In this day and age where anyone, including a five-year-old, can use software tools to write a basic web page it is more important than ever to be aware of and follow some principles of basic web design. This list of web design basics is by no means definitive, there are many other issues that come into play when publishing web pages on the Internet. However, following these simple rules will keep your pages looking clean and provide a good first impression to your viewers.
1. Conserve bandwidth wherever possible and start with your photographs and images. Broadband Internet access is still not universal, and even though current estimates point to nearly 80 percent of US households having Broadband we must still optimize our web pages simply as a matter of courtesy. Always use an image editor to reduce the size of images down to the exact size you want them to display on your web page. Never use HTML comments to make a large image squeeze down into a smaller package. Also, make certain that all images are down-sampled to only 72dpi in resolution. Computer monitors can only display images at 72dpi so anything higher is wasted bandwidth. Another great rule of thumb is to attempt to keep the total page size (including all images and scripts) to under 50k. This is very difficult to do, but small web pages load incredibly fast and get your information to the reader much more efficiently.
2. Think about the way you align text and images on each page. Centered alignments are very weak visually. They are difficult to read, and simply don’t use the space well. Left justified or right justified texts create smooth, clean lines that give the viewers eyes something to lock on to and focus their attention. You can further accentuate the alignment of the elements on your page by carefully using the edges of your images as guides for these alignments. Have your image be the left or right-hand border of a text block. The image captures the attention of the viewer and the neatly aligned text makes the viewer want to read the information on the web page.
3. Pick a graphic or logo and design your web page’s color scheme based on that graphic. At the same time don’t be afraid to break with the color scheme of your company, school, or organization. Some colors look great on paper but look lousy on a computer screen.
4. Don’t create it if you are not going to update it! Nothing says “WE DON’T CARE!” as much as an organization’s website that has old, stale, and outdated information on the home page. If you know that you will not have the time to update regularly then create a web page that will not go stale after a certain date. Present your information in the present tense without any reference to dates or times. For more detailed and time-critical websites consider using a content management system (CMS) such as Joomla in place of writing raw HTML web pages.