Internet Homepage Design Tips: Basic Principles Of Web Design

A list of the most basic web design mistakes, and how to avoid them. Also features a brief tutorial on how to make a professional layout.

So, you want to be a web designer? One of the elite few who can accomplish an entire day's work without ever having to put on pants. Unfortunately, you're not the first one to get this brilliant idea. There's a lot of competition out there, but the good news is that the vast majority of that competition is terrible. The trick isn't so much to be good, it's more about avoiding being bad.

But what is it that makes for a bad web page? The most general answer is "unprofessionality." Making a professional web site doesn't require money, extensive knowledge of HTML, fancy design tools, or anything else. All you need to know is what not to do.

1. Java

Ever since it's introduction in the mid 90's, Sun's "Java" programming language has been the bane of the web. A Java "applet" is like a normal program for your computer, except that it runs inside a web page. There is nothing quite so annoying as going to a site only to hear your browser grind to a halt and announce "Applet Loading." After that nasty process is over, the actual Java applet is almost certain to slow the user down, annoy them, and so on. You'll never see Java on a professional page, ever.

2. Animated GIFs

The animated GIF was the original format for "moving pictures" on the web, and exists today mainly in the form of banner ads. While it's fine for that, use of animated GIFs for "cute" purposes (an animated letter for e-mail, for example) is a sure sign of an amateur web designer. If you aren't sure how an image needs to be animated, it doesn't.

3. "Under Construction"

This is getting less and less common, but is the absolute surest sign of an inexperienced web designer. All web pages are always under construction. That is the nature of the web; ever changing. There's no need to put up a sign announcing this; it's understood.

4. Guestbooks

While not bad themselves, guestbooks (programs which allow visitors to leave a message to the page's owner and their fellow visitors) have gained a distinctly negative reputation by appearing on some of the worst sites on the web. If you want to get user feedback, put your e-mail address on the page and ask for it.

5. Excessive use of color

Every web page should have a background color (usually white) and a foreground color (usually black). The two can be inter-changed, but not much beyond that. Look at the web sites of every major "e-business" company and you'll see those two colors, always. Would you write your résumé in pink crayon?

6. Frames

Another design style that's not bad itself, but should be avoided because of it's reputation. Frames (where one part of the document can scroll independently of another part) can make building a navigation system for your site simpler, but it also makes it very clear you're taking the "easy way out." There are better-looking ways that are nearly as simple.

7. MIDI music

This is doubtlessly the worst thing you can do for your career as a web designer. Using MIDI music (a type of audio played automatically in web browsers) is the worst thing you can do to your career. Having a MIDI file playing on your web site is like whistling during a job interview; it's distracting, unprofessional, and it makes you look stupid.

Here are a few quick pointers on what make a decent, professional web site:

The most basic, effect layout is a navigation bar on the left or right-hand side of your page. This bar should contain text-only links to every section of the site. At the top of your page there should be a small, fast-loading logo on either side or in the center. The background should be white with the text black. Those too can be interchanged, but they usually shouldn't be.

That's it! A web page layout should be simple and readable. People don't come to a site to "experience your art," they come for content. Show them that, and they'll be happy. And if you can make happy users, you're well on your way to becoming a professional, paid web designer.

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