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Good Web Site Design

There are very few web pages on the internet that clearly state what is good web site design and what is not good web site design. That's because it's completely subjective, like what is beautiful and what is not beautiful. So it takes a highly opinionated strong ego like this one to step in there and say "OK folks, this is what it is." Now I jumped on board the internet back in 1994 after I began to believe that not only would it be "The Next Big Thing", but that it actually does offer the human race the potential to connect all our minds together in an entirely new way. When I decided to create my own web site, I first had to take a good look at as many music and other web sites as possible in order to learn what not to do before I could visualize what I should do. I've visited thousands of web sites since then, I've talked to countless net surfers about what they like and don't like, and we all tend to agree on some major points:

Bad design includes the following qualities:

1. Text that is hard to read, including use of tiny fonts against black backgrounds and illegible fonts against picturesque backgrounds.
2. Anything that slows page downloading speed. Net surfers are impatient and they will exit out of any site where pages take too long to download or have plug-ins that have to be downloaded in order simply in order to view your page.
3. Lack of a clear "Mission Statement" on the home page. Web surfers want to know immediately what a web site is about. They don't want to have to read several pages to get it and then decide the time spent wasn't worth it.
4. Lack of clear instructions on the home page explaining how to get essential information from the site. Web surfers want to surf with speed, not study in a library.
5. A home page that requires you to click on something to enter the site (that's called a portal page). What's the point? You've already entered. Why in the world would you care to enter twice? Would an architect design two doors you'd have to go through to get into a bathroom? Would a sane contractor ever build it that way?
6. Confusing site organization, difficult navigation, dead links.
7. Boring writing. Not much can be done about this one. Creative writing isn't available from a web site designer at any price. If they were creative writers they wouldn't be doing web site design.

Good design includes the following qualities:

1. Text that is easy to read. Don't be afraid to use a large bold font against a light colored background.
2. The fastest downloading speed possible. If you're going to have a lot of photos, consider grouping them into one photo section so that people will expect that portion of your site to download slowly. Avoid gimmicks like flash graphics. And for goodness sake, don't make people download a plug-in just so that they can view your page.
3. A clear mission statement on the home page explaining what the site is all about.
4. Something on the home page that explains what the other pages are all about.
5. A home page that is a home page - none of that "enter" nonesense.
6. An organized site that has structure which can be easily understood.
7. Entertainment value. This is where good writing skills come in. Think of your site as if it were a novel or a hit record. You have to grab our interest immediately and then hold it by entertaining us. There's no better way to do that than with your personality through your writing.

Design professionals may try to project your personality but they often prevent it from shining through by using the same techniques they use on their other web sites. It's much better to be yourself and create something which they might call amateurish then it is to end up with something that looks and reads like everybody else's web site. Understand that the internet web site is the last true art form of the 20th century, so try to be creative. Think outside the box. And then create your own box.

About the Author: Peter Cross is a former professional drummer and a singer/songwriter/producer/Web Master who was among the first to put music on the Internet in a downloadable format in 1996. You can find this article at: Good Web Site Design. Examples of some of the first downloadable rock and roll music can be found at: John is Alive, The Girl of My Dreams, and Favorite Toy. His home page is at: Rock and Roll with an Immortal Soul where his copyright is displayed right above the “Greatest Rock Sites on the Web” designation.

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