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Planning Your Site

Designing Your Site

Creating Your Site

Putting Your Site Online

Testing Your Site

Announcing Your Site

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How to Write for the Web

Designing: Develop a Consistent Look and Feel

Creating a consistent design for your Web site—that is, developing a consistent "look and feel"—allows your readers to associate a particular design style with your site. This helps them become familiar with consistent placements of navigation tools, types of information, and other material that you want them to find.

Because one Web page is usually as easy to visit as another, avoid different designs on your pages. Different page designs can lead readers to think they've left your site and jumped to another. If you need to differentiate among your pages, use subtle variations in an overall design, such as differences in color, navigation aids, or placement of text on a page. Differences in your page designs should reflect differences in the function of each page.

Keep the following principles in mind as you design your site:

  • Simple is better. Less is more. Don't try to cram too much on a single page.

  • Keep important information on the screen. Readers often jump to another Web page if they don't find what they're looking for on the screen. Although it's relatively easy to scroll down a page, few readers are willing to scroll down more than one screen to find the information they're seeking.

  • Avoid overuse of graphics. Graphics increase load time—or the time it takes for a browser to open a Web page. A well designed home page usually contains less than 40K of text and images. (To test the size of your home page, view the details of the HTML and image files used for the page. In Windows, use My Computer or Windows Explorer to view file sizes. On a Macintosh, view files in a folder.) In addition, research suggests that readers of Web pages are drawn to textual information as opposed to graphical information—a behavior that is strikingly different from readers' typical behaviors with print documents. Perhaps because so many Web sites use images largely as decoration, rather than as sources of information in and of themselves (for example, news photographs, diagrams, and charts), readers typically look first at text on a Web page.

Links Page: Learn more about Web design on the Web Style and Design Guidelines links page.

Links Page: Learn more about Web graphics on the Web Graphics links page.

As you begin to design your pages, browse the Web for sites that attempt to accomplish a purpose similar to your own. Evaluate their page designs, making note of features and layouts that you might want to incorporate into your own site. Then, begin sketching designs on paper or in a graphics program. When you're satisfied with your design, get ready to code your pages.

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