By Sharon Housley
Here are 15 important Web site design tips that you might not be aware of or have overlooked. Consider taking advantage of them if you haven't already done so...
1. Custom 404 Pages
Create a custom 404 Web page, so that any time your Web site visitor mistypes or misspells a URL on your site, they will still be provided with navigation options for your site (instead of getting nothing but a "Page Not Found" error message, which is neither friendly or helpful).
2. Redirect Non-www. to www
Web site visitors will often leave out the "www." portion when they type a URL or link to your Web site. Set the Web site up so that it automatically redirects any non-www version of your domain urls (http://domain. com) to the www version (http://www.domain. com) of your Web site.
3. Properly Sized Graphics
Size and define all graphics and images on your Web pages properly and correctly. Web pages will load quicker if the graphics contained on each page are properly defined so they don't require the Web browser to re-size them. Properly sized and defined images can reduce the web browser workload and speed up the page loading time.
Add a Favicon (favorite icon) to your Web site, so that your company or product logo appears in the URL box. This icon will also show up in a bookmark list, and gives the Web site an added level of professionalism.
5. Include RSS Auto-Discovery
If you provide an RSS feed for any content on your Web site, be sure to include auto-discovery code in the header of your Web site. This will allow many browsers and RSS readers to automatically detect the presence of an RSS feed and alert the visitor that it is available.
6. Alternate Domains
Domain names are relatively inexpensive, so you should register multiple domain versions and extensions in order to protect your brand. The varied domains can be parked on the main Web site, simply to prevent others from obtaining them. Registering alternate domain versions will help protect your brand.
7. Consistent Navigation
Navigation should remain consistent on a Web site. As a Web site visitor moves through the Web site, the navigation bar should remain in the same place on each page. This will make it easier for visitors to navigate your website, and become more comfortable as they move through your site.
8. Home Goes Home
The main graphic, company logo or "header" at the top of the site should be included on every page in the site, and should always return the visitor to the home page of the Web site. This has become a Web standard, and most visitors now expect to return to the main page of the site simply by clicking on the main top graphic from any page within the site.
9. Copyright Notice
Include a copyright notice on the bottom of each page contained on the Web site and keep it current! It may seem trivial, but an out-of-date copyright notice can send a message to your visitors that the Web site and its content may be out-of-date as well.
10. Meaningful File Names
Use meaningful file names for any files, graphics or Web pages. Many search engines look at file names as part of their search algorithm and using keywords in file names may help to improve search engine rankings.
11. Hyphens vs Underscores
When naming files and Web pages, use hyphens (i.e. web-page.html) rather than underscores (i.e. web_page.html) for the file names. It is much easier for search engines to separate and index the keywords when hyphens are used.
12. Alt Tags
Use ALT tags to describe what images represent on Web pages. ALT tags not only assist visually-impaired visitors in knowing what the images are, but they also help with search engine ranking.
13. Spell Check
Use a spell-check feature on the text of all Web pages in a Web site. A Web site that contains mistyped or misspelled words just shouts "unprofessional". Take the extra few minutes necessary to check the spelling of text on each page of your Web site.
After making changes to a Web site, test it! Many times, a Webmaster will upload changes, confident in their abilities, only to later discover that in their attempt to fix one thing, they have "broken" something somewhere else. Make testing a habit after making even the most minor changes!
15. Keep It Simple
Simple is good. Eliminate unnecessary clutter and distractions from a Web site and navigation menu.
About the Author
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for RecordForAll audio recording and editing software.