The Next Generation: Good Practices in Web Design

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[The Next Generation showcases the work and thoughts of those preparing to enter the industry, providing fresh ideas and an alternate view on design and development. Samuel Rogers talks us through the fundamentals of web design; how to avoid making common mistakes and how to improve the overall experience for your customers - Chris]

An abundance of websites on the Internet means it is crucial to stand out from competition, to maintain visitors, and gain popularity. Modern design is always changing which makes updating a website a difficult task. Frustrated viewers will leave a website within seconds if it is slow to load, not optimised for mobile, or cluttered with adverts in all the wrong places. Sometimes simplicity rules, as it proves to be accessible in many cases.

The bare skeleton of a website is of course, the domain name; the core of a thriving website is the address and the hosting. Any popular website will be expected to load in milliseconds, optimising their code by minimising any unwanted JavaScript. Content delivery networks are useful for hosting your website assets that may take longer to load, especially large images which are commonly retrieved, and videos. The advantage of a CDN is that it maintains speed throughout your website and may stop downtime.

Dropdown menu disaster is a common mistake in website design, as some users find them frustrating and difficult to the navigate, especially with mobile devices. In most cases the dropdown menus are used in e-commerce sites, where they display sub categories of items, however on a normal website this can be excessive unless there are many pages within the site. A good way to add looks to a menu can be to implement it into the design of the site; for instance, making buttons look like volume controls on an amplifier for a band website. Navigating a website must be easy for the user, and be accommodating for all audiences.

An example of bad colour choice and tablet-unfriendly dropdown menus.

Basing a website completely around Flash or other multimedia plugins is a bad idea. Mobile operating systems have scrapped Flash, no longer supporting it. Instead, you can use HTML 5 as an alternative, as nearly all phones and computers are now compatible. There are even tools available to convert existing Flash to HTML 5! Making your website accessible to everyone is also an important topic; you need to bear this in mind when selecting colours, and choosing font sizes. Large corporate websites tend to have a font size selector to serve as many people as possible.

There are wealthy numbers of websites that focus on blogging, or those with an extremely targeted niche, that are supported by placing adverts in them. Although the aim is to generate income by placing adverts in the "winning" spots, it is also a commitment and priority to put visitors first. Even though it may earn you a little extra money, it is not worth the effort, and it will ward some visitors away. Users can find adverts which are "sticky" or "fixed" to the page irritating, as they stay put even when the page scrolls. Generally, popular ad spots are in the footer and sidebars of websites, so you may want to consider this when working on the basic layout of your design

When choosing your website layout it should be appropriate for the genre and be functional. One good example is a website for a website hosting company; the front page should hold content that is relevant to the customer, and in this case, it could be in the form of an image slider showcasing the best packages, allowing the user to choose a plan which suits them. Responsive design is crucial in the always expanding mobile world, as more users demand for a layout that will adapt to the browser width and height. It may also be a good idea to track the amount of smartphone visitors you get by implementing an analytics system on your website. There are many solutions which let you make a website from basic pre-built CSS codes, and these frameworks are common for a quick website to be made.

Colour is again a problem, but the abundance of animated images and scrolling text really hinders the site.

Mistakes are commonly made with websites where text is unreadable, or images looked washed out due to poor colour choice. To avoid these issues, it is best to keep to the "web colours" palette which can be found in most desktop image editing suites. Choosing colours that compliment each other but are identifiable can be a hard job, however with text and other content it is important that is eligible, so it is sensible to choose a darker colour, rather than a bright one. Regarding fonts, smaller and frail styles are not ideal as they cannot be seen well, whilst sans-serif fonts tend to fare well.

These are the essentials that web design beckons for. Make sure your website serves a purpose. Remember to keep things simple for all audiences, choose fonts that can be understood easily, and choose colours wisely. Often, I find designs taking the trend of minimalism, based around the idea of typography and simple images, which you may want to master too. Good luck with creating your websites, and look around for inspiration too!

My name is Sam, I love writing things about technology, the occasional bike ride, and running. When I'm not doing any of those, I'm either trying to perfect my websites, or in the kitchen baking a cake. You can find and add me on LinkedIn here!

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