Developer Tips

What does it take to have a good website? The answer is surprisingly simple. As the internet and technology continue to expand, three core beliefs about what makes a website good remain the same. A website must appear professional, it must provide rich content, and it must have an audience that trusts and accepts what it has to offer. Each component needs to be examined.

Good Design - Some websites get more respect than others based on the fact that they look good. When a site looks "home-made" it is hard to convince a visitor to enter a credit card number or assume the author has any authority. Here are some guidelines to follow when it comes to site design:

  • Correct color schemes not only make a site look better, but also improve readability.
  • Conformity is not always a bad thing. Some developers like to be too innovative when it comes to design. Sure the site may look good, but if the visitors are confused on how to navigate, there is a good chance the visitor may bolt. The standard recipe for an easy-to-use site layout: site logo and name on top, navigation in left column, page content in wider right column, and fine print at the bottom. Maintain the same layout throughout your site and just say no to frames.
  • Check browser compatibility. Because sites may display differently, see how the site looks in Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Communicator. These are currently the most popular browsers, but minor variations may arise. PC and Mac versions of the same browser may have variations as well. It is almost impossible to create a site to look exactly the same in every browser, so focus on the masses: IE and Netscape.
  • Use professional looking images. Use a photo enhancing program to clean up images. These programs can also reduce file size for faster page loading. Some popular imaging software titles are Adobe Photoshop and Jasc Paint Shop Pro.

Good Content - Even a well-designed site can fail if it does not offer the visitor valuable information; the two go hand in hand. Whether selling products or just distributing information, content is king. Not only do site visitors appreciate a site with substance, but search engines rank sites higher if the content is substantial.

Although content is a good way to add quality to a website, be careful not to go overboard with information. There is a fine line between "content-rich" and "information overload." The deciding factor is organization. Don't put all the information in a single page. Categorize the information and put each section on a separate page. The next step is to have a clear and concise navigation system. Make the links easily understood for the site visitors. Again, search engine crawlers will like the site better too.

Tip: When creating content text for a website, try to keep the number of characters per line under 80 to avoid strain on the readers' eyes. And always spellcheck!

Good Visibility - The third component of a good website is visibility. A site that is able to attract its target visitors is a successful site. On the other hand, beware of deceptive practices. Too many fly-by-night marketers and developers guarantee thousands of visitors to a site using unethical tactics including spamming innocent surfers or throwing up the website in a tidal wave of pop-up ads. Although these techniques may boost traffic, the acutal effect on visitors may be negative.

Most internet users find information using search engines and directories. Type in a few words and get pages of results. There are hundreds of techniques to optimize a website to rank highly in these search engines, but here are two favorites:

  • Submit to search engines that matter. DMOZ, Yahoo!, Bing, and other popular websites are good starting points. Companies offering to submit a site to thousands of web directories and search engines are all garbage.
  • Real, quality traffic requires an investment in time. Not fun to hear in this age of instant gratification. This is an opportunity to get creative. The more links pointed to a website, the better ranked it becomes. These external links should be from sites with relevant content. Contact other website owners to request these links. Most of the time, these requests are ignored, so perseverance is critical.

It pays to stay abreast of emerging web technologies. The rapidly changing world of website development will eventually render much of this information obsolete. However, the bottom line remains the same; a trustworthy face, a matching reputation, and the know-how to attain both will ensure success on your mission.

Written by Josh Kryzak of Site Revision, Inc.