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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!