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Website Development General Hints & Tips
Note: Since we are not web site developers or experts, we cannot help with the actual creation of your web pages. However, because so many of our clients ask for advice on this subject, and because it can be so difficult to find answers to some of these questions, we have put together this section of Website Tips. Please understand that these are meant as suggestions only, not "rules". It is up to you to decide which, if any, of them should be applied to your website, and how. We hope that you find some of the suggestions given here helpful to your online endeavor.

Download Time

The importance of keeping a page's overall file size to a minimum can not be over emphasized. How many times have you gone to a website that took too long to load, and left in frustration, never to return again? This is not to say that you cannot or should not make good use of graphics and other visually interesting applications in your web pages. The Internet is a visual medium after all, and pages of nothing but text can send a visitor clicking away just as fast as a long download time. The key is to place such items wisely. Here are a few tips to help you create smarter web pages.

  • File Size...Add 'Em Up!

    Remember that each HTML page is a file that your browser must load for viewing, along with each file embedded into the page. A common error is to check the file size of the HTML page, forgetting that the graphics, Java applets, sound clips and any other embedded files will not be reflected in the HTML page file itself. That is because they are not actually a part of the HTML file. They are "called" for by the HTML code in the page. This means that if your HTML page is 10KB, and you have 5 graphics in the page each 10KB in size, then a browser needs to download not 10KB, but 60KB, before the page can be viewed.

  • Lead In

    Keep your home page as simple and straightforward as you can, and with the fastest download time you can manage. The first thing you want to do is get your visitors into your site. Let your visitors know where they are, and what you have to offer, without making them work for it.

    Once your visitors are inside, they will be more likely to wait a bit longer for a page to load if it is something they specifically want to look at, learn about, or purchase. Now is the time to begin adding some of the "extras" , such as a sound file, or a few graphical buttons, bullets, or images. But don't over do it...remember..this is the first page your visitors will have to load to actually ENTER the site from your homepage. You have them interested, but not completely hooked, so don't chase them off with a 100KB lead in page. The average total file size of a good web page should not exceed 50KB without a really good reason.

  • Browser Cache

    Once a browser loads a graphic, sound file, or applet, it stores the file in a temporary memory cache on your computer The next time the web page "calls" for that same file stored in that same location, the browser will use the one it has stored in it's cache, rather than go back to the server for it. Therefore, it is important to select and use the same design elements, such as background images, buttons, bullets, side-bars and banners throughout your entire site whenever possible.

    For example, let's say you use a red checkmark bullet graphic on one web page. The browser loads that bullet graphic into it's memory cache. On the next page you use a blue checkmark graphic. The browser must go to the server and download the graphic for the blue checkmark bullet and store it in the memory cache as well. Now, lets say you use the red checkmark graphic instead of the blue one. Instead of going to the server, the browser will grab the already downloaded and stored red graphic file from it's memory, requiring zero download time for that graphic on the new page.

    As you can see, this little bit of knowledge can go a long way in helping you to keep your download times low.


"Visually Interesting"? Or "Visually Irritating"?

There is a not so fine line between visual interest and irritation. The best way to tell what side of the line something falls on is to spend some time checking out various websites. Make notes of the things you find fun, the things you find interesting, and the things you find downright annoying. Here are a few tips you might want to keep in mind.

  • Avoid Tricky Text

    If you think using a "BLINK" function for an entire line advertising your special sale on "Hand Painted Animal Figurines!! Only $9.99!!!" grabs attention, think again! It is irritating beyond words to try to read a line of text that won't be still long enough for you to focus on it. This might work for a single word, such as "SALE", but most people find that constant blinking annoying.

    Scrolling banners are somewhat easier to read so long as you keep the text to a minimum. A good rule of thumb is to not play around too much with any text that you want your visitors to actually read. If it's important, keep it stationary and in one color so your visitors won't have to chase it around to see what it says.

  • Audio Add Ons

    Using music in your web pages is good, but it too can be annoying to your visitors if you aren't careful. You probably don't want to use a huge sound file that will take a long time to load, and audio files can eat up the kilobytes very quickly. If you do elect to use a sound file, you probably will not want to set it to loop forever unless you provide your visitors with a way to turn it off. Listening to a cute little five second ditty two or three times is fun. But that same little ditty ceases to be so cute after the thirtieth or fortieth repetition.

    Sound effects that are user activated by an action such as a button push or page change for example, can also be fun. Remember though, the more different files you use, the longer the page will take to load.

  • Applets, Scripts and Other Fancy Frills

    There are a lot of really cool applets and scripts that you can add to your web pages to make them eye-catching, entertaining, and just plain fun to look at. But make your selections wisely. Keep in mind that using cutting edge technology in your web pages is a double-edged sword. It might make your site the latest thing going but only those people that have the latest and newest computers, modems, ISP connections and software will be able to enjoy it. To the vast majority of web surfers, your fancy programming will not only not work, but will make your pages seem unfinished and confusing. If you just gotta have the latest and greatest in your website, consider creating alternative pages for your lesser equipped viewers.


Navigation

Imagine having a telephone, but nobody knows your phone number but you. Obviously the only way anyone will ever be able to call you is if you personally give them your phone number. And if you do not give anyone your phone number, then you will not get any phone calls. You may get an occasional wrong number, but, that's about it.

Now imagine that not just the home page of your web site, but every single page of your website is just like an unlisted phone number. There is simply no way for anyone to know of their existence unless you tell them the exact URL or provide them with hyperlinks. For this reason it is important to get your website listed with as many directories and search engines as you can. But it is equally important for you to make sure your visitors are able to navigate through each page of your website easily and quickly once they get there.

You don't want to skimp on the hyperlinks in your website. The ONLY way for your visitors to get from one page to the next in your website is by using the hyperlinks you provide for them. If you want your visitors to see all you have to offer, be sure to provide plenty of links for them to get from one page to the next.


Spelling Contest

The quickest way to lose credibility and foster lack of confidence from your visitors is to present poorly written text for them to read. Remember, your sole means of communicating with your visitors is through the printed word. Careless spelling, sloppy punctuation, and poor grammar can and will reflect poorly on you, your site, and your business. So proofread proofread proofread!! And then run a spell checker, and proofread again!