Design & Construction
(8) Consider your audience before yourself
If you find yourself thinking "I'd love to have such-and-such on my site", stop! It's not about what you want - it's about what your audience wants. Imagine a person visiting your site and design it for them.
A very common mistake is to ask "How do I force my users to do such-and-such", e.g. use a particular window size, remove scroll bars, etc. The unequivocal answer is "You don't". Seriously, this is a big no-no. It doesn't matter how nice you think your page will look if you remove all your visitor's toolbars - they will resent it and leave.
Did you get that? Never, never, never force anything on your visitors. Ever.
(9) Use simple, consistent and safe navigation
Your navigation links should be the same on every page. Make it very obvious where each link goes. Avoid the temptation to be cute and use obtuse or ambiguous navigation buttons.
Never rely solely on Java, Flash or other similar systems for navigation. If you do use something like this, have a text-based alternative navigation system.
A rule of thumb is that a user should be able to get from any page to any other page with no more than three clicks.
(10) Don't do something just because you can
Every budding web designer will sooner or later discover the joys of learning how to create some flashy new feature. Their next step is to find a web page to show it off. Bad idea - every other newbie has done the same thing and it often looks amateurish. Does your audience want this feature, or are you adding it to show how clever you are?
(11) Tone it down
A common mistake amongst new designers is to use colours, images and backgrounds which are too bright, multi-coloured, animated, etc. Use subtle colours, plain backgrounds and simple graphics.
(12) Make it readable
Your text must be easy to read. This doesn't mean possible to read, it means easy to read. Strong, contrasting text against plain backgrounds. Black on white is easier on the eye than vice versa.
Use common, safe fonts.
(13) Split it up
Very long pages are not as user-friendly as short pages. Don't be scared to split your content up into pages of a few paragraphs each.
(14) Get your graphics right
Graphics need to have a consistent look throughout the site. Don't use random images collected from around the internet - this tends to look disjointed and amateurish (it's also likely to infringe copyright). Don't use clipart. Photos can help a lot and are relatively easy to make look professional.
(15) Optimise your file sizes
Make sure your pages load at a speed which is acceptable to your target audience. Cable users in the USA are used to high-bandwidth content. 28k modem users in Fiji are not. Pay particular attention to image file sizes.
(16) Avoid splash pages
A splash page (or doorway page) is an entrance page with a "click here to enter" link. Unless there is a very compelling reason to do this, the only purpose it serves is to slow down and annoy your visitors.
(17) Show useful contact details
Make it easy for people to contact you.
Include real-world contact details (address, phone, etc). This shows you are trustworthy. If your real identity and/or location are secret, your credibility will be affected.
(18) Don't design your site for specific browsers or display settings
These days there's no justification for doing this. A properly made page will display correctly in all common browsers. Never use those little buttons which say "Best viewed with such-and-such browser and settings" - what they really say is "Warning - this site was designed by someone who doesn't understand the internet". In any case, the number of people who will change their settings to view your site is exactly zero.
(19) Test & proofread your site properly
View your site using different browsers (IE, Mozilla, Opera, etc) and different screen resolutions, connection speeds, operating systems, etc.
Spell check and have your site proofread by someone else.
(20) Plan for updates
How will your site be updated? How often will it need to be done? How much will it cost?
(21) Don't be a tacky cliche
All of the following things scream "I'm a newbie!", so don't use them...
- Tiled background patterns
- Hit counters
- Cute animated pictures, especially animated email icons
- Bright, coloured text on a bright, coloured background
- Microsoft FrontPage themes
(22) Take a hint from the pros
Most designers consider the following things to be undesirable:
- Horizontal scroll bars