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Web Design Tutorials - Beginning Design Considerations

Identify Your Project Type and Target Audience

What is the purpose of your site? What message do you want to convey? Are you selling a product or service, providing information, or just talking about yourself? The answer to these questions will greatly influence the direction your web site takes. These three categories are a very simplistic view of the medium, but most sites can be lumped into one of the three:

  • If you expect people to buy from you, establishing credibility is imperative. This means a professional looking design that leads visitors effortlessly through the site and eases any concerns along the way. Such a project has many potential pitfalls -- we will address them throughout the tutorials.
    • If you are selling your own product(s), you will probably want a cheery, graphical presentation that is both visually rich and compelling.
    • If you are selling a collection of products (lawn mower accessories, for example), a more business-like presentation would be more applicable. Focus on organization, navigation, and concise information.
  • Informational resources can be given more of a friendly and informal touch, as the fact that you are giving out free information imparts a certain level of trust from the beginning. However, the same design considerations apply as they do for business oriented sites. Link directories (which can be business related), journal archives, and discussion forums might be common features for such a site.
  • The personal site allows the greatest amount of freedom. Of course, that is largely because fewer people will ever see it. Pictures and animations are much more at home with these sites.

Once your vision begins to take shape, put it on paper, sketch a graphical mockup, or write the necessary HTML. You will need to plan ahead for how the components of the overall site and individual pages will interact and compliment each other.

Page layout

There are times to experiment and be creative, and there are times to be predictable and go with the status quo. When designing your site, you must consider the merits of each approach. Viewing the same cookie cutter layout repeatedly can grow quite stale. On the other hand, predictability leads to comfort, and comfortable visitors are good customers. This is explained in more detail in the next tutorial, Consistent and Intuitive Navigation.

Some common practices will increase the intuitive nature of your site:

  • Place your logos and titles at the top, either centered or left aligned.
  • Navigation should go along the top and/or left side column, and be supplemented by shortcut links at the bottom of pages.
  • Use tables to align page content horizontally and vertically.
  • Limit the width of text columns, generally to 500 pixels or less. Anything wider than that is too difficult to read.
  • Make links stand out from regular text, either by color, underlined, or bold font.

Now that you have a feel for what design considerations apply to your project, we can delve into the meat of the tutorials -- how to put it together!

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