Web Design Advice

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ost people have seen the Discovery Channel and the amazing graphics that lead into many of their programs. The first rule of web design is to recognize that you, as an individual, cannot hope to compete with groups of well trained, experienced, motivated, well paid professionals all using the latest graphic workstations. Not any more than you could compete with those who design computer games (because no matter how much work you put into it, they're still selling far better than you could ever hope to do on your own for $1.88 in the "last year's bargain bin" in CompUSA).

And you don't have to compete.

Your intent as a Web Designer is to package web content in a manner pleasing to the eye and easily navigated ... that's all.

On the Web, content is 95% of the story ... the packaging is just that.

Consider for a moment those aforementioned great graphics on the Discovery Channel. How many people would tune in and enjoy them if there were no show to follow? How many care to see a film trailer about a film which does not exist? ... Right ... nobody.

No content = no traffic

(Unless people are looking for sample code to put on their pages to showcase their "content".)
On the other hand, if a site has no graphic "enhancement" it appears to be untended ... as though the author does not care enough about the reader to make a pleasant reading area. In turn, the reader loses confidence in the veracity of the content because ... "If he can't even make a simple background, he must be some kinda' idiot. Goodbye ..." Having established the foregoing ...

The process of creating and maintaining a web site is called

Fluff & Strip

First you fluff up your site adding files, dodads and all sorts of wonderful things that everyone is sure to enjoy ... then you take out just that one item that's a little out of place and ... no ... better take out that other thing too it looks stupid ... and maybe I don't need to put in that extra reference ... yah ... okay ... that's better.

The fluff & strip cycle may run daily, weekly, monthly or vary depending on the size of your site ... but it never goes away. You can never finish developing your site. It gets larger and more finely integrated with each cycle.

As your site grows you will find it necessary to change your navigational method. What works efficiently for 5 files won't work at all for 500.


11th Commandment (of God)

"Thou shalt not
suck bandwidth"


The foregoing is all you really need to know. The remainder below is isolated "tips" some of which may become obsolete in the future.

I will try to avoid repeating things I have read a hundred times before. You may find common tips in a standard HTML book (which you already have if you have read this far ... right?)

    Tips

  1. Never use Java if you can avoid it. When you go to a Java demo site there are four "cool" demonstrations ... the 1st one works flawlessly ... the 2nd & 3rd just sit there ... the 4th crashes your browser.
  2. Use javascript sparingly (simple scripts generally work in both Net and IE) but remember ... you can't use javascript within a table in Netscape - it shows nothing.
  3. Never use an image map ... They suck bandwidth like a motherf__er.
  4. Never put a whole bunch of stuff in a table because the reader won't see anything until the entire table loads. For a hideous example see Microsoft's Manifesto of Innocence in response to justice department intimidation. You might want to arrange to get a shave & haircut while you wait to read someanything.
  5. Never use a background sound unless you're making an amusement page. The Web is a primarily a library atmosphere and sound is equally distracting.
  6. Use images only when they help make the content clearer. Same with animation. Nobody wants to wait for stuff that's unrelated to the matters at hand.
  7. Please ... don't use 128,962 little gif buttons (each one of which I have to wait patiently for & which I don't want & which I would gladly trade for simple hyperlinked text). Why trade an agreeable text for a detestable button? How good can it look to someone who now detests it?
  8. ALWAYS give the visitor something to read immediately (if not sooner). When I see nothing for some seconds, I take it as an insult and leave.
  9. Never use a wysiwyg editor. Get a text editor and learn the simple code. Cripe, you would think html was complicated. 100 commands is about all you ever use anyway.
  10. If you want to see what your page is going to look like, load your browser with your editor and cascade them with the browser full size in the back so when you want to see your changes just click on the visible part of the browser and hit the reload button every time you make a change. This is difficult????
  11. Store your stuff on the server in a file folder system such that you can isolate the background you might want to use. Use the same img reference in each page so that you can refer each page to that gif or jpg. Then, if you want to change the look of your site you can just change one gif (or jpg) file leaving only the name unchanged.
  12. And keep your server folders with not too many files in them so it doesn't take so long to "come back" updated when you're busy uploading.
  13. Always maintain good "plumbing" and "housekeeping" or you will get confused and pay a high price timewise to correct the troubles. Doing this is not glamorous.
  14. And ... concerning content ... as ever ...

    If you have nothing to say ...
    please don't say it.



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