Monthly Archives: May 2015

Starting out in web design

If you are new to web design your head is probably spinning with questions as well as excitement to get started. Many people find that hiring a web designer is a good way to go because they simply do not have the know how to get the job done. If you don’t need your website to be up and running in the next couple weeks you can take a crash course in web design and attempt to do it on your own. Not only can you realize your creative vision, you can also save a lot of money if you do it on your own, and you just might find your new hobby. Web design can be a lot of fun!

The first thing you should have if you are undertaking a web design project for the first time is a web editing software program such as FrontPage. Many of the software programs such as this are really easy to use, and offer guidance through the web development phases. There are more complicated web design software programs out there, but you should stick with something along the lines of FrontPage because it is very easy to use, even for a beginner.

Even with an easy to use program such as FrontPage you may want to study up on the benefits of html formatting, Meta tags, and search engine optimization. All of these elements of web design work together to get visitors to your web page. No one designs a web page to sit on the Internet without being seen. Combining the use of html, Meta tags, and search engine optimization you will be working with the search engines to get listed in the results pages of search engine results. This is the first step of creating a user base, no matter what your web page is selling or what type of content you provide.

Next, it is important that you incorporate quality content in your web design. It can be a lot of fun to incorporate graphics, gimmicks, and fun elements that are associated with today’s web pages but quality content is much more important than all of these things. This is not to say that you can’t add color, style, and personality to your web design but that should not be the basis. The content of your web design should be the priority and any graphics and gimmicks should be very secondary. Search engine bots and crawlers do not recognize graphics, so if you want to be seen in the search engine results you need to have content that speaks to the bots and crawlers. Quality content is the key to your web design bringing in the traffic.< difficult to get into web design without delving into this area of the business somewhat. Remember that optimization standards are changing all of the time, so don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Your first priority should be to provide quality information, content, or services to your current and potential customers. When you feel as though you can do this you can then worry about whether or not your website meets all or some of the optimization standards that are out there. If you have a lot of content on your site you should try to hone in on popular keywords and use them throughout your articles and text. Web site design should also include links within and outside of the website. Links are basically a roadway for the search engines to follow as they browse the Internet. If you have links to your pages you will be sure that all of your pages get crawled and you have a better chance of being seen on search engine result pages.

Perhaps you don’t care all that much about search engine optimization because you are designing a family website or something to that effect. If that is the case you can use all of the graphics that you want and really not worry too much about links or html. If you don’t necessarily need a lot of traffic to your website to be happy, then you can really get creative and do some fun things. Your intentions for your web design will really influence how you should do things to be successful. Of course, one of the best things you can do in web design is to have fun because it’ll shine through in the end result!

Key steps To building a successful website

Design
Design like art is subjective. But it’s safe to say that there are some golden rules you should always strive to follow. Keep it clean, simple and elegant.

Your visitors should not have to think about what your website is about, or worse, how to use it. They should intuitively grasp your message (strong and clear call to actions), as well as be able to navigate (clear menu architecture) within seconds upon landing on your web page. Study and internalize websites that are commonly held in high regard. Reflect on how and why they “work” and develop your designs and creative eye based on that. Always design appropriately to fit your target audience and industry.

Navigation and site architecture should not exclude search engine spiders. Minimize Flash to banners and graphic animations and avoid using Javascript menus. Always include a text link based sitemap so the entire site structure is accessible for the search engines.

Coding
Always ensure that your coding is clean and concise. Use 100% CSS whenever possible. Push the important stuff (content) as high up in the HTML code as possible. The repeated blocks (e.g. Left column menus, horizontal menus etc) should be kept as low in the HTML code. All CSS stylesheets and javascript should be kept externalized. For example, .

Meta Tags, Keywords, On-site SEO
Research your industry, competitors and tools thoroughly to compile a list of keywords for your website pages. I find Google’s Adwords Tool to be very useful in determining keyword traffic, competitiveness and relevancy. Be realistic about the keywords you want to target. It’s fine to try to go for top rankings in “real estate”, but unless you have a huge budget, you’d be in for a frustrating experience. Try to go for the low hanging fruit (e.g. “City+Real Estate”) initially, and then expand from there when you have a steady income stream from your site.

Once you have compile your target keywords, be sure to follow these basic on-site SEO rules.

Content
Quality content is key for a successful website. Content that is topical, compelling and well composed will always acquire links naturally over time. Research is vital for creating quality content. You don’t need to have insider information or doctorate’s degree in your field. The information is out there, you just need to be smart about how to piece it together. For example, you can compile information that has not been presented before. (Comparison of green widgets through a 10 year cycle).

Quality always trumps quantity. It is better to have 10 solid articles, than 100 mediocre ones.

Hosting
Always try to get a dedicated IP for your domain. And ALWAYS use a host company that is reputable (doesn’t host sites from undesirable industries) and has a solid up-time.

Link Building
If you can afford it, submit your site to Yahoo Directory and Business.com. Dmoz is also a highly recommended directory, however, getting listed in one of the main categories is next to impossible these days. Try to drill down to a smaller or localized category for a better chance of inclusion.

Nearly all keyword sector has an authority web hub or directory. Take the time to review their guidelines and submit your site.

As mentioned above, solid content will get you very far in terms of attracting free links. You can also develop a widget to share (e.g. Weather.com’s free weather widget tool) that contains a link back to your website.

Reciprocal or link exchanges, do not work as well as it once did. But that doesn’t mean you should totally avoid doing this. Research and contact sites that are “authoritative” or ranking well in your desired keywords, and ask for a link exchange. Your success rate will be low unfortunately, so I leave it up to you to decide the time vs reward ratio.

The basics of web design

When you are into web design either for a career or as a hobby there are some essential facts that you must remember if you want all of your websites to look great. Web design is something that is continually changing, but despite those changes you can create many a great website with a few simple rules. Of course, the rules that you work by may increase as you go or they may change a bit but this is a good starting place.

First, always remember that what you see is not what you get when you are designing a website. You cannot design a website and assume that the way you see it is the way that everyone else will see it. How a website appears is dependent upon what web browser you use, and you can bet that not everyone who views you website uses the same web browser as you. Remember with web design that you must keep everyone is mind, not just you and your web browser.

Another important element to get web design is HTML. Many web designers mistakenly assume that HTML is simply a page description language. The fact is that HTML is a structural markup language, meaning that you are creating the structure of a document not just creating a layout. Even if you think you understand HTML quite well you will be well served to go back and review some of the basic rules that apply to HTML to be sure that you are not using it wrong. So many web design specialists use HTML in the wrong way and it affects the overall appeal of their web site.

Web design is not the same thing as word processing even if you are putting content on the website. This is a sanity saving rule that you should follow because when you word process you have control over how the page appears. When you put content on a website you have a lot less control over how the content will appear because of differences in computers, computer settings, and web browsers. While you have some control over the layout of the content you simply have to put your faith in the ability of each browser to display your content to the best of its ability.

It’s also important to remember when you are into web design that graphics are not always better than simple links or content. Graphics can really make your web design pop, but you have to remember that an astonishing number of people simply do not like web graphics and will not utilize them. If you want to use graphics that is fine, but it is important in web design to also build web pages that can be navigated easily, with or without the use of graphics.

Along the same vein as using graphics in web design you should also be careful not to use too many gimmicks when you design a web page. While some of the gimmicks are really cool and fun to use, most web browsers would rather that you had a straight forward web set up that would allow them to use the website easily and in their own way. You can use some flashy gimmicks if you must, but remember that more isn’t necessarily better. When it comes to web design, simple is often better. Learn to temper the fun gimmicks with true usability.

Probably the most important rule of web design is to remember that original content makes a great website. You can have all of the flashy gimmicks and graphics that you want on a web page, but without original, quality content your web design will fall flat every time. It seems almost too easy when you look at web design in this manner, but it is true. The thing is that most of us make web design more difficult and complicated than it needs to be. If you have original content you will find that your web page does quite well and there is no need to add any of the extras to your already successful web design. When it comes to web design simple is almost always better.

CSS tableless web sites

As we move further into the age of Information and Communications Technology, we certainly cannot expect for things to stand still long enough. Expect technology to be active, thriving, and fast-paced. Nothing is left alone; everything would have to be upgraded into newer and more innovative versions. So it is vital for those who long to remain at the wheel of ICT to be flexible and quick to adapt to changes and improvements.

Such is the reaction from web designers and developers that should have met the onset of XHTML+CSS. XHTML is the most recent version of HTML that conforms with XML, and as the latest innovation in web design, it is better suited for the present and paves the way for future developments. CSS or Cascading Style Sheets, on the other hand, is a stylesheet language designed to separate the content and presentation of the website. With the combined tools of XHTML and CSS, websites can now be made more compliant, dynamic, and easier to design.

The only thing standing in the way of XHTML+CSS and its move towards a better future of web design is the problem of converting several years’ amount of web pages designed in HTML. For any web designer, the task of converting your websites and every single page of them into XHTML sounds like a whole lot of work. However, without a justifiable excuse, it is definitely the better option to shift to XHTML+CSS for a variety of reasons. When you choose to leave your site as it is, first, make sure you are fully aware of the advantages that you choose to bypass.

XHTML+CSS documents are easier to maintain and edit, containing fewer tags and are less prone to problems. This way, you have better control over your website and you can easily pass on the control to another developer, if need be. Raise the probability of your website working in more browsers with the better code form that XHTML provides. It also cleans up the clutter of HTML and gets rid of numerous tables in your documents. The slimmer pages make for faster downloading and viewing, the benefits eventually passing on to the website users. XHTML+CSS also welcome upgrade options and future developments for your site. By converting to XHTML now, you will be preparing your site for more upgrades and improvements that are sure to come. Aside from these, since it is relatively new, you can easily be one of the first to embrace this new innovation.

There are, however, understandable constraints in converting your websites to XHTML+CSS format. Aside from the overwhelming effort necessary to convert old sites, some of the old web page editors that are being used also do not handle this new format, and the cost of upgrading may be considered a hindrance. However, Jennifer Kyrnin, in her article Converting Web Sites to XHTML+CSS, notes that buying modern web page editors doesn’t have to be expensive, and that there are actually some good editors that can be obtained for free.

With the numerous benefits of converting your websites to XHTML+CSS, there certainly are ways to work around the constraints. You may tidy up your website easily with HTML Tidy, an open source tool that can do all the dirty work of browsing through your pages. It can filter the valid XHTML in your site, and all you have to do is redesign it in CSS. In a matter of minutes, your XHTML+CSS site can be up and running.

For web designers and developers, as the forerunners of future web developments and as innovators in yourselves, being up-to-date should almost be second nature. And since your websites are your portfolio, they should all the more be dynamic and acquiescent to the future. With all the advantages of XHTML+CSS, the effort to convert your websites would definitely be worth it.