Keys to building a functional web site

If you surf regularly you are sure to come across sites that look visually great but which are difficult to navigate. These are sites where the designer’s creative impulses have submerged everything else, including the site’s functional value. In contrast, there are sites where the design is good but it is subservient to content. The user is not lost on the site. This is because the designer has followed the basic keys to building a functional web site.

You too can do the same if you adopt the following rules:

1. Simplicity: To begin with simplicity is the essence of great design. Simplicity requires great clarity of thought and purpose. It is when you do not have focus that you start cluttering up your site with everything. Believe in brevity.

2. Browser needs: There are several browsers that are being used by Internet users. These include Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Opera etc. Each browser reads a web page differently. So, what may look good in Internet Explorer may not necessarily look good in Mozilla. The designer must test the site using different browsers, and cover up the defects. 3. Links/Navigation: Every once in a while a site comes up with an innovative navigation design and becomes the standard for the remaining sites. Amazon .com for example became the first site to use top-tab navigation. The style soon became the standard for most ecommerce sites. The advantage of this style is that it gives you the scope to organize several different categories in a very small space. If, however, you opt for the traditional left side navigation you must keep in mind the spatial relationship of navigation to content.

4. Typography: Typography is an art unto itself. When designing a page, keep in mind the basics like paragraph structure, text size and breaks. Break a paragraph after about three sentences, keep the font size within the range of 10 –12 points and give the end user the liberty to manually change the font size through the browser for better reading. It is interesting to note the difference on serif and sans serif fonts. Printing technology says serif fonts are more readable. However san serif fonts seem to be more digitally suited; they can be read better on the computer screen. These assumptions are not sacrosanct; you should rely on your own judgement.

5. CSS cascading style sheets: They can help make your site professional. Use them wisely and often.

6. Alt tags: An ALT tag is used to specify alternative text for an image. This text has many uses. It is displayed briefly during a mouseover. It also provides target text for users of speech-recognition technology. Further, it is displayed by browsers whose picture loading is disabled,

7. User Interface widgets: Never clutter up a user’s reading experience. Use widgets when you really need them so that they are effective but unobtrusive. If you are putting a search box make sure that it searches the entire site, unless it is stated differently.

8. Advertising mediums: Advertising my fetch you revenue but it should not be at the cost of user experience. Pop ups can infuriate a visitor; so can animated banner ads or shoshkeles. The placement of ads is important. They should never be placed over important content.

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