Last month when I wrote about how to have better websites for a book, yourself and your writing, I listed some of the components that enable attracting visitors, capturing their attention to keep them browsing, and causing them to return to your site. I promised to explore each of these components more in depth. This is the second follow up article. Today we'll consider current practices
for your designing your site. One of the first sets of elements writers usually consider makes up the pages' appearances. In my opinion, this can be a mistake, but it is irresistible to do so. Let's consider some basic guidelines:
Don't use a background that interferes with the message, text or other information on the page. Horror writers are notorious for desiring black backgrounds. The only text that is readable is white, bright yellow or screaming red. All these combinations are hard on the eyes. Stick with a white or light background and dark text in a sans serif font like Arial
Avoid the temptation to upload an "Under Construction" graphic as soon as you acquire a parked domain page. Ideally, no one but you and your designer need to know the URL of your potential site. If the news has escaped, or you're worried that others will find it by accident, a tasteful welcome and request to return is sufficient. Really savvy developers will add a sign up form to begin capturing visitor information, especially the ever-desirable email address. Offer to send visitors a notice when the site is up and running.
Need I add, don't have a link to a page that just says "Under Construction"? That's quite unprofessional and frustrating for viewers. Similarly, using dead links in a menu to indicate future sections or pages is equally counterproductive. Don't let your site "go live" until is is fully ready -- as a beginning. You can always expand the navigation menu as new sections go online.
Cutesy horizontal bars and animations, scrolling banners, flashing or sparkling images, site visit meters, and update listings are out of vogue. They may be amusing, but they can also be annoying and are inappropriate for a professional Web page. You don't want any element that takes the eye away from the page's content.
Similarly, pass up graphics that are nor relevant to your writing or to a link's function. Ensure a connection before you use an image. Acquire permission or a license to use someone else's graphics. If you "deep link" (simply point to it instead of hosting a copy on your site) be careful that it won't disappear, and again seek permission. Deep linking is a drain on another's resources.
Be sure to provide ALT tags on images and text equivalents for audio files, text only versions of pages, and information about videos for the visually impaired visitors. Try to comply with the standards of the Web Accessibility Initiative
This article is an extension of Better Websites for Writing
Previous articles in the series:Writing Websites: Critical Listings
Labels: websites, writers