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Website Design

Brian H. Gill

Just about anybody can design a website these days. One major registration and hosting service advertises that you can put your site together in less than a day, using their fill-in-the-blank system. High school students routinely publish personal sites, using imagination, enthusiasm, and fairly inexpensive editing software.

The trick is to design your site well. Making best use of the Web takes a background in written communication and graphic design: and good sense.

Words and Pictures

The need for language skills is fairly obvious. The Web is still a text-heavy medium. A designer must be able to write clearly, or know someone who can, to provide content for a website.

Although copy makes up much of the Web's content, graphic design has been important in Web design for years. Arranging graphics and copy in attractive and practical patterns is as important to a Web designer as knowing how to use HTML tags.

The best website isn't necessarily the one with the coolest graphics or the latest technology. It's the one that has content which people want to find, and that leads people to that content.

Site Structure and Navigation

Leading people to the right page takes good, easy-to-use navigation. A frustrated visitor will probably be at another website in a few seconds, and isn't likely to come back

Good navigation starts with well-thought-out site structure.

Site structure, or site architecture, is a fancy way of describing the logical arrangement of information in a website. Good site structure also helps in planning and creating the website's content. Even if you didn't care about visitors getting lost, a logical order to your pages makes design of the site much easier.

For example, when I started designing Brendan's Island, I wanted to show that living in a small town was a good idea. More specific points were that housing costs were relatively low, the scale of the town was small enough to permit walking to work and to stores, and that an ultra-short commute left me with more time for family activity.

I listed these ideas, and others, fit them into an outline, and started writing. Today, the top of that outline is the I Love It Here page, with A House of Our Own, Walking to Work, and Attic Time as subheadings.

 Organizing ideas this way broke the task of writing into bite-size chunks, and pointed to the sort of navigation needed by the site.

Today, Brendan's Island has over fifty pages and four major sections.

The only place where nearly all the pages are listed is the site map. This description sounds complicated, but I've found that when the outline organization is translated into a navigation bar, it is a visually friendly display: and easy to navigate.

More Design Concerns: a Quick Overview

Designing pages for fast loading is another priority. It doesn't do a business much good to have the most impressive home page in the state, if only a select few have stared at a screen long enough for it to load: And then, installed the latest version of Flash so they can view it. An exception to this rule might be a very high-tech business that only wants the attention of those select few with very fast connections and the latest, most up-to-date systems.

Finally, the best-organized, fastest-loading website won't attract visitors without attractive content. On the Web, that means

  • Short paragraphs
  • Bulletized lists, where appropriate
  • Graphics that are
    • Eye-catching
    • Pertinent to the page's subject
    • Fast-loading

copyright 2004, Brian H. Gill

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Website Design
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So Whut ef i cant spel?

Use this website's contact form, or
send me an email, if you have questions,
or would like me to help you develop a website.
Brian H. Gill

320 352-2087 telephone
(Central time business hours, Monday-Friday only, please)


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