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1. Make sure each page in your website has something valuable to offer.
Though this doesn’t really relate to design, it’s actually more important than design. I know many people reading this page are trying to find out how to make useless pages look pretty, because they think that style is all that really matters. So let’s step back a minute and realize that fundamentally a web page exists to provide something that’s useful or interesting to visitors. If your page doesn’t have that, then fix that problem before you worry about how to present it. If you throw mud at a canvas, then even if you put it in a gold frame, it’s still just a canvas of mud.
If your plan is to make money from advertising, then go for a ratio of not less than 75% editorial to 25% advertising. Amazingly, I see some sites that are almost nothing but ads. Would you turn on the TV if it were just commercials, and no programs? Would you buy a magazine if it were just ads, and no articles? If not, then make sure your web site doesn’t suffer from the same mistake.
2. Don’t annoy your visitors with pop-up windows.
Nobody likes them. They waste time and space. Which of these reactions do you think your visitor is more likely to have?
(a) “A popup window, oh goody! I love sites with popups! I will make certain to bookmark this site and visit often. I will also certainly click the ad or links in the popup because I have such a strong love of popups.”(b) “@#&$! Whoever made this website obviously has no respect for me as a visitor. When I leave here I will never come back.”
3. Limit page length to 2 screenfuls, or 6-7 screenfuls for articles.
While you should put a lot of info on each page to minimize clicking, don’t go too far in the other direction by putting too much info on a page. You should normally limit a page to no more than two screenfuls of info. Articles (like this one) are exceptions, because articles are longer by nature. But even so, very long articles (more than about 6-7 screenfuls) should usually be chunked into separate pages.
4. Include a way to get back to the home page, on every page.
When users get lost they like to start over from square one. Make it easy for them to do so. If you’re including a clickable logo on the top of every page, make sure to also include text that says something like “Back to Home Page”, because some users don’t realize that logos take you back to the home page.
5. Compress your image files.
Nothing is more annoying to readers than waiting for a 200k graphic to load when it should be only 20k instead. Graphics software can compress files so they take up less room on your disk, and therefore take less time to load into your visitors’ browsers.