Let me start from the first consideration you should make about overall design. Your goals are to create a balance between the attractiveness of your site, how user friendly it will be and how quickly your website loads.
Choosing Your Website Platform:
There are a number of possibilities to choose a platform for your website, to numerous too list in this article. However, I will say that many free website building tools can be found on the internet by checking with the major search engines. You will find many on line sites as well as free standing programs (including open source) that you can use. Another possibility would be to use a program like Adobe Dreamweaver to construct your site (the caveat here is that there is a definite learning curve using Dreamweaver). You may also opt to use a blogging site such as Blogger.com or Wordpress as your platform since the difference between a website and a blog has become hard to distinguish. I personally like Wordpress since I use it for my website wesavemoney4u.com partly because it is easy to use, and, there are many ways to enhance the look and functionality of a website with the hundreds of plug-ins and widgets that are available.
Simple, easy to see and use menu bars are the key. Whether your "nav bar" is on the side or you decide to use menus tabs at the top of the page they should be easy to read and navigate. I prefer menu tabs at the top of the page because they will be the first thing a visitor will see.
Do not be afraid to use white space to keep your site clean and spacious. A lot of websites cram so much text and graphics into their page the visitor can become somewhat overwhelmed. Of course, many of these sites are professionally designed and because of the sheer volume of product a company has to offer they cover the page with tons of graphics and long pages. Unless you deal with a volume of products like Amazon.com, keep it simple.
Keep Flash scripts, animated GIFs to a minimum:
Sure they look great - sometimes - but they slow down the load time of your page. Concentrate on quality content instead. Once you get past the flashy graphics your visitor will want more than pretty pictures to keep them at your site anyway. Scrolling text and auto loading sound are usually a distraction as well.
Using GIF and JPEG:
Use JPEG for scanned pictures and photographs; use GIF for computer generated graphics like buttons or animation. GIF is also used when a transparent background is desired.
Content Is King:
Your content is the single most important element for your website because if done well it will keep visitors at your website. It is also very important for search engine optimization and Google page rank. Remember to use keywords in your text but make sure that you don't stuff the text with an inordinate amount of keywords. For one thing, it will make your content look and read unnatural and search engines can spot keyword stuffing easily. Use the same keyword only once or twice every 300 words to be safe.
Additional Do's and Don’ts:
Don't annoy your visitors with pop-up windows.
Don't open internal links in a new window. It is annoying to have several windows open and no way to navigate back.
Don't type more than a few words in all capitals. They lose their effectiveness if over done.
Don't distract your visitors with blinking or scrolling text. You know how annoying some of those blinking ads are on the internet - why use them?
Do make sure to include a menu on all pages. Breadcrumbs are useful too.
Do use contrasting colors to make test easy to read.
Do make the text large enough to read. I use 14 point at my website to help accommodate people with less than perfect eyesight.
Do use descriptive link text. Don't just use click here. For example, "To see my jokes page click here." is better.
Lastly I will leave you with a list of fonts that are 'web' safe and should appear correctly on all browsers. (Stay away from that script font even though it looks great).
Font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
Font-family: 'Arial Black', Gadget, sans-serif;
Font-family: 'Bookman Old Style', serif;
Font-family: 'Comic Sans MS', cursive;
Font-family: Courier, moonscape;
Font-family: 'Courier New', Courier, moonscape;
Font-family: Garamond, serif;
Font-family: Georgia, serif;
Font-family: Impact, Charcoal, sans-serif;
Font-family: 'Lucida Console', Monaco, moonscape;
Font-family: 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'Lucida Grande', sans-serif;
Font-family: 'MS Sans Serif', Geneva, sans-serif;
Font-family: 'MS Serif', 'New York', sans-serif;
Font-family: 'Palatino Linotype', 'Book Antiqua', Palatino, serif;
Font-family: Symbol, sans-serif;
Font-family: Tahoma, Geneva, sans-serif;
Font-family: 'Times New Roman', Times, serif;
Font-family: 'Trebuchet MS', Helvetica, sans-serif;
Font-family: Verdana, Geneva, sans-serif;
Font-family: Webdings, sans-serif;
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