Pleasant or Unpleasant is the Question

Explain Who You Are and What You Do:
- Start each page with a tag line that summarizes what the site or company does to tell users what they'll gain from visiting the site.

- Write a Window Title with Good Visibility in Search Engines and Bookmark Lists
Begin the TITLE tag with the company name, followed by a brief description of the site.

- Group all Corporate Information in One Distinct Area like an "About" section. It is the best way to link users to more in-depth information than can be presented on the homepage.

- Include a Search Box because it is an important part of any large website. When users want to search, they typically scan the homepage looking for "a search box".

- Users scan down the page, trying to find the area that will serve their current goal so Links should start by a relevant keyword. When you start each link with a relevant word, you make it easier for scanning eyes to differentiate it from other links on the page.

- To help users locate key items, keep a short list of recent features on the homepage, and supplement it with a link to a permanent archive of all other homepage features.

- You might think that important homepage items require elaborate illustrations, boxes, and colors but you are wrong. Users often dismiss graphics as ads, and focus on the parts of the homepage that look more likely to be useful.

- Don't just decorate the page with stock art. Images are powerful communicators when they show items of interest to users, but will backfire if they seem frivolous or irrelevant like showing photos of real people actually connected to the topic, rather than pictures of models.

- Use color to distinguish visited and unvisited links because tell users at a glance which pages they've already seen.

- Don't include an active link to the page on that page because these links could cause users to doubt whether they're really at the location they think they're at.

- Users hate coming across a PDF file while browsing, because it breaks their flow. Crashes and software problems. While not as bad as in the past, you're still more likely to crash users' browsers or computers and often take longer time to download because they tend to be stuffed with more fluff than plain Web pages.

- Creating a site, or a navigation that looks like an advertisement because users have learned to stop paying attention to any ads that get in the way of their goal-driven navigation.

- Consistency is one of the most powerful usability principles: when the layout is the same, users don't have to worry about what will happen. Instead, they know what will happen based on earlier experience.

- Don't open your links in new browser windows. Designers open new browser windows on the theory that it keeps users on their site and it disables the Back button which is the normal way users return to previous sites. Plus opening your links in other windows will bog down the users computer.

The importance of pleasant design

To stay or Leave:
It's important that your site look pleasing to visitors. If your site looks bad, many potentially loyal users won't go past your home page. Get together with your design department to determine the best layout, colors, fonts and graphics for your site.

Above the fold:
Just like any newspaper would place its top story above the fold, place your most important information and navigation on the first screen of each page. This way your visitors can get oriented without having to scroll down.

Which font should I use:
If possible, try to use Verdana or another clean font. Researchers claim these fonts are easiest on the eye when read on screen. They're also the most common fonts and are standard on various computer platforms.

Should I use a picture for my background or What color should it be:
Avoid using an image for your background. It will probably be large, since it needs to take up the whole screen, so it will slow down your pages' load time. Research also shows that text printed over background images is harder for the user to read. The best combination for reading is a white background and black letters. If you prefer to use other colors, keep the background light and the font dark.

Help or FAQ page:
This is a general requirement for good site design. As far as navigation goes, this page tells how to find your product or information center and how to get to the site map.

Helping your visitors:
People who visit your site are probably looking for a specific product or piece of information. Studies show the average web surfer has a short attention span; after three or four pages your visitor will probably move on to another site. By making it easier for visitors to find information you increase the amount of time they'll spend on your site. Needless to say, if you have an online store, you're also increasing the probability that users will buy your products.

Sitemap:
The user should be able to access a full textual navigation of your site's structure. Your map should include every single page on your site, usually categorized for easier navigation. Site maps not only make it easier for people to find the information they're looking for, they also provide a great way to make sure that search engines, which follow links, index every page.

More on sitemaps.

File formats:
There are many different file formats available for graphics on the web, but certain types are preferable to others.
- Avoid using .bmp (Paint) files, which are very large.
- Avoid .psd (Photoshop) files, .png (Portable Network Graphics) files and other files with less common extensions -- not all browsers support them.
- Use .jpeg or .jpg files for photographs or other complex art and save the .gif and animated .gif formats for simpler files.

New multimedia:
With so many new multimedia options, such as Flash and Director, it's hard to know how multimedia will impact your site's load time. Before you spend long hours building a full-blown sound and video extravaganza, ask yourself if the technology you're using reinforces your content and your message. If the only reason to use it is because it's cool, it's probably not justified.

Spamming:
Search engines hate tactics intended to fool them into awarding high rankings to irrelevant pages. These tactics are called "spam." Search engines strive to provide the most relevant results to their users, but spam clutters their indexes with irrelevant information.

These are usually considered spam:
- Meta refresh tags
- Invisible text and overuse of tiny text
- Irrelevant keywords in the title and meta tags
- Excessive repetition of keywords
- Overuse of mirror sites (same sites that point to different URLs)
- Submitting too many pages in one day
- Identical or nearly identical pages
- Submitting to an inappropriate category (for directories)
- Link farms
- Frames, dynamic content and Flash intros
- Although search engines won't penalize for the use of frames, dynamic content and multimedia files, they will have difficulty indexing them.

Control White Space:
Include plenty of "white space." White space in this case means open areas of the page without graphics or text. Not enough white space equates to visual noise and clutter, and can be confusing to the visitor.

Justify Text:
Speaking of text (again and again), don't center text! You can center headlines, but a page full of centered text is the first sign of a newbie web site. Most places use left justified text (because it's the default) but I prefer justified text.

Break up Text:
Break up long passages of text with headers. Strings of text that are too long become tiring on the eyes and readers tend to give up on the content faster. Readers also tend to skim pages. They'll skim right over long text passages, but if they are broken up with headers they will see those, and if you use the right wording they may stop to read the text.

Minimize Animation:
Don't use too much animation. Unless the animation is your content, it only distracts from your real content. This visual noise from excessive animation is tiring to the eyes and unless you make your own, it's all been seen before anyway.

Proofread:
Spell check your pages, but also proof read them. Spell checking will catch words you think you know how to spell, but don't (don't feel bad, it happens to everyone). Proofreading catches mistakes the spell checker won't, things like: Eye doesn't think a smell check her wood help hear.

Optimize Graphics:

Keep your graphics sizes down, both in byte size and the actual dimensions. Graphics should compliment a web site, not overwhelm it. And of course you know if it takes to long to load people will just leave first.

Don't Overdo Ads:
Don't stuff your site full of banner ads. Many users don't mind one ad or two per page if there is good content, but if you try and shove it down their throats... they will hit the back button.

Build an identity:
Keep a consistent look to your site if you're trying to earn money from it. Changing the background on every page may be OK for home pages, but for a business site it looks like an amateur that's trying to play at business. Also think about a really good, simple and strong logo.

Long Download Times:
The quicker the better. The best advice is around 10 seconds. If your site loads slower... fix it because you could lose users because they will not be patient enough. Download times is the FIRST IMPRESSION.

Breaking up the Page with Frames:
Besides being a bad design choice many frames are poorly done. Also Search engines dislike frames so you will be indexed lower than what your site should be.

Dead Links:
Make sure all your links function properly so your users do not fall into the good 'ol "error page". Users hate this page and also makes your site look horrible.

"Splash" or "Entry" Screens:
Pages that exist merely to point to another webpage may cost you a customer or a good ranking in the Search Engine index.

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