These days just about everyone has websites up on the internet. Saying “everyone” might be a bit of an overstatement. In essence, blogs such as Facebook and MySpace pages can be considered a website too. Although lacking much of the customizations compared to standalone sites. Just about every topic imagineable, can be found in the never-ending cyber-space. With all of the information available and the sheer amount of exposure of the internet, it is a given that more and more people are “designing” their own sites.
The Elements of a Well Designed Website
So, what do you consider a well designed site? Each person has different opinions. But there are some factors that are universal.
- User friendly navigation and interface.
- Clean layout and unobstructive placement of images and animated content.
We will first be discussing these 4 factors.
User Friendly Navigation and Interface
I’m sure just about everyone has visited one of those sites that just made you regret it right away. Sure, not everyone knows how to design – if they did, then a company like us would’ve been out of business 2 days ago. But there are still things to keep in mind when designing the navigation.
A well designed navigation will assist your visitors in getting the information quickly, and move thorough each sections seamlessly – without getting lost. Simple enough, yes? But this is something alot of designers fail at.
Afterall, you have created the website for a reason. You have things to say, and you want people to hear (see, read)it. Always try to keep in mind the chances that some users might not be able to properly view the website.
Clean Layout & Unobstructive Placement of Images/Animated Content
For most websites, it is best to keep the layout simple. Overly complicated layouts are a pain for most people to view. I’m sure you wouldn’t want your first time visitors to leave your site with a headache, do you? I have personally visited certain websites (which I won’t mention, ahem) that I ended up leaving with an epilepsy seizure (almost, just almost). It is best to keep your content and menu items grouped into sections. Navigations should always be in the one or two places where it’s most convenient for the visitors. Content should be placed where it is most easily viewed. Images and those cool little Flash animations shouldn’t distract the users from being able to view the text. Never over-do it. Everything is fine in moderations, keep that in mind.
Most people visiting your site is doing so because of certain information they’re seeking. Granted, some may be just visiting because they saw the website address on your business card and they’re just bored out of their mind. But if you have some interesting content, most of your visitors would be from search engines and other referral links.
You have information that people want, so it is imperative you display it properly. You really don’t want visitors straining their eyes trying to read from your website. Never use non-standard, in other words – funky, ugly, weird, squiggly (you get the point), fonts. Try to keep your fonts “standard”. Generally, the standard fonts would be Arial, Geneva, Helvetica.
Another reason why is that fonts on the web are limited. In order for everyone to view the site as you had intented is to use a font that is available (installed) on their local machine. So be very careful when choosing the fonts to use. Selecting your favorite font sometimes can look perfectly fine on your computer, but may be somewhat different on everyone else’s.
I really really hate website that use comic sans. No offense to anyone.
Although last in the list, it is the most important. No matter how great your design is, how well your navigation helps people “navigate”, how great your fonts are – none of that matters if you don’t have the content to back it up. You need to have something that someone wants. The internet is quite massive, so I’m sure you can find something that others will find interesting. This is something that’s totally upto you and something I can’t really give much advice about.
Now that I’ve explained the few main factors of a well designed website, let us talk a little bit about your other visitors – The Search Engines.
What Are Search Engines?
Honestly, if you don’t know this – you shouldn’t be reading this. Just goto google.com and type in any word and be prepared to be amazed. When I’m bored, I type in random letters into Google and see if I find anything interesting.
How To Optimize Your Website for Search Engines
*This subject has to be one of the most discussed and debated topics. There are alot of opinions and views floating around. I never say any of them are wrong. The below are from my views and perspective. But I’m pretty sure most people would agree. *(end disclaimer)
The basics apply to all search engines, but we’ll be focusing on Google. Why? Because it’s the most popular and widely used.
What affects Google search rankings:
- Title tags – Obviously, the title of the web page.
- The domain name and the names of the pages.
- Incoming links from other sites.
- Content, content, content.
Title of Your Pages
There are other factors Google take into place when ranking website, but the above are the most common ones. Now, the title of the pages are something that most people brush off. But it may be one of the most important factors in the placement of your site in the search engine. You want your title to have the keyword that represents your content. Let’s say you’re designing a website about shrimps. A bad title would be something like this:
“SHRIMP, PINEAPPLE SHRIMP, LEMON SHRIMP, COCONUT SHRIMP, PEPPER SHRIMP, SHRIMP SOUP, SHRIMP STEW, SHRIMP SALAD, SHRIMP AND POTATOES, SHRIMP SHRIMP”
Now, this is called keyword stuffing – and it is frowned upon by search engines. Believe it or not, such titles won’t get your good rankings. Just because you repeat the word shrimp over and over, doesn’t make your site more important. Google is much smarter than that. It uses pretty complex algorithms to analyze your site and its contents – and can pretty much know if it is relevant or not.
When thinking of titles, it’s best to be as specific as possible. You don’t want to choose words that are too popular (yet). I recommend you to use phrases that contain your keyword. So if one of the pages in your weloveshrimpsyay.com is about shrimp salad recipes, you’d want to make your title something along the lines of this:
“Tasty Shrimp Salad Recipes”
Although you might want to make the title a tad longer, you get the point.
Domain Name and File/Directory Names
If you haven’t purchased a domain name yet, think very carefully first. If it’s possible, it’s best to have a domain name that includes your main keyword. Your domain name doesn’t have to be your company name – unless the name is widely recognized, but if that was the case – you’d already have a website by now.
For example, I’m employed at a company called POSmatic. And one of our main service that we provide is Point of Sale software development. Look at that, there’s a “POS” in the name. And POS is the acronym for Point of Sale. Hence, we use our own company name for our domain. But if your company name is Fluffy Pink Bunnies, Inc. and you sell pork- it isn’t a good idea to use that name for your domain.
Try to find websites offering relevant information and ask them to link to you. If you’re not a high-traffic website yet, you may have to either pay them or link them back. It’s better to have your site linked one way, than to have a link out to them also – which is called a reciprocal link. But try not to link and/or get linked from suspicious website and sites that aren’t relevant to the information on your website.
Those numerous link exchange sites are generally a bad idea. In some cases, it can negatively impact your rankings. So be very careful.
Just as much as people won’t visit your site if you don’t provide the content they want, search engines will not consider your site highly. Have plenty of relevant content to keep the visitors and search engine bots happy.
One Last Thing
PageRank is not as important as people make it out to be. Having a higher pagerank doesn’t give you better ranking in SERP (search engine result page). Unless you care for the bragging rights (aka e-peen), don’t worry yourself too much over it.
About the Author: Daniel Yi is the Creative Director for Posmatic, Inc. Posmatic is a multi-faceted agency providing services ranging from point of sale, ecommerce, payment processing to web design and new media – located in New York City. For more information about point of sale systems or any other services they offer visit the Web Design and E-Commerce Experts – Posmatic.com