Eight Rules of HTML Design to Live By

    July 1, 2005

1. Quick Loading Webpages

The Web is unique in that there are millions of pieces of information readily available. The Web is an immediate medium with very impatient users. No one will spend time waiting and waiting for your page to load while their time is short and there’s so much information out there.

Keep graphics and slow loading elements to a minimum. Break up long pages into several short ones. And, when writing html, make sure to add the width and height code for graphics. Text can then quickly be displayed without waiting for the graphics to download.

2. Informative, Useful and Community Building Content

The Web is splitting at the edges with advertisements. If you make your site valuable and interesting to guests, traffic will increase, your site will be noticed and your product will sell itself.

3. Consistency

This rule of printed communications also applies to your Website. Common elements unify the site and keep it organized. Your guests need to be reassured that they have not left your Webpages. Effective design requires a common motif for your entire site.

4. Colors and Illustrations Should Add to Your Message, Not Detract >From It

You can use colors and images to tell a story, transmit information, clarify text, provide a visual change of pace, establish structure and unity, build an image, prove a claim, or create a mood. If your image does not do any of these, leave it out.

Don’t use images just because you can. Graphics must serve a purpose. Remember, the more images you use, the longer your page will take to load and the more Web surfers you will lose.

5. Ease of Navigation

According to some studies, only 10% of users scroll beyond the information visible on the screen. Place quick links at the top of your homepage. The focus of your Website Design should be on what it can do for the visitor this minute. Nothing is more frustrating to a Web surfer than knowing the information is there, but not being able to find it.

Your links should be recognizable and obvious, and it should be simple to fly through the Webpages. Consider adding a site map so your guests can easily see what’s there.

6. Readability

The font should be large enough to easily read and should not be obscured by background wallpaper and images. Be careful to maintain the foreground/background contrast needed for easy reading. Present information that is well organized, aesthetically pleasing and reader friendly.

Text placed in short rows is easier to read and more inviting than long lines which fill the entire screen. Use columns and indents to create a readable and organized layout. Always check your spelling!

7. Fresh Content

Too many Websites seem to have sunk into a state of suspended animation. The Web thrives on newness. Whether you add content weekly, daily, or annually, do it. Make sure visitors know where to find updated content.

8. Publicize Your Site

Page Titles:

The most important piece of information many search engines use to index and rank a site is the page title. Your page title should ideally be 5 to 15 words and can include what the page is, your organization and even a short description.

Meta Tags:

A meta tag is included in a page specifically for site ranking. Meta Tag Keywords are not displayed to guests but are processed by the search engines in order to find and rank your page. Try to craft the same keywords that someone searching for your site would use.

The Meta Tag Description is the part of the meta tag most search engines will display as the description of your site. It pays to spend time on meta tags. Done correctly, they will draw visitors to your site.

Register Your Site:

Most search engines will let you submit your URL for the engine’s spider to index. Look for free services that will register your site to multiple search engines.

Banner Advertising and Links:

Try to get Websites with content complementary to yours or companies with non-competing products to link to your page in exchange for a reciprocal link. Exchange ad space with other Websites.

Body Text:

The more often your site mentions a word or phrase, the higher your page will place in searches for those words and phrases. Just don’t cram the page full of rambling nonsense.

Mark is the owner and webmaster of www.silkwormshop.com and www.buyfruitflies.com.