Web site design checklist and
useful online webmaster tools
If you want a popular site make sure it is quick-loading, well-designed, solidly written, easily maneuverable, thoroughly tested, pleasantly interactive and useful. You may also want to check out a few keywords before you begin basic construction.
KeywordSpy is a search engine tool which tells you the exact terms and phrases that are driving the most traffic to your competitors' website.
Site Navigation and Layout
Whether for business or pleasure, your site should deliver a clear message and the content in your site should be grouped in a logical order. A rough sketch (using pencil and paper) is a great tool to map out site navigation and layout.
There are two different schools of thought in web design. The first school of thought places emphasis on eye candy and extravagant designs. The second school of thought says content and simple layout ideas usually work better.
What ever school of thought you decide to follow keep in mind, most people scan a page and very few read word by word. Reasons for scanning include: reading on a screen is tiring on the eyes (especially when type is small and there is a lack of contrast between characters and the background) and attention deficit disorder (people use to channel surfing with a TV expect the same response with the web, so if a page is not fast loading and concise, users more than likely will move on).
If eye candy is to play a prominent role, keep it simple and tasteful. Too often a page/site is overloaded with lots of animated gifs, flash sequences, etc., resulting in a page/site that looks like something befitting an entry to a house of ill repute.
HTML and CSS
Formatting on the web is accomplished using HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language). Many graphical interface programs are on the market that allow users to layout pages that translate into HTML, but they are not one hundred percent accurate. If you have any questions you can always ask a kid about HTML.
A Cascading Style Sheet (CSS), is a flexible, cross-platform, standards-based language which allows attaching style to HTML elements. In other words style sheets enable you to control the formatting and typographical layout of your pages. With style sheets, you can make all of your HTML layout and formatting changes in one location, either in a separate file or at the top of each HTML page.
Web Graphics and Color Symbolism
There are two choices for web graphics: GIF and JPEG. Each graphics format has complementary strengths and weaknesses.
Color is a powerful component of design, nearly as important as content and navigation in determining a sites success. Color not only adds visual appeal to a site but is also important because of the message it sends to your site visitors.
Keep the colors gentle so that they dont hurt your readers eyes. At the same time, maintain enough contrast between the background and text colors to ensure readability. The combination of black text on a white background that does so well in the print medium is not a great choice for the Web (white is the brightest color, so when the background is white, the monitor glares more than usual).
Before you actually make a site public, you may want check the efficiency (compression) of your graphics and HTML pages (spaces, returns), and site accessibility to people with disabilities.
Most people in the United States use a Micro$oft, Netscape or AOL browser, but you should be aware that there are other operating system and browsers with a long history of browser development. Once your site passes a machine review, step back and recheck for basic dumb errors you may have made (like spelling and punctuation), before submitting a site to be reviewed by peers an employer a webmaster newsgroup or a site-design newsgroup. You might also want to browse WebmasterWorld (news and discussion for the independent web professional).
Meta Tags and a Title
When your site has the bugs worked out, and youre ready to submit a site to various search engines, you need describe in one paragraph what your site is suppose to accomplish. This carefully thought out description is the basis of the Title and Meta Tag Descriptions which will help search engines categorize your site.
The Title of your site (in general) should be no longer than 35 characters, and the Meta Tag Description should be between 180 to 200 characters long. In addition you have the opportunity to choose Meta Keywords which should search engines may take into account when categorizing your site.
It may be tempting to select popular keywords (such as sex, mp3s, etc.) to build up traffic, but this approach may backfire if your site becomes associated with nefarious content and is blocked by content filters.
After adding URLs
After adding URLs to various search engines, you may want to promote your site and check the availability of your web site as well as regularly testing how fast is your web site is (this depends on where and how you host the site) to make sure the people can access your work. BTW knowing who links to your site, and increasing the number of links, is an important part of any web site promotion effort.
For $250 and up, services like Internet News Bureau distribute news and feature stories to some 2,000 online journalists, who include reporters for the web sites of traditional media. Publicity, which has greater credibility than advertising, refers to free positive mentions in a variety of media. If you are blatant about self-promotion in a press release, posting, article or guide, people will ignore your sales pitch.
If you are seeking an award for your site, realize in general an award means squat (by that I mean ever see Amazon, AOL, eBay, Micro$oft, or Yahoo display awards from a fill_in_the_blank award site?), but award submitting may be a good way to get some constructive criticism. If your goal is to be a bourgeois capitalist pig, why not learn from the business plan mistakes of others.
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