10-Step Plan For Effective Website Design

If you are thinking about creating a website, there are a number of key principles you should consider before setting out. If you follow this simple ten-step plan, you will be well on your way to sharing your creation with the World Wide Web community.

1. Choose a HTML Editor

Before you can begin designing your new website, you will need a piece of software called a HTML Editor or sometimes called Web Editor. Basically, this converges your visual design into a language called Hypertext Markup Language (or HTML for short). In turn, this is then interpreted by web browsers – such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer – and delivers your website contents over the Internet. Virtually all Web Editors provide you with WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) functionality for ease of use and simplicity and there are many to choose from. You can consider freeware, shareware or moving up into the commercial applications there is the Microsoft FrontPage offering or the more complicated, but much loved, Dreamweaver product. Initially, it is probably worth trying out the free or try-before-you-buy applications that are freely downloadable from the Internet.

2. Simple design and structure

It is always best to keep the basic website design as simple as possible, not only because you are just starting out, but especially because people dislike 'busy' content. Try to achieve a consistent layout across all the pages, making sure you keep logos, menus and content areas in the same place as much as possible. Think carefully about your directory structure, as websites can begin to 'grow legs' and it can be quite frustrating trying to make simple changes if you have web pages and images all in the same directory. For instance, separate out images etc within their own subdirectory. As your skills begin to develop you'll also want to think about keeping the page formatted in one .css file extension.

3. Keep the design easy on the eye

Have you ever visited a website and immediately clicked away from it because of crazy, flashing images, ticker-tape text or just downright garish colors? This is something to keep in mind as you develop your skills. Remember, what appeals to you may offend someone else's senses, so try to keep color schemes as neutral as possible, almost to the point of being bland. Why do you think Google's website is so popular? Clearly, it may be verging on the visually boring, but it does the job without fuss.

4. Simple navigation

Think about creating a simple navigation structure so the user remains in control and does not get confused and frustrated. As you begin to create third and even fourth level pages, always make sure there are quick routes back to the key pages. As a general rule, ensure there is a link to the home page and people can contact you from more or less every page.

5. Content is key

Try to make sure your content is relevant to what your website is all about. It sounds obvious, but do not just add content for the sake of padding it out and if you can keep the original original it will pay dividends in the long run. Essentially, this is because you want your visitors to return and the search engines will also give your website a higher ranking if it is full of original content

6. Webpage naming conventions

Have you ever visited a website where the individual web page URLs are so long you could never write them down? This is not good practice and it is helpful to both the search engines and visitors if the page names actually describe the contents wherever possible. For instance, if your website is all about garden ponds and you have a specific page about Koi carp, why not call it just that. Something like [http://www.mydomain.com/koi_carp] is better than ../page21.htm.

7. Titles and Meta tags

Make sure that each and every web page across your entire website carries a unique Title and Meta names that are relevant to each page. It is vital that you try to give each page a title that reflects the actual contents, as the search engines use this information when deciding the relative position of key word results. If you forget this important aspect, you will consign your web pages to the back of the search engine results queue. This is a basic schoolboy mistake that many completed website designers make from time to time, including me!

8. Domain Name

Without you plan to use free web space provided by your Internet service provider for instance, you will need to think about purchasing a Domain Name. They are so cheap that they are accessible to virtually everyone and for most people it is a worthwhile investment. When choosing the name of your website domain, you might want to try and register a name that actually reflects what your website is about. Admittedly, it is becoming increasingly difficult to register unique domain name combinations, but it is possible if you use a certain amount of creative thinking. Again, using the pond fish example, something like [http: //www.yourtownpond] fish.com is better than something nondescript like http://www.abcabc.com , as it contains relevant words about your chosen subject and even your location.

9. Hosting Package

Most people will want to buy a cheap hosting package to share their creative work with the public. With the massive competition that exists in this arena, you will only have to pay a few dollars a month for a basic offering. Try not to lock yourself into lengthy contracts, as you may want to shop around later on when you become concerned about the number of e-mail addresses, web space and bandwidth. For most people who are just starting out these are not important considerations, but they are likely to become issues for you after a while.

10. Links

The principal way in which the Search Engines determine the level of a website's popularity is to take into consideration the number and quality of links from other websites. There are lots of other factors, such as the quality of the content, but you must remember that you need other websites to link to your website to achieve a reasonable search engine ranking. There are companies that will offer a service to achieve this for you, but it is not difficult to do. It will take you time, effort and patience, but it is worth it in the end. Essentially, you will need to contact the web administrator of those websites you want to share a link with, offering to exchange links. You may only receive responses from 1 in 15 attempts, so be prepared to 'waste' a lot of effort.