Web Site Design for the Beginning Webmaster
Okay, so you’ve learned HTML, and you’re ready to design a web site with all your nifty articles and images. Now it’s time to learn about structure.
Structure in Web Site Design
The first and most basic thing to remember is that you always need a home page — a page through which you can reach the rest of your website with fewer than two or three clicks. No one wants to click forever to reach the content they want, and if you want to keep your viewer happy and at your site you have to make it easy for them.
Hang major portal pages from your home page: that’s pages to content, pages to information about you, and contact pages. Build a contact page that your user can fill out online, rather than opening his own email account with a click. Group all like items together — if you have a magazine, for instance, make your current issue accessible from one page, and your archives accessible from another. If you have complex information, consider including a search engine in your web site design.
File Structure in Web Site Design
When first designing your web site, ensure that your images fall in one folder, your pages in another, and your applications — search engines or other programs, in a third, with flash animation and other items falling in their own folders as well. This makes it easier to re-use different items on your web site. Design your file structure on complex sites so that like items have subfolders — if you sell shoes and you have men’s, ladies’, children’s, and socks, create a subfolder in each applicable folder so that your file structure looks like: Pages — > Shoes — > Men’s.
Design Your Web Site for Simple Browsing
There is nothing so frustrating as a website that is so complex as to make it impossible to browse easily. I like to be able to shop around in a web site, to go from the shoe section to the stationery section in one or two clicks, preferably without using a search engine. Sound impossible? With proper design planning, it’s not.
Make sure you have navigational buttons to the major sections of your site on each page, and make sure they look alike on each page. If you have more than seven major sections, try to categorize them so that you can have no more than seven buttons with drop-down menus to each sub section. Set up navigation to major sections at the bottom of each page as well, and make sure you have a way to get to the contact page.
In a complex page, at the top of each page deeper than two clicks from the home page place a navigation map — something that looks like Products — > Shoes — > Men’s — > Athletic — > Adidas. Each item in the map should be hyperlinked to the higher level page it refers to.
Lastly, but most importantly, ask people who don’t have anything to do with either your company or your website to test it. Real customers can give you the best feedback.
by Jamie Wilson