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WEB DEVELOPMENT

Website Designing Pillars Part 1
By: Developer Shed
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    2004-03-30

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    Website Designing Pillars Part 1
    by Pavel Lenshin


    ------------------------------------------------------------
    copyright (c) Pavel Lenshin
    ------------------------------------------------------------


    It is a hot opinion that "it’s the words that sell, not a
    design" and that "you should invest all your money into
    writing a good sales copy and what is left (if anything)
    into web-site". I can give you 99 out of 100 that authors of
    these claims are copywriters, web-designers usually don’t
    write articles. It is like asking football player what game
    he enjoys more: football or hockey? :0)

    I don’t want to argue that statement about the importance of
    copywriting, on the contrary, I think that it is totally
    true, but under one condition – your Web-Site (WS hereafter)
    is already implied to make your visitors feel, at least,
    comfortable.

    It could never be counted, how many times I closed down the
    browser without reading a single word, just because of the
    amateurish and clumsy look those WSs had.

    No need to emphasize on importance of the professional WS.
    It is obvious, at the same time you won’t read there, that
    web-design is everything and that professional sales letter
    or text message is nothing, because it is like answering the
    question – what is better to have skin or heart cancer? To
    my mind, it is better to be totally healthy.

    Business WS usually plays the role of virtual office, shop,
    informational dep., marketing dep. and service dep. It is a
    main representative and the core of your business – the
    final proof, the image of your company is based on.

    -----What it is all about-----

    The target is set – to make your WS as good as it can
    possibly be. Here I pointed the crucial pillars of designing
    a professional looking WS. You will not find there basic
    HTML teaching or how to use particular web-editor. The
    knowledge of HTML will help, but is not compulsory, as
    WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors will make all
    HTML coding work “behind the scene” for you.

    You require general understanding of what HTML is and
    ability to use one or several WYSIWYG web-editors, that is
    three hour learning process. The feeling of style and taste
    is also advisable; otherwise you will have to consult a
    designer.

    The problem with design “How to..” is that WS design is 90%
    creative work, where is no two identical WS (unless copied),
    that is why there cannot be any step-by-step study, the same
    way there is no step-by-step study on how to paint a
    masterpiece paint.

    What we can teach is how to “hold a brush”, but it is you,
    who should paint “Mona Lisa” and become “Leonardo da Vinci”.

    -----What your WS should look like?-----

    + Stylish. Consider it as an exterior and interior of your
    whole off-line business premises, starting from hall
    (main-index web-page) and ending with your personal office
    (“about me” web-page). It has to have its unique “feel” and
    style. Don’t also forget about branding features your WS
    represent.

    + Clear structure. Imagine a shopper who wants to make a
    purchase at your offline store, but in order to enter it, he
    has to go through warehouse, service department and all
    kinds of office premises. Don’t allow your web visitor feel
    like that shopper.

    + Harmonically allocated design elements like graphics and
    text. The WS is united entity and your brand. Every element
    on the WS is to be blend with “exterior”, no separated
    elements or graphics like a number of flashy banners.

    + High usability standards and complete WS optimization
    including clear HTML code and optimized web graphics that
    are similar to clear shop. The more “dirt” your web-pages
    contains, the more time it will take to load them, the more
    potential errors it may show in different browsers, and the
    harder it will be for Search Engine spiders to index your
    WS. We will discuss these issues later on.
    Pay also attention to broken links, as it is similar to wall
    behind the door of your off-line shop. Let your visitors
    find good resources with your help, rather than an “Error
    404 Page not found”.

    + Absence of grammatical errors. It concerns grammatical
    correctness of textual information. The importance of
    correct grammar is clear, no one wants to deal with
    uneducated people, especially if they represent businesses.

    -----What programs you will need-----

    First of all you will need to equip yourself with right
    “armament”, that are mostly WYSISWG (What You See Is What
    You Get) web-editors. The download links and short
    description you can find below:

    Macromedia Dreamveawer -
    http://www.macromedia.com/software/dreamweaver/ - considered
    to be the best WYSIWYG HTML editor. Ideal for beginners as
    well as professional users. Anything you can only imagine
    has already been included :0) 30 days trial version.

    EzyPage - http://www.ezyware.com/ - very simple drag&drop
    web-page creator for beginners. Although it has several very
    interesting features build in like dropdown menu or
    scrolling table. Free distribution.

    Stepzilla - http://www.stepzilla.com/ - the software's
    motto - step by step to the web - tells everything for
    itself.

    1st page 2000 v.2 final - http://www.evrsoft.com/products/ -
    very pleasant HTML editor for beginners as well as advanced
    webmasters. Has ability to choose the interface that will be
    more suitable. Available HTML cleaning option, XML
    converter, build in FTP-client and preview function. A lot
    of ready to use Javasript, VBScript, DHTML, Perl
    applications. The software is being distributed for free.

    Hot Dog Professional -
    http://sausage.com/products/index.html - three HTML
    editors - HotDog Junior for kids, PageWiz for beginners and
    Professional ver.6 for advanced users. Convenient interface
    with easy to access HTML functions. Includes CSS editor,
    checker for tag errors and many others. All three editors
    allow to download 30-days trial version.

    CoffeCup HTML editors - http://www.coffeecup.com/software/ -
    another offer with several versions of softwares for
    beginners as well as advanced users. Pre-made JavaScript
    applications libraries, Flash effects, font creator, HTML
    code cleaner, FTP-client, and many more. Collection of
    web-pictures, backgrounds, icons. Available 30-days trial
    PRO or free version.

    AceHTML 5.0 Pro - http://www.visicommedia.com/ -
    professional HTML editor. DHTML ? JavaScript libraries.
    Build in CSS editor, HTML, JavaScript, CSS checker, supports
    XHTML, XML, Perl and WML documents. HTML code optimizer,
    link checker. Available 30-days trial version.

    -----PILLARS OF PROPER DESIGNING-----

    TASKS DEFINING.

    You next step after setting up the appropriate web-design
    program is to set the list of tasks your site should solve.
    You should answer the following questions:

    1. Are your WS a sales letter or a content rich project?
    Depending on your answer you have or don’t have to pay
    attention to the structure and flexibility of navigational
    menu, as it may bring new challenges, as your content-rich
    WS will grow. Consider to reserve WS space to future
    informational blocks like announcements, exclusive offers,
    visitors voting, polls, that you may like to include
    sometime in future. Don’t make the page layout look too
    tight, as you will require redesigning the whole page just
    to insert a small table for visitors’ voting.

    2. What kind of integrated services you are planning to use?
    Whether it is going to be shopping cart, discussion board,
    chat or separate section totally devoted to the WS
    newsletter, it should fit overall site layout and design.
    Think in prospective, as it will take several hours now, but
    avoid several weeks of headache in the future. Make sure
    that the foundation of your online empire will bear all
    possible additional storeys, without need of demolishing the
    whole “building” and strengthening the foundation.

    3. What market sector your WS belongs to in general and what
    product/service you are going to offer in particular? If
    your WS is an entertainment portal, full of flash games,
    casino offers and reviews of upcoming PC games, it is
    obvious that design and layout plays extremely important
    role as a representative of more than 50% of all
    information. Be sure that boring graphics in that case would
    cut the roots of your WS growth. If, on the other hand, you
    are working at corporate business-to-business online sector
    (B2B), there is absolutely no need in complex graphics
    elements or flashy stars in the top-left corner. Online
    businesses always experience lack of time, therefore, they
    need quick answers of who you are, what you are and why are
    you, rather than waiting till your welcome 300Kb flash clip
    will load. The answer to efficient finding partners among
    businesses is textual and to the point information that is
    easy to access and that is, usually, represented in business
    white-gray-black color scheme.

    VISUALLY FINISHED.

    Anybody can do that, although the broader imagination you
    have, the simpler it will be. What you need is comfortable
    seat, paper and a pen. Put your feet on the table, close
    your eyes and imagine your WS.

    Let me only tell you one of my favorite jokes concerning
    technique mentioned above.

    “There was a group of foreign visitors coming to see a very
    prosperous and profitable company.
    At the end of their excursion one of the visitors asked
    their guide:
    You know, your company is really perfect, with the best
    technology I’ve ever seen, everybody is working very hard,
    but, tell me, who is that man in the biggest room on the top
    floor doing nothing but relaxing on the soft armchair with
    his feet crossed on the table, sipping Cola and listening to
    music?
    Oh, that man came up with the idea last year, that earned us
    $1.000.000, and, as far as I remember, during that time he
    was also sipping Cola with his feet on the table.”

    So follow this man and don't allow anybody disturb you
    during this work!

    Don't make any mistakes about it. You may be surprised, but
    it is the most challenging and crucial part of your WS
    creation. The brighter efforts you put into your paper, the
    more beneficial result you will get. No need for degree in
    painting, just basic elements on paper as a background of
    your future WS building, the rest in mind.

    Don’t be afraid to experiment! It’s a pleasant time spending
    anyway. Remember – all great works of all times are
    considered to be masterpieces, only because they, firstly,
    perfectly reflect the depth of their creators’ souls and,
    secondly, they are unique in their nature. There is no
    masterpiece based on well-known standards. They are good in,
    let’s say, decreasing production costs, but they are not
    welcomed in the art creation process, which the design
    surely is.

    On the other hand, you should always keep in mind that the
    experiment ends exactly when the web-surfer disappointment
    starts.

    ELEMENTS.

    The key point, while visualizing your full color WS, is to
    decide what and where will you place 3 basic elements:
    1. Header.
    2. Navigational menu.
    3. Space for main text.

    The following list represents possible WS elements that you
    consider to have as a result of previously conducted “Task
    Defining”. Designer should also reserve a proper place and
    harmonically blend them with the rest of WS elements:
    1. Banner ads;
    2. Menu mirror at the bottom;
    3. Additional text for news column, announcements,
    testimonials etc.;
    4. Email forms, visitor polls, questionnaire etc.;
    5. Any other items you consider to include.

    It must be stressed that all the main elements of the WS as
    well as any other WS items, which should be added at your
    sole discretion ought to be put in mind while visualizing,
    and therefore written down on paper to be sure there is no
    forgotten element left behind. If it occurs at the next
    stage you will have to start from the very beginning as
    there is no way to move further. So don't quadruple your
    work with your own hands. Make sure you have put every
    “present” into the box you want to receive on Christmas. ;0)

    WS STRUCTURE AND LAYOUT

    Draw the scheme of your WS structure. How you are planning
    to arrange, link and create logically relations between
    sections or stand alone web-pages. It is easy to navigate
    four-page sales letter WS, but everything changes when we
    are exploring 100 spontaneously linked WS. It is easier to
    get out of Sahara desert rather than to find what you need.

    Your navigational structure could be linear or functional.
    There are unlimited number of variations, just pay close
    attention and follow one simple rule:
    “The more difficult for you to write a WS structure, the
    more difficult it will be for potential user to navigate
    it!”

    It doesn’t depend on number of web pages rather then logical
    sequence and connection of different parts or sections of
    your site.

    COLORS

    I’ve also read numerous times, that Headlines is what the
    visitor sees first, when comes to your site. Wrong! The
    first thing a surfer sees on the WS, while it loads, is the
    color and, sometimes, design appearance. Don’t underestimate
    the importance of color influence. With the help of color
    play you can easily create a feeling of excitement or grief
    even before s/he will see the first letter of your Headline.

    One note should be also mentioned: try, if possible, to
    avoid main colors – green, red, yellow, blue. They are very
    Day-Glo and very annoying while using them in the company
    Logo sometimes considered to be enticing.

    Don’t use “aggressive” color scheme, make it to be "polite"
    to your customer's perception. By doing so, you don't, at
    least, make your visitor be irritated. Just experiment with
    hues and brightness and you will get the color you need.
    Follow this rule if you are not intend to sell clown noses
    in the circus tent. :0)

    Text color is also ought to match the background color.
    Please, avoid red text on green color, dark blue on black
    etc.

    (to be continued...)
    ------------------------------------------------------------
    Pavel Lenshin is a publisher of "NET Business Magazine",
    author of a free "Info Business Online: the easy way" ebook,
    web-developer and founder of the http://ASBONE.com/ -
    informational portal and provider of discounted Internet
    services for small business.
    ------------------------------------------------------------

    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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