Please Note: This article was last updated in 2003.
For most independent professionals, a simple informational web site is the foundation of their web presence. For example, on this site I have information about what I do (massage) and articles that demonstrate my expertise and commitment to my profession.
The main goal of your professional web site should be to instill trust and confidence in the people who visit it. The Stanford Guidelines for Web Credibility list a number of ways you can build the credibility of your web site, including:
- make it easy to verify the accuracy of the information on your site (see the original source citations and other references I include on this site, e.g.)
- highlight your expertise
- show that honest and trustworthy people stand behind your site with bios and similar info (see my about page, e.g.)
- make it easy to contact you
- design your site so it looks professional (how does this site look to you?)
The Basics of Web Site Design
Beyond the overarching goal of establishing credibility, your website design should also adopt conventional web design elements. As Jakob Nielsen, a leading web-site usability guru says, “Do the same as everybody else: if most big websites do something in a certain way, then follow along since users will expect things to work the same on your site.” Some examples of sound web design basics:
- include a link to your home page on every page
- include your logo on every page, and build it so that if someone clicks on it they are taken to the home page
- include an on-site search function (like the search box at the bottom of each page on this site)
- write context-setting headlines and page titles
- make your page content scannable by using bulleted lists and short blocks of copy
- optimize web graphics and other design elements to speed up page download times
- include the ALT attribute in all IMG tags
- use a consistent navigation scheme
- include in your navigation scheme cues about where users are in your site
- include a site map
- make sure that pages download quickly
- use a consistent look throughout your site
- keep your web site up to date, and include information about the publication date for each page
- make your site accessible to disabled web users and to users of non-standard browsers
Avoid These Web Design Don’ts
I like to accentuate the positive, but when it comes to web design there are some important “don’ts” to keep in mind.
- be careful with frames they are rarely a good idea, since they break the fundamental “page” metaphor on which the web is built, and they can confuse search engines (see Jakob Neilsen’s article Why Frames Suck (Most of the Time) for more on this)
- don’t put words inside images search engines can’t read words that are hidden in a GIF or JPG image file
- don’t use blinking text, garishly animated images, or other tacky design devices
- never put up “under construction” pages if a page isn’t ready for prime time, don’t put it on your site
- don’t use page layouts that require users to scroll sideways
- don’t change web page addresses once a page is on your site, keep it in the same directory with the same file name (if for some reason you absolutely have to move a page, use a server-side 301 redirect to point to the new page location)
My Web Site Design Qualifications
I have been designing and building web pages and websites since 1994. For examples of my web design work, see my portfolio.
This page created 4/5/03; last updated 11/21/03.