The idea behind the World Wide Web was to use the Internet to publish information and have it openly accessible to everyone. In the early 90’s the Internet was essentially Mosaic running on a computer, but now it is quite possible to browse web sites without a computer. You could use a PDA, a cell phone, even some kitchen appliances now connect to the Internet and download data automatically. The introduction of RSS feeds also offer new and innovative ways for information to become quickly accessible on more than just the traditional computer screen. Then there are the programs that search all this information and try to index it. All this accessibility is only possible if your site accommodates it, and so if you are just starting to build your web site you should keep in mind the following points, because accessibility is what the Internet is all about these days.
No Frames Please
If your site uses frames think about how confusing this is to Google and Yahoo. Most of the time, sites use frames for navigation, with a top frame or a side frame having all the links to the areas of the site. These are unnecessary, as the same effect can be easily recreated without frames. This is one case where someone invented a neat new way of doing something, and then realized the old way was in fact better. Other reasons not to use frames range from the fact that not all browsers support them, to increased page download times, to making it harder to bookmark specific pages on your site.
Under Construction Sites
Today when I see a graphic or message that states that the site is under construction, I immediately think amateur. If your site is truly under construction, then it should not be accessible period! Most site visitors will understand if a site is down for maintenance, updating, or if you are just moving in to a new server. If you really have a new site and it is not finished, think about having a message similar to a movie trailer. Putting up a nice graphic that depicts your site’s subject matter with the words “Coming Soon…” is a lot better than some yellow construction graphic. Your site’s theme should always come first.
Click Here To Navigate
If you actually put the words “Click here” to see other pages, then your site is stuck in the year 1991. An entire generation has already grown up on the web, and the term url is as common to them as cassette tapes were to my generation. You should never have to bring attention to your site’s navigation, because if you do, then you either do not understand how web pages work or your site’s navigation is so confusing that you yourself thinks it is bad! The exception would be if you have some special links which are different in some way, like when a weblog has article links to publications on a different site, or when the web site owner wants donations, like “Click here to give me money”, but these exceptions are quite specific.
Fonts, Fonts, No Really Fonts!
One of the best things you can do with a site is use CSS to make your fonts stand out. Perhaps CSS positioning is a little too hard to understand right off, but CSS styles are easily to learn and they can do a lot for making a site look ten times more professional than relying on the old html font tag. But whatever you do, do not make paragraph text blue. The color blue is most often reserved for links and making whole paragraphs of text blue confuses many site visitors. In fact if you need to bring attention to what you are saying on your web page, you might consider editing your message so it is more clear. Color is not what should get people’s attention. You want people to focus on your message, not the rainbow of colors you are using to convey that message.
Graphics You Love, But Which Everyone Else Hates
Probably the easiest mistake to make when designing a site is to want to include some graphics which you think are eye catching or interesting, because you absolutely like them. Sometimes it is very hard to admit to ourselves that we do not always have good taste or simply that something we like will not work. Film directors wrestle with this all the time, because they often shoot a scene that they totally love, but which they know will not work in the final edited film, so they end up cutting some of the scenes that they personally love in order to produced the best film they can. The same thing applies to web design, you can often make a really interesting graphic, but somehow it will not fit into your site’s theme and so you make it fit and the end result is a bad web design which everyone else except you will hate.
Your site should have a theme from the beginning, and understanding that theme is what should guide your site design. If a graphic is too large in size, the wrong color, or simply does not fit into the them, you should not use it. The web site has an audience, and that audience is what will drive the success of you site.
For further reading, look over some of the criticisms atWebPagesThatSuck, which has tons of examples of when web design goes bad. You can read over Alertbox: The Ten Most Violated Homepage Design Guidelines, which is revelant if you are designing a corporate web site.