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Do's and Don'ts

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After almost three years online, I've collected some "do's and don'ts" for building your web site. These tidbits come straight from the perspective of the site visitor ... but they have been substantiated in discussions among professional web site developers as well.

Let the list begin. (Letterman has nothing on us!)

Do ...
  • use height and width tags on your art (pages load faster and we get an idea of how large a file might be before we decide to view it)
  • remember ALT (alternative text) tags (for non-graphical browsers and all of those visitors with graphics turned off)
  • tell us how large files are (before we follow the link to a huge graphic, HTML page or other document type) and use thumbnails for intros to large art
  • make the title very descriptive and distinctive (when it's bookmarked, we'll remember why we wanted to save it)
  • strive for balance between graphics and text (too much of either is boring)
  • know what you are trying to accomplish (easier to generate content)
  • provide an easy-to-find e-mail contact (in other words, put one on every page)
  • follow the journalist's inverted pyramid - important things at the top (many visitors don't make it beyond the first screen)
Don't ...
  • have a stylistically (shape, color, size) different icon for every bullet (we don't want to download all that art)
  • violate white-space balance (our eyes need a break)
  • put too much information on a single page (50K is bandied about as a maximum)
  • use the phrase "click here" (links are like signposts, they should be descriptive; besides, everyone doesn't "click" to follow a link)
  • use senseless animations (they use bandwidth, crash browsers and detract from what we are looking for or trying to read)
  • use frames (they are not HTML3.2 compliant and can't be bookmarked, but if you absolutely must, give us a prominent "no frames" option link)
  • make something look like it's a link if it's not (this is confusing the user interface; eg, underlined text and beveled graphics are supposed to be links)
  • change default link colors (at least without realizing the result is a new navigation schema for your visitors ... and if you must change them, don't make both non-visited and visited the same color!)

dotParagon, web services
specializing in content, design, research

Copyright Kathy E. Gill, 1996 and 1997. Comments?

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