Friday, April 18, 2008

Five Simple Design Techniques to Add Value to Your Freelance Website

Before you build your website, you should research what makes a website attractive to visitors. A website's appeal has a lot to do with simple website design. Creating a poorly-designed website can have adverse effects, such as repelling visitors and damaging your online credibility. Follow these five do's and don'ts to ensure you design a website that emulates good usability from a visitor's perspective.

1) Splash pages add little or no value – so get rid of them.

What's a splash page? It's the first page you see when you arrive at a website. The bad ones say something like "Welcome!" and then have you wait a few minutes while audio or video loads. Your website visitors have short attention spans. Your site is competing with millions of others. Making your visitors wait will make them hit their browser's back button and go elsewhere. You should design the first page, the "Home" page, of your website with interesting content and limit the graphics to improve load times.

2) Limit the banner advertisements.

Excessive use of banner advertisements will not only force your web pages to load slower, but too many banners ads will irritate and annoy your visitors rather than entertain them. Many experienced webmasters will tell you the days of successful banner advertising are in the past. Most web surfers have learned to tune out such annoying banner ads. You can probably get away with having one or two banners per page that match the context of your web pages, but overdoing it will only make you look like an amateur.

3) Design a simple and easy to understand navigation menu.

I'm sure you have recently visited a website that left you bewildered and frustrated because you couldn't navigate yourself around and couldn't find specific information. Did you revisit this website? Most likely not, because the experience was too frustrating. Learn from your own experience and make sure you plan your site's navigation menu so it is logical and easy to understand. It's a good idea to test it on a few friends to see if they can find what they're looking for without help from you. If they can't, you need to improve it.

4) Pick your website color schemes wisely.

If you give your visitors a headache when they're at your site they'll a) leave quickly; and b) not come back. One of the best ways to achieve these undesirable results is to use a color scheme that even a colorblind person finds irritating. Pay particular attention to text. Make sure the size of your text is readable and it stands out clearly from its background. Sticking with normal black text on a white background achieves the best results. Use a free readability tester at Readability Formulas to determine if your visitors can read and understand your content.

5) Get rid of that annoying music.

You don't have cheesy "tunes" playing in the background on your website, do you? If so, get rid of them. It won't do you any favors; you'll just come across as an amateur who wants to annoy his visitors. That's not to say audio and video don't have a place on a successful website. The increasing use of broadband makes it acceptable to integrate informative and entertaining audio and video into web pages that target your audience's interests. Just make sure you allow your visitors to turn off audio and video or to adjust the volume.

It's tempting to jump right in and start building your website without much planning, but it is more sensible to spend time working things out on paper first. Planning your website design ahead of time will save you time in the long run because you will minimize your mistakes.