Elements of Web Design

Factors to consider when creating a Web site:

Fluid and user friendly interface.

  • Remember, only you can make site use easy for your visitors.
  • Good organization and presentation are important. Site visitors need to scan a page and find the materials offered. Many visitors never scroll down a page. Long pages can have internal links (anchors) to section headings at the top of the page.
  • Download speed is today's bottleneck. The majority of Web users are downloading on modem connections at 56 Kbps. File sizes and graphic sizes should be kept to the minimum needed for the page. Linked thumbnails can be used to present large graphics.
  • Web pages are a nonlinear information distribution medium. Links can lead in many directions. You provide the pathways to information. Easy to understand navigation and/or visible site organization assists the user. Make your organization apparent.

Attractive graphic design.

  • This means different things to different audiences. Rock band aficionados will have different expectations than genealogy buffs or auction users. Design should be tailored to the expected audience and site use.
  • Use of colors. Site purpose will influence choices of colors and graphics. Consider how the page will print if it is likely to be printed. Will the font color appear on white paper? What will your page look like if the client overrides your page colors?
  • Use of graphics. What purpose do they serve? A picture can communicate a lot of information. Is the graphic appropriate for the purpose? How large is the graphic file size. Are you creating the smallest possible graphics for your purposes?
  • Image links. Images cannot be altered by the client browser, but they are not always downloaded either.
  • Fonts. Do your clients have the font on their computer? Fonts can be downloaded. Different default fonts can be specified by the browser, overriding your choice. You can specify a family of fonts instead of just one.
  • JavaScripting can enhance interactivity, graphic content and conserve space.

Layout.  The end user's page layout is not entirely under the control of the page creator. Layout suffers from certain limitations.

  • Browsers can change font size.
  • Browsers can change window size.
  • Computers have differing monitor display sizes: (512 x 384), (640 x 480), (800 x 600), (1024 x 768), and larger.
  • Monitors have different resolutions and can make pages look smaller or larger.
  • Some Internet users are displaying the Web on television screens, palmtops, text-only devices or Braille readers. Will your page retain a logical sequence?
  • Users can turn off graphics for faster downloading and to limit transition time.
  • Different browsers and different versions of browsers can use different settings for the same HTML tags.

File Sizes.  Theoretically, the Web is capable of the same features as a CD-ROM. Because everything on the Web is transmitted on a network, the download time limits what sites actually do. Print graphics might be 20 MB in size. The City of Phoenix limits its Web pages to 40 kilobytes, with graphics. A slow modem can take a minute to download a single Web page. Until bandwidth increases, using the smallest possible files to execute your ideas is best.

HTML.  HTML capabilities are changing. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a standards committee, presides over development of the HTML changes. The current version is HTML 4.0. Browsers might add support for new capabilities faster than they are adopted. This means that the great page you create today may soon be a cyber dinosaur. At the same time, some clients are using old browsers that may not support your 4.0 tags.

Steps.   Web Site development process.

  • Goal and definition. Understand your audience and know the target software.
  • Information Architecture. What are your site's functions. Do you want to deliver information or sell a product? Do a storyboard diagram of the pages and their hyperlink structure.
  • Page architecture. What will the pages look like?
  • Interface design. How will the pages be linked?
  • Content creation.
  • Scripting and programming.
  • Testing.
  • Publishing.
  • Publicizing. This might be the most important aspect of the process if you are doing a commercial site.

Useful Links and Further Readings:

Style Guides.

Web Designers. See what the professionals are doing.