terms. A related problem is when search engines prioritize results purely on the basis of how many query terms they contain, rather than on each document's importance. So when you want to optimize your website, focus on these and "real world" keywords and you'll see your visitors start flowing in and more to follow.

4- A little word called DESIGN:
A huge mistake I always see when I am consulting for other web masters is that they get caught up in making their site cute and flashy. They love the little animations, mouse trailing items, flash buttons and dramatic backgrounds. What they fail to consider is that these things are worthless if you don't offer good content, easy navigation and a logical flow. Without these, your site won't sell.

First of all, don't try to be everything to everyone. Design your site around a theme and stick with that theme. Don't confuse your readers with links all over the page or a menu that is so long you have to scroll down for minutes upon minutes to get to the end. Design a logical flow. Lead your viewers to where you would like them to go and where they want to end up. Leave plenty of "white space" to keep your pages organized and less confusing. Clearly state at the top of your pages what the page/item is about and what you would like them to do. Don't add other nonsense because you feel it's important... stick with that theme and only that theme (consistency). And with that theme, I don't recommend popups. I find that the majority of internet "surfers" find them annoying and with pop-up blockers now given away to anyone who wants it like a bad piece of candy so I bet 1 out of 2 visitors has it on... so why bother?

Now with all this talk about a "theme" you need to provide information on your site that will help viewers 1- solve a problem, 2- get them what they were looking for, 3- the knowledge they were hoping you would have, 4- the security that your site isn't just a "fad" and will be an internet "player" for months/years to come. Offer information that they might not get elsewhere. Sometimes that information is called... the truth. Write real-life reviews, and/or accept written reviews from your clients about your products. Being truthful and informative will give your clients a reason to come back... and it will also build trust (trust is the most important element).

5- Include a Site Map:
Site Maps let visitors know what information you have, how it's organized and where it is located with the least amount of time/clicks possible (the in/out theory or grab and go theory). Having a Search Box isn't a reason not to have a "site map" because, in some cases, the Search Box isn't 1- updated enough and 2- may not index the right keywords/phrases.

Site Maps also provide "spider food" for Search Engines. They love plain old text links. Having a Site Map can increase your chances of becoming indexed because the map allows the search engines to easily visit every page of your site. Can your Search Box do this?

A site map works best if you include a link to your site map in the navigation of every page on your site.

Finally, don't let your site become old. I have personally found that my rankings improve when I add/ update new or old pages to my site and keep the content new and fresh.

More on Sitemaps. Click here.

6- Communicating Yourself, Your Ideas and Your Products.

7- Where are the Prices:
Price is the most specific piece of info customers use to understand the nature of an offering, and not providing it makes people feel lost and reduces their understanding of a product line. Ecom-sites often make the mistake of forgetting prices in product lists, such as category pages or search results. Knowing the price is key in both situations because it will let users differentiate among products and click through to the most relevant ones.

8- Legibility Problems:
Bad fonts, small font sizes, bad taste in contrast between text and background. Do I need to say more?

Colors on the web
http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/assistance/HA010429371033.aspx

I am sending you there because 1- it's already written and covers all the bases and 2- I'm tired and I don't want to type anymore. But I did give you some quickies below... just in case you too are tired.

9- Horizontal Scrolling:
Visitors really hate scrolling left to right. Vertical scrolling is okay, because it reminds the user of a magazine. Web pages that require horizontal scrolling in standard-sized windows, such as 800x600, are particularly annoying and cause your visitors to leave and never return.

10 - Infrequently Asked Questions in FAQ:
Too many websites have FAQs that list questions the company wished users would, or won't ask. FAQs must be reserved for frequently asked questions, since that's the only thing that makes a FAQ a useful website feature.

11 - Collecting Email Addresses Without a Privacy Policy:
Users are getting very protective of their inbox. Every time a website asks for an email address, users react negatively and in many cases make up a fake address. So don't assume that people will sign up for a newsletter just because it's free. You have to tell them, right there, what they will get and how frequently it will hit their mailboxes. Also, you must provide an explicit privacy statement or an opt-in check box right next to the entry field.

12 - VERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRy Long URL:
Long URLs break the Web's social ability because they make it virtually impossible to email, type, remember or verbalize to a friend. If a person can "cut and paste" your address and email it to a friend and the URL breaks across multiple lines in the email, most recipients won't know how to glue the pieces back together.

The result? No free "word of mouth" advertising because your URLs are too long. Bad way to lose business.

13 - Email Me or Contact Links in Unexpected Locations:
When you visit a website what do you expect? To spawn an email program that demands that you write stuff rather than read the site itself.

Contact links should indicate that they're email addresses, either by their format, name@youdonkey.com, or their wording (contact customer support). Don't place Contact links on names because they usually lead to their biography not a mailbox.

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