When designing a new web site there are many potential pitfalls for the unwary designer. These are just a few hints and tips to try and help the novice web master in their efforts to produce a web site of which they can be proud.

The first “Do”, and arguably the most important, should come before you even think of firing up your choice of HTML editor. Do plan the web site. Don’t think that you can just sit down in front of your monitor, start Dreamweaver running and just wing it from there. Not only will this result in a poor design, you will also be wasting hours jumping back and forth from page to page making changes to work that was done earlier. I’ve found that the best method is to draw out an outline similar to a family tree, with the home page at the top and all of the other pages branching off from this. This should show all of the pages that you will be designing, and can also be used to show how the pages need to be linked.

While we are talking about planning, the next “Do” should also come at this stage. Do decide what your site should look like. Decide on what fonts will be used, in which sizes and colors. Decide what the background color should be. This will allow you to write a style sheet that can be applied to all of the pages, saving you time adding tags for these properties in each HTML file. And if you decide in the future that the look of the site needs to be updated, all you will need to do is change the style sheet.

One more thought on design – don’t use frames. Once popular, they are now considered to be outdated. There are far better ways to design a web site now. Frames also make life difficult for the spiders used by search engines to index web sites, and could result in a lower ranking than your site should receive.

Using a Flash introduction to your site may seem cool, but you may want to reconsider this. As with frames, search engine spiders find it hard to index sites using a lot of Flash animation – computers don’t see them at all. It may also be off-putting to some visitors, especially if they have a slow connection. If you must use a Flash design then make sure that there is a way that the user can skip past it if they prefer.

Do make sure that the site is as professional looking as you can make it. A consistent style and lay-out helps enormously with this, whereas a site which changes appearances every time a new page is accessed will not appear professional. Make sure that all of the links work as they should, and check back regularly, especially if you have a lot of external links – these could change at any time, leaving your site looking bad. Make sure that all of the content is clear and concise, using correct spelling and grammar. Remember to update regularly – don’t leave a “Coming Soon” page up for too long as you will start to lose credibility. In a similar vein, make sure that if you offer, for example, a “Christmas Special” that you remove the page soon after Christmas is over.

A short article on web site design such as this cannot hope to cover all of the many facets of the subject of web design. There are plenty of resources available to help your study of this – a quick visit to a book-store will show that. I’ll leave you with one final thought – once the design is finished, take a metaphorical step back and think “Would I enjoy visiting this site?” If the answer is yes then maybe the design worked.