When designing a web site I find that the kiss (keep it simple silly) philosophy works best. If youíre trying to sell something, your site needs to be quick, not slowed by unnecessary fancy graphics.
It is generally accepted that if people donít find what they are looking for in 30 seconds, they move on. Especially if other sites they may be viewing for the same product or information has already loaded.
A lot of graphics and flash movies may look fantastic, but if a potential customer or viewer is at the end of a dial up connection, possibly a 28kbs in a rural location they can be very frustrating.
I know that it is promised that broadband will soon be available country wide, but many people wonít have this option for a while, and may not deem it necessary if they only use the net infrequently. There are a few people (mainly at the older end of the community) that still use a pay as you go Internet connection and have no intention of changing.
These also tend to be the people you could be trying to attract. Possibly being in a rural location, and not having access to many shops locally, they are also the ones most likely to reuse a site if they have a good experience. In addition with todayís fuel prices, saving a trip to a shopping area which may be some miles away can be quite a bonus, not to mention the time saved.
Especially with products, a few good photos are worth many words, and coupled with as much additional information as possible can sell very effectively indeed.
It isnít always necessary actually to be selling on line. It is quite often necessary only to have a ďshop windowĒ site showing what products or services you offer. If you donít want the hassle and expense of maintaining a secure site, most customers are happy to ring a contact number. Indeed some older members of the community are likely to feel more comfortable using a familiar means of communication once they have chosen what they are interested in.
If however you want to provide shopping on line, a third party payment service such as paypal or world pay can be used to handle the money side of the transaction, again saving you considerable expense and hassle but with the security needed.
When it comes to the layout of a site, I prefer to buck the trend and use frames rather than tables.
There is nothing more frustrating than moving down a page and have the menu disappear of the top of the screen or float down with you, and then be difficulty to catch with the mouse. Or as happened to me recently, a menu with a pop up sub menu that disappeared when you try to move the pointer to select an item on it.
With frames, the menu can stay displayed on one side of the site and the viewer can view the information he is interested in on the main area. Using frames also means you are only downloading part of the page leaving the bits that are universal showing, and shortening loading times.
Sometimes, of coarse the menu may want to move up the page. For instance, if you are displaying linier information over several pages to be viewed in order and random browsing is not envisaged (as on this page).
I do use tables for layout when appropriate, and to fix the minimum width for a page if really necessary, but prefer to leave a page as fluid as possible to accommodate different sizes of browser and monitor that it might be displayed on.
With pictures and graphics, file size is always a consideration. As mentioned above, you have to consider the slowest connection your site may be viewed through. Firstly, careful selection of the area of the photo you use to include as little superfluous area as possible. Then resize it to suite the page, and saving it with the right compression to suit the page position.
The further down the page a picture or graphic is the longer it can take to download (and so the less compressed and higher quality it can be) as the viewer will hopefully be reading and looking at the top of the page, which having smaller file sizes, will have loaded quicker.
The size of the picture on the page should also be specified. Iím sure most of us have been reading a site only to have a picture download and shift all the text losing you your place. With the size specified the space for the picture is reserved on the page and the text carries on round it whilst it downloads.
It is also worth giving consideration to those that may have sight problems and be using a page text reader to view the site. This means you have to give each picture alternative text, and each link a title, which will be read out when the page reader comes to it.
In addition, if for some reason a picture canít be displayed then this text will be shown in its stead in the area specified for it.
Once the basic site has been constructed, I will then go to friends who are on a daxed (one voice line split into two) telephone line and subsequently only have a 28kbs connection at best. Then view the site on my old 166 MHz laptop and see how it runs. This usually shows up any difficulty with loading times, which can easily be rectified.
Then I get in touch with who ever Iím building the site for, and direct them to look at it and then come back to me with any ideas or modifications they would like. After all, itís their site so wants to be what they want. Occasionally though, some firm guidance is needed with some of the more radical ideas that would slow the site down, make it look bad or are just plan impractical.
This entire process should only take a few days and hopefully result in a site to the clients liking and to my satisfaction.
This page added..25/02/06