Friday, February 22, 2008

12 Steps to Creating a Professional Web Design

Before we share some of the necessary steps used to create a professional web design and website, the following question must be addressed: What constitutes a “professional web design”? More often than not, a web designer or web design company claims to offer professional web design services for their clients. However, should they be promoting “web design services” rather than “professional web design services”? When measuring the professionalism of a web design and website, one must take into consideration a number of factors/steps:

Multi-stage web design process
Project collaboration tools (if project has more than one person involved)
High-quality design
Attention to detail
Current web design technology (CSS)
Well written, interesting, grammatically-correct content
Usability
XHTML and CSS validation (clean code)
Standards-compliant
Optimization
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) friendly
Abuse of Flash, Javascript, and sound effects



To put it simply, what separates professional web design from web design is whether or not a designer or web design company takes into consideration the above items when designing and building a website. Other than paying for a respected companies name and reputation, the items listed above are why professional web design services tend to cost more than regular web design services - you’re getting a lot more than a website - you’re getting the total package of web design professionalism that will surely shine through once the website is completed and released to the public.

The good news is, you don’t need to hire a professional web design company or professional web designer if you want a professional web design and website. Although there is a great deal of work involved, if you’d like to attempt to do the heavy lifting on your own, then the following professional web design tips will help you create a professional web design and website.
Note: You might be wondering why a professional web design company would give away their process and professional web design “checklist” for free. The answer is quite simple: there is only so much time in the day, and unfortunately we can’t professionally design every website in the world. The more high-quality, professional websites there are in cyberspace, the happier we as professional web designers and lovers of websites will be. To be blunt, there is just way too much junk out there. Lets get started

Stage 1: Conceptualization and planning (flowcharts)

When designing a website, one should not begin the process inside of a text editor (BBedit) or website builder application (Dreamweaver, GoLive, etc). Instead, the process should begin on a piece of paper or within flowchart software. According to Wikipedia, a flowchart is:
a schematic representation of an algorithm or a process.
In layman’s terms, a flowchart provides a visual chart illustrating the structure of your website. How many main navigational items will your website contain? What will these items be called? Will there be any pages contained within the main pages? What will they be called? By planning out your website using a flowchart, you get a head start on:
Information organization
Usability
Determining the volume of content required

Stage 2: Modeling (wireframes)

In the modeling stage, static “wireframe” mockups are created for each unique web page. To create wireframes, one may use either:
paper and pencil
mockup software such as Adobe Photoshop or our personal choice, OmniGraffle Professional
These wireframes contain a bare-bones skeleton which illustrate the layout of a particular web page. Where will the logo go? Where will the content be located? Will there be breadcrumbs? Will you have a login box? Each of these questions (and many more) are answered in the modeling stage. A few things one should take into consideration when creating wireframes:
be sure to include all important elements that will be used (logo, navigation, content placement, images/video placement, login box, search, breadcrumbs, etc)
reference the flowchart which you created in Stage 1
don’t use graphics - wireframes are meant to be bare-bones: boxes/circles/ovals which illustrate the placement of objects
only use text to label the elements, don’t use body text (thats for the third stage)
focus on clean, well-organized, user-friendly layout; avoid cluttered layouts

Stage 3: Execution

The third stage in our professional web design process includes:
Creating the graphical user interface (GUI), also known as the design
Creating the content
Converting the web designs from images into code (markup) which web browsers use to present your website on the Internet
In the final stage, reference both the flowcharts created in Stage 1 and the wireframe mockups created in Stage 2 to create the final page layouts and designs. The design should be finalized in Photoshop or whatever image editing software you choose to use because it is a pain to make changes to the design once it has been converted into markup (code).
Trust us, process makes perfect
Following a well-structured web design process is by far one of the most importance steps that many web designers choose to neglect. By following a web design process such as the one we’ve just described, you increase the likelihood that your website will be well-organized, easily navigable, and user-friendly. If you’re going to skip any of the items in our professional web design checklist, make sure that the web design process is not one of them.

Step 2: Project collaboration tools

Note: If you are the only one working on your project, then you can skip this step. Project collaboration tools are only recommended for projects which have two or more people involved.
Communication is one of the most important elements in a project. When multiple people are building a website, there usually are quite a few e-mails sent back and forth between one another. The more e-mails exchanged, the longer it can take to find a certain e-mail and the easier it can be to misplace important bits of information. This was one of the biggest problems that our professional web design company faced when we first began - there wasn’t an easy way to organize the e-mails, attachments, milestones, etc.
Thankfully, after a little bit of research, we discovered a project collaboration tool called Basecamp. Taken directly from the Basecamp website:
Projects don’t fail from a lack of charts, graphs, stats, or reports, they fail from a lack of clear communication. Basecamp solves this problem by providing tools tailored to improve the communication between people working together on a project.
Basecamp (and project collaboration tools like it) allows multiple users to access a website which stores all of the messages, milestones, file uploads, to-do lists, time it takes to complete parts of the project, etc. that are associated with a project. No more sending e-mails. Everything is securely stored on the Basecamp servers. The only e-mails you will ever receive are notifications whenever something is contributed or changed within a project.
Basecamp has packages available that can be tailored to suit your needs. If you only need to use Basecamp for one project at a time, then you can signup for free. Unfortunately with the free version, there are no file uploads allowed. However, for a measly $12/month, you can control up to 3 projects at once, have 250 megabytes of file upload space, have unlimited people and clients, have a real-time chat that can easily be integrated into Basecamp, and much more.
When it comes to project collaboration and communication, nothing beats a web application like Basecamp. If you’re serious about your project and want to have the best communication possible, then you must try Basecamp. A project collaboration tool such as Basecamp is especially useful for a professional web design company which handles a number of projects and clients at any given time. For project collaboration, there is simply no better way to communicate.
Plug over.

Step 3: High-quality design

Who and what determines a “high-quality design”? There isn’t one answer. Often times something that is appealing to one person may be extremely unappealing to another. Despite this fact, there are several things that a high-quality design should have:
Balance. Balance refers to the equal distribution of the heavy and the light elements on a single page.
Unity. Unity keeps all of the similar elements in the website alike and those that are diverse further apart; everything should be pulled into one integrated whole.
Emphasis. Emphasis involves the main points where the eye is drawn into the design; also known as “focal points”.
Contrast. Not just color contrast, but also contrasting shapes, sizes, textures, and even typography.
Rhythm. Also known as repetition, rhythm brings internal consistency into your web design.
Since this is a broad topic and cannot be fully covered in this article, you can read more about the five basic elements of web design.
In addition to these five basic elements of web design, information overload is often times one of the biggest killers of a website design. Designers sometimes forget the saying “less is more” and somehow seem to believe that the more information that is stuffed onto one page, the better it will be. Don’t become a victim of information overload. Keep your layout as clean as possible. Give different topics their own dedicated web pages. One of the biggest causes for information overload is not successfully planning out your website layout through the use of flowcharts and wireframes, discussed above in Step 1: Multi-stage web design process. Remember: white space is not necessarily a bad thing. As a matter of fact, white space is your friend, especially when creating a professional web design. Successful professional web designers learn how to use white, negative space to their advantage, and make it a key element of the design.

Step 4: Attention to detail

When professionally designing a website, every little detail is thought out and planned. Should there be a line above the headers, and if so, why? If you use rounded corners for your main body, should you be consistent and use rounded corners for everything else? Does your logo look better with a reflection underneath? The only way to answer any of these questions is to experiment. Sometimes the best results come from accidental experimentation. Don’t always be happy with the first design. Work to improve upon the design and go through a few revisions, each time asking yourself “What can be done to make the design look better?”, be more consistent, and most importantly, give your website a stronger identity and image.
When we say “detail”, we’re not just talking about graphic design elements. No, graphic design is just the tip of the iceberg. We’re also talking about typography (font faces i.e. Arial, Verdana, Trebuchet MS, font sizes i.e 10 pixels, 12 pixels, 18 pixels, font weight/style i.e. bold, italic, font placement), the use of negative space, and other elements of design.
Attention to detail is important because it is oftentimes the details in your design which make your website stand out from the competition (or from other websites in general). People get bored with the same old design - give them something different, unique, and attractive, and they will come back and visit. Heck, they may even become inspired by your design.
Remember: Less is more. Use details, but don’t abuse details.

Step 5: Current web design technology (CSS)

CSS - also known as cascading style sheets - replaced table-based website layouts years ago. The problem is, a lot of web designers are still using tables to create their designs. Not only is this unprofessional, but tables just plain suck. Here are a number of reasons why using tables for your web design is a bad idea:
Tables slow down your website. Everything inside of a table’s cell is loaded before being shown to the user. This is especially apparent for people using dial up connections.
Tables make messy code and add unnecessary junk markup. File sizes are increased due to the excessive lines of code which means slower load times. Also, having to sift through hundreds (sometimes thousands) of lines of code just to make a change isn’t a lot of fun.
Universal layout updates are difficult and time consuming when using tables. Making universal edits with tables involves opening each file, sifting through the code and junk markup, and making a change (again, on each page). Often times with CSS, all one must do is open the stylesheet and change a single value.
Tables should only be used to show data, not be used to design websites.
Tables limit your creativity and design. Table layouts are limited to boring, grid-based layouts. With CSS, you can place anything anywhere. The layout possibilities with CSS are endless.
CSS will save you time and increase your revenue in the long run. Updates and edits are much easier using CSS than tables. Because of faster load times, fewer visitors are likely to become impatient and leave. Longer visits = more browsing, more ad-clicking, lower bounce rates = more money for you.
Display your CSS website on tons of high-quality CSS Showcase websites. Tons of exposure if your website is featured. Table-based layouts are not welcome. Complete list on listible.com.
Some people will argue that table-based layouts are better than layouts which are built using CSS. However, oftentimes the person arguing that tables are better than CSS is the person who spent thousands of dollars on a table-based layout. Despite what anyone tells you, table-based layouts are inferior to CSS and should be avoided at all costs.
To read all about CSS, visit w3schools.com. Again, to be blunt, if your website is created using tables, it is not professional web design quality. Start using CSS stylesheets today and keep the tables in your spreadsheet application.

Step 6: Well written, interesting, grammatically-correct content

One thing that greatly compromises the quality and credibility of a website is poorly written, grammatically incorrect, misspelled content. This kind of content is unfortunately present in an extremely high number of websites - especially “professional” company websites.
If you don’t know how to write, then hire someone to write the content of your website. You’ll thank yourself later. Even if you do know how to write, mistakes are easy to make. Run through your content a few times to confirm that everything makes sense, is interesting, and is spelled correctly. You’ll look more professional and people will take what you have to say more seriously.

Step 7: Usability

Website usability is extremely important. According to usability.gov:
In general, usability refers to how well users can learn and use a product to achieve their goals and how satisfied they are with that process. Usability, as defined by Joseph Dumas and Janice (Ginny) Redish, means that people who use the product can do so quickly and easily to accomplish their tasks. Usability may also consider such factors as cost-effectiveness and usefulness.
If website usability is poor, then people can easily become frustrated and leave your website. A great deal of importance must be placed on website usability if you want your web design to be of professional quality. It is usually poor usability which separates the regular websites from the professionally designed websites. Usability is the most important element of a professionally designed website.
For a wealth of information regarding website usability, visit usability.gov and also read our Dos and Donts of Website Navigation Usability.

Step 8: XHTML and CSS validation

Some people will argue that validating your website with XHTML and CSS validation from W3.org is a waste of time. To be blunt, they are wrong (for a number of reasons).
Accessibility. Without accessibility, you run the risk of being sued. For example: a disabled person who cannot use a “conventional” browser can sue you if your website is inaccessible to them. Although validation doesn’t necessarily guarantee accessibility, it is an important component of exercising ones due diligence and is reason enough that you should validate your website’s XHTML and CSS.
Cross browser compatibility. The more validation errors your website has, the higher the chances are that your website will not look the same in all web browsers. We will cover the importance of cross browser compatibility in the next step.
You look more professional with a valid website. Again, like having interesting content free of grammatical errors and misspellings, having a valid website makes you look more professional to your visitors. It tells them “Hey, I care about my website’s image, I took the time to validate it”.
If you’re building a website for the first time, then you may find that your website has a lot of validation errors. Don’t worry, this happens to the best of us. The more websites you build and the more time that you take to learn the rules of validation, the fewer errors you will get and the easier it will be to validate your website.
For more information about XHTML and CSS validation visit W3.org.

Step 9: Standards-compliant

Perhaps the most difficult, time-consuming aspect of professional web design is making sure your website is standards-compliant.
Taken directly from Wikipedia:
Standards-compliant is a term often used in describing websites & user agents’ (often web browsers) relative compliance with web standards proposed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
In layman’s terms, if you want your website to be considered professional, then it must look and function the same in all major browsers. In addition, achieving interoperability lowers costs to content providers since they must only develop one version of a document.
As mentioned above, creating a standards-compliant website will take a good deal of time and can even involve using basic hacks in order for certain elements to appear the same across all major browsers. Major browsers include: Internet Explorer 6 (IE6 -PC), Internet Explorer 7 (IE7 - PC), Firefox (PC and Mac), Safari (PC and Mac), and Opera (PC and Mac). These browsers control the majority of the browser market share and therefore the website which you create should be tested extensively in each of these browsers to ensure standards-compliance. In addition, XHTML and CSS validation (as mentioned in Step 8: XHTML and CSS validation) are extremely important when programming a website to be standards-compliant. Validate your website, validate your CSS stylesheet, validate yourself (okay, you can’t validate yourself, but if you could, would you?).

Step 10: Optimization

Website optimization is another crucial factor that must be taken into consideration when professionally designing a website. Website optimization includes:
Image optimization. Next to audio and video, images can severely compromise the speed in which your website loads. Always compress your images using Photoshop or your favorite image compression utility. By compressing images, you decrease the size of a file which allows a web page to load quicker which ultimately decreases the chance that your visitor will leave your website due to long load times.
Audio/Video optimization. Another major annoyance which screams “unprofessional” is having enormous video and audio files embedded in your web pages. Try to use Flash Video (.flv) compression for your video files and (.mp3) compression for your audio files. Not only are the file sizes smaller than using (.avi) or (.mpg) for video or (.wav) for audio, but the video/audio loads faster which means other elements on your web page will load faster, too.
Clean code (just say no to tables). In case you skipped Step 5, do not use tables when designing your website - use CSS (cascading style sheets). Tables have a ton of junk markup which will slow down your page load time, increase file sizes, and make editing and updating quite difficult.
Validate your XHTML and CSS. Although covered in Step 8, XHTML and CSS validation is an integral part of professional website optimization and therefore should not be skipped. Validate your XHTML and CSS.

Step 11: SEO (Search Engine Optimization) friendly

Professionally designed websites should be designed with a solid SEO friendly foundation. To make your website SEO friendly:
Don’t use Flash. If you must use Flash, make sure it is used sparingly. Flash content is not crawlable by search engine spiders and therefore the content located inside of Flash files cannot be indexed in the search engines such as Google, Yahoo, MSN, or Ask.
Don’t use Frames. Search Engine Spiders have a difficult time crawling through a website that uses frames. Many Search Engine Spiders will receive the following message when visiting a website designed using frames:
“Sorry! You need a frames-browser to view this site.”
Keyword Research. Optimize your web pages by including keywords relevant to the content on your website. Use keyword research tools such as Wordtracker or Overture to find the best, most relevant keywords for your content.
Researched Keywords in Title of web pages. Arguably the most important element in SEO, make sure that your title tags include the keywords found in the keyword research stage.
Researched Keywords in URL. Be sure to include the researched keywords in the title of your web pages as well. For example, if a page on your website is about energy drinks, make sure that the file is saved as “energy-drinks.html”. Use dashes instead of underscores, if possible.
CSS Navigation/CSS Stylesheets. CSS navigation guarantees that your website navigational text is crawlable by search engine spiders. CSS navigation also loads very quickly and anyone will be able to view the navigation using any browser.
Researched Keywords in Anchor Text. For hyperlinks inside and outside of your website, be sure to include the researched keywords in the anchor text of your hyperlinks. This helps search engines better determine what a particular page is about and will help that page rank higher with the researched keyword(s).
Images: ALT tags, no text in images. Not only are ALT tags required for XHTML validation, but they are necessary components of web accessibility. Try to avoid placing text inside of your images since search engine spiders cannot crawl image text. However, if you must place text inside of an image, use the text inside of the image as that image’s ALT tag. Search engine spiders can read ALT tags, just not the text inside of images.

Step 12: Abuse of Flash, Javascript, and sound effects

The last step in creating a professional web design and website is to avoid the abuse of Flash, Javascript, and sound effects. Not everyone has Flash or Javascript enabled on their computer, and therefore your website should not be built around them. If you’re going to use Flash or Javascript, use it sparingly.
Try not to use Flash Intros on your website. Most people hate waiting for Flash Intros to load, hate being forced to sit through them, and hate being surprised by the sound that many of them have. Do not create your website using only Flash. Again, what about the users who do not have Flash enabled on their computer? That could be a potential client, customer, or reader who you’re missing out on because of an unnecessary technological limitation.
If you’re going to use sound effects, make sure that they only play if the user enables sound on your website - never force sound effects onto your visitors. Nothing screams “unprofessional” like having a sound effect play each time a navigational item is rolled over or even worse, when the visitor lands on the home page of your website.
As a matter of fact, Flash and sound effects should generally be avoided when creating a professional web design. Javascript is the only exception as long as you program the website to work even if Javascript is disabled. Flash and sound effects are a nuisance to a lot of people, so for that reason alone, try to stay away from them.
The recipe to professional web design
These 12 steps make up the majority of the recipe which many professional web designers live by when designing websites. Of course, knowing the things that you know after reading this article and actually being able to create a professional web design are two very different things. However, as it does with anything, practice makes perfect. Now get out there and start building a professionally designed website! And hey, if you can’t do it yourself, go to Google and search “professional web design”. Chromatic Sites is in there, along with many other highly-respected professional web design companies. Share/Bookmark

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

How to Optimize Mobile Websites - Mobile SEO Site Opens

The Mobile Website Optimization Company, North America’s premier mobile SEO specialists have opened their collaborative mobile SEO and mobile search engine marketing and promotion website.
This is the first mobile website of its kind where users can get information ranging from creating free mobile websites to programming advice to consulting. Much of the information is free and provides a much needed value added service for mobile web designers and webmasters. The biggest advantage of a website like this is the fact that MWO has experience in all kinds of website marketing and has made a seamless transition to the mobile space for their clients.
MWO offers several value added services including programming help and tutorials, mobile website marketing, mobile optimization, free SEO tools, articles, forums, as well as a special section selling high traffic mobile websites. Visitors to the site can submit questions, advertise their own high traffic mobile websites, utilize the free tools or have MWO provide a service or services they need to get their website properly mobilized.

When visiting MWO be sure to check out their articles section as many of their mobile optimization articles are quite detailed and give mobile webmasters some very good insight into properly optimizing and marketing their mobile websites and online mobile businesses. Share/Bookmark

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Website Design Services

Website design for many visitors, your website will be their first point of contact with your business, and therefore must represent the professionalism of your enterprise and capture their attention.Usable, accessible web design In close consultation with you, we will work towards creating a design that is both appealing and provides access to important information rapidly.
The notion of "accessibility" is also something that is very important to us, and we pride ourselves in constructing websites that are extremely easy to use and navigate – this is done in compliance with the latest standards agreed by the W3C.Getting your website foundWe will also take great pains to ensure that your website achieves excellent positioning on the important Search Engines and have a very strong track record in achieving top rankings on Google and other systems. This will, in turn, increase the likelihood of attracting potential customers.


Ongoing support and maintenance. We are committed to providing full support for the websites we build long after they have gone "live" and fully understand that things do not stay the same for long on the World Wide Web, and so will advise you of any recommendations we might have regarding the best ways to keep your site moving forwards.If you're interested in having a website developed for your business, don't take any chances - talk to us first!You might also be interested in...


We live and breathe accessible web design and development - we are so passionate about the creation of standards-compliant, content managed websites and eCommerce stores, it is quite probable that we dream in XHTML and CSS. Website design, web design packages, website development, web & graphic design Dynamic webs have designed and programmed several hundred web sites. We have developed the expertise to utilise a broad range of knowledge to approach conception and design procedure in the most effective way. Using our own panel of experts covering all aspects of design, marketing and technical consultancy, we are able to assist customers who have extremely diverse requirements.

The comprehensive nature of our service has proved to be invaluable to our clients who have made substantial savings already during design-concept and planning phases.Dynamic Webs provide a special online service, which allows you to view the progress of the web sites construction. This enables you to suggest andanticipate issues regarding the web site development as well as do the proof reading - testing as and when the site has been developed.
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Guaranteed Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Services

This motto "Results, not excuses."reflects the attitude we take towards the optimization of each and every website we work on. From helping you choose the best keyword targets to seeing your website among the top positions on the major search engines, we'll work with you to Maximize your return on investment from our SEO services.How confident are we that we can attain high rankings for your website through ethical search engine optimization?


Confident enough to offer a  money back guarantee on our SEO services.We are business people too, and like you we understand that every investment must produce results for your company. Whether that money is being spent on additional sales staff, new equipment, or on attaining high search engine positioning by hiring an SEO firm; that investment must generate revenue higher than its cost in order to be considered worthwhile.

Why does your website need search engine optimization services?

80% of all website traffic originates from the search engines, with the majority coming from a select few. If your company has an online presence but doesn't have a high ranking on the major search engines for your targeted phrases then you're losing money to your competition every single day.At over Search Engine Positioning we make sure that your website attains a high ranking for the keyword phrases that will produce the greatest profit for you. We do this through in-depth keyword analysis combined with the highest level of commitment to placing your website above your competitors on the major search engines with our SEO services.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)Search Engine Optimisation (also known as SEO) can make the difference between a website attracting visitors, and therefore potential revenue, or languishing in online obscurity...We have a proven track record in acquiring top-level positions on the most important Search Engines and directories, such as Google and DMOZ, with our clients' sites being returned on a wide range of carefully chosen strategic search terms.Part of the success of our approach can be attributed to the fact that the accessible, standards-compliant websites we produce, are coded by hand, and come optimised right "out of the box" using industry-standard best practice and outstanding levels of client care.

If you've already got a website, but it isn't performing as you would have hoped on the Search Engines, why not speak to us to see how the situation can be improved to your satisfaction.Everything we undertake to optimise your website is done in close consultation with you - we will work hard to gain an appreciation of your business, and the kind of visitors you wish to attract.We only ever use "white hat" optimisation techniques to acquire solid rankings for our clients - in other words, we simply won't use methods that could have a potentially adverse effect on those all-important positions. Sadly, the same cannot be said of a number of our competitors who employ opposing "black hat" strategies in an attempt to boost a site's visibility on the Search Engines.Of course, you don't have to be based in London, or california to benefit from our experience in Search Engine Optimisation - we can help you wherever you or your business may be!
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Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design

Summary: The ten most egregious offenses against users. Web design disasters and HTML horrors are legion, though many usability atrocities are less common than they used to be.
Since my first attempt in 1996,
I have compiled many top-10 lists of the biggest mistakes in Web design. See links to all these lists at the bottom of this article. This article presents the highlights: the very worst mistakes of Web design. (Updated 2007.)



1. Bad Search

Overly literal search engines reduce usability in that they're unable to handle typos, plurals, hyphens, and other variants of the query terms. Such search engines are particularly difficult for elderly users, but they hurt everybody.
A related problem is when search engines prioritize results purely on the basis of how many query terms they contain, rather than on each document's importance. Much better if your search engine calls out "best bets" at the top of the list -- especially for important queries, such as the names of your products.
Search is the user's lifeline when navigation fails. Even though advanced search can sometimes help, simple search usually works best, and search should be presented as a simple box, since that's what users are looking for.

2. PDF Files for Online Reading

Users hate coming across a PDF file while browsing, because it breaks their flow. Even simple things like printing or saving documents are difficult because standard browser commands don't work. Layouts are often optimized for a sheet of paper, which rarely matches the size of the user's browser window. Bye-bye smooth scrolling. Hello tiny fonts.
Worst of all, PDF is an undifferentiated blob of content that's hard to navigate.
PDF is great for printing and for distributing manuals and other big documents that need to be printed. Reserve it for this purpose and convert any information that needs to be browsed or read on the screen into real web pages.


3. Not Changing the Color of Visited Links

A good grasp of past navigation helps you understand your current location, since it's the culmination of your journey. Knowing your past and present locations in turn makes it easier to decide where to go next. Links are a key factor in this navigation process. Users can exclude links that proved fruitless in their earlier visits. Conversely, they might revisit links they found helpful in the past.
Most important, knowing which pages they've already visited frees users from unintentionally revisiting the same pages over and over again.
These benefits only accrue under one important assumption: that users can tell the difference between visited and unvisited links because the site shows them in different colors. When visited links don't change color, users exhibit more navigational disorientation in usability testing and unintentionally revisit the same pages repeatedly.

4. Non-Scannable Text

A wall of text is deadly for an interactive experience. Intimidating. Boring. Painful to read.
Write for online, not print. To draw users into the text and support scannability, use well-documented tricks:
subheads
bulleted lists
highlighted keywords
short paragraphs
the inverted pyramid
a simple writing style, and
de-fluffed language devoid of marketese.

5. Fixed Font Size

CSS style sheets unfortunately give websites the power to disable a Web browser's "change font size" button and specify a fixed font size. About 95% of the time, this fixed size is tiny, reducing readability significantly for most people over the age of 40.
Respect the user's preferences and let them resize text as needed. Also, specify font sizes in relative terms -- not as an absolute number of pixels.

6. Page Titles With Low Search Engine Visibility


Search is the most important way users discover websites. Search is also one of the most important ways users find their way around individual websites. The humble page title is your main tool to attract new visitors from search listings and to help your existing users to locate the specific pages that they need.

The page title is contained within the HTML tag and is almost always used as the clickable headline for listings on search engine result pages (SERP). Search engines typically show the first 66 characters or so of the title, so it's truly microcontent.
Page titles are also used as the default entry in the Favorites when users bookmark a site. For your homepage, begin the with the company name, followed by a brief description of the site. Don't start with words like "The" or "Welcome to" unless you want to be alphabetized under "T" or "W."
For other pages than the homepage, start the title with a few of the most salient information-carrying words that describe the specifics of what users will find on that page. Since the page title is used as the window title in the browser, it's also used as the label for that window in the taskbar under Windows, meaning that advanced users will move between multiple windows under the guidance of the first one or two words of each page title. If all your page titles start with the same words, you have severely reduced usability for your multi-windowing users.
Taglines on homepages are a related subject: they also need to be short and quickly communicate the purpose of the site.

7. Anything That Looks Like an Advertisement


Selective attention is very powerful, and Web users have learned to stop paying attention to any ads that get in the way of their goal-driven navigation. (The main exception being text-only search-engine ads.)
Unfortunately, users also ignore legitimate design elements that look like prevalent forms of advertising. After all, when you ignore something, you don't study it in detail to find out what it is.
Therefore, it is best to avoid any designs that look like advertisements. The exact implications of this guideline will vary with new forms of ads; currently follow these rules:
banner blindness means that users never fixate their eyes on anything that looks like a banner ad due to shape or position on the page
animation avoidance makes users ignore areas with blinking or flashing text or other aggressive animations
pop-up purges mean that users close pop-up windoids before they have even fully rendered; sometimes with great viciousness (a sort of getting-back-at-GeoCities triumph).

8. Violating Design Conventions

Consistency is one of the most powerful usability principles:

when things always behave the same, users don't have to worry about what will happen. Instead, they know what will happen based on earlier experience. Every time you release an apple over Sir Isaac Newton, it will drop on his head. That's good.
The more users' expectations prove right, the more they will feel in control of the system and the more they will like it. And the more the system breaks users' expectations, the more they will feel insecure. Oops, maybe if I let go of this apple, it will turn into a tomato and jump a mile into the sky.
Jakob's Law of the Web User Experience states that "users spend most of their time on other websites."
This means that they form their expectations for your site based on what's commonly done on most other sites. If you deviate, your site will be harder to use and users will leave.

9. Opening New Browser Windows

Opening up new browser windows is like a vacuum cleaner sales person who starts a visit by emptying an ash tray on the customer's carpet. Don't pollute my screen with any more windows, thanks (particularly since current operating systems have miserable window management).
Designers open new browser windows on the theory that it keeps users on their site. But even disregarding the user-hostile message implied in taking over the user's machine, the strategy is self-defeating since it disables the Back button which is the normal way users return to previous sites. Users often don't notice that a new window has opened, especially if they are using a small monitor where the windows are maximized to fill up the screen. So a user who tries to return to the origin will be confused by a grayed out Back button.
Links that don't behave as expected undermine users' understanding of their own system. A link should be a simple hypertext reference that replaces the current page with new content. Users hate unwarranted pop-up windows. When they want the destination to appear in a new page, they can use their browser's "open in new window" command -- assuming, of course, that the link is not a piece of code that interferes with the browser’s standard behavior.


10. Not Answering Users' Questions

Users are highly goal-driven on the Web. They visit sites because there's something they want to accomplish -- maybe even buy your product. The ultimate failure of a website is to fail to provide the information users are looking for.
Sometimes the answer is simply not there and you lose the sale because users have to assume that your product or service doesn't meet their needs if you don't tell them the specifics. Other times the specifics are buried under a thick layer of marketese and bland slogans. Since users don't have time to read everything, such hidden info might almost as well not be there.
The worst example of not answering users' questions is to avoid listing the price of products and services. No B2C ecommerce site would make this mistake, but it's rife in B2B, where most "enterprise solutions" are presented so that you can't tell whether they are suited for 100 people or 100,000 people. Price is the most specific piece of info customers use to understand the nature of an offering, and not providing it makes people feel lost and reduces their understanding of a product line. We have miles of videotape of users asking "Where's the price?" while tearing their hair out.
Even B2C sites often make the associated mistake of forgetting prices in product lists, such as category pages or search results Knowing the price is key in both situations; it lets users differentiate among products and click through to the most relevant ones.

via: useit Share/Bookmark

Saturday, February 2, 2008

A Very Unusual Pagerank Update

Last week, many webmasters noticed that Google’s public pagerank system (a rough measure of each site’s importance in the search engine) was displaying higher than expected rankings for some sites.

Many virtually unlinked and unheard of sites rose significantly on the scale, without any official explanation from the search giant. Two of my sites that were affected were handsetreviews.com and carriermix.com. Both were ranked 0 out of 10 before the change, but rose to PR6 afterwards. Other sites have been known to rise as high as PR8 as a result of this update.
The strange thing is that this was not a normal update, as it only made a difference to newly created PR0 websites, and didn’t affect most internal pages (at least in my experence). Reaction from other webmasters can be found at this SitePoint forum thread.
Many webmasters believe that this unusual update could further devalue the meaning of PR (which is meaningless enough already for SEO purposes), but I am currently mulling a theory that Google could have a different opinion altogether.

I find it somewhat unlikely that the world’s biggest search engine would deliberately destroy the entire PR system. Rough and inaccurate as it is, the PR scale is the only way to get a simple reading of a site’s backlink weight, directly from Google.
Instead, my theory is that Google is turning PR itself into an elaborate experiment. They could be attempting to make it a more accurate measure of a site’s value, updated on a frequent, or even constant basis. Such a figure can’t be expected to be totally accurate right away, but if Google is trying to introduce such an improvement, I commend them for it.
Now, I must warn you, this is just a theory, and I make no guarantees that it is correct, but it’s quite a possible explanation in my opinion. Whether Google has success in implementing it is another matter altogether. Share/Bookmark

Google Strives to Further Improve Search Functionality

Despite Google’s dominant position in the search industry, the internet giant’s decision makers insist that search is not a “solved problem,” and that there is still much room for improvement.
“Our position is that search is a very hard problem. We have still a lot of work to do,” commented internal engineer, Douglas Merrill, noting that 70% of Google’s efforts still go into improving search, as opposed to developing other services.

“It is not enough to have the information, the information should be right,” Merrill went on to say. “Sometimes the problem is figuring out what the users mean, not what the user said.”
At this point, some of Google’s main projects include improving mobile web search, personalized search, and language translation features, as well as finding new ways to combat SEO spam.
By keeping its focus on core search functionality, the internet giant is demonstrating its belief that no search algorithm can be “too good,” while recognizing the continual progress of competitors. This goes to show that even the mighty Google must work hard to maintain the upper hand against rivals like Yahoo and Microsoft. Share/Bookmark

Facts About Title Keyword Density

If you’ve done much SEO work for your website, I’m sure you’ve realized just how important it is to include the right text in the <> tag of each page.
As discussed in this article, it is a good idea to build each of your pages around its own primary keyphrase, and somehow incorporate that keyphrase into your <> tag. The question is, of course, what’s the best way to integrate it? The problem is that each search engine has its own unique answer.
MSN (aka Live.com) is generally thought to reward very high keyword density, and often grants top-five rankings to pages with 100% density in the title (that is, pages where the primary keyphrase is the only thing in the title bar).
Google, on the other hand, seems to make a point of devaluing pages on keywords that exactly match their <> tag. This measure was most likely introduced as a way to fight search engine spammers who over-optimize for a single phrase, by excessively placing it in their content, headings, and title.

Overall, you need to make an informed decision about which optimization route you want to take for each of your sites. As mentioned in the algorithm summaries, MSN is a good choice for driving short-term traffic and revenue, while Google has a lot more potential for long-term sustainable content websites.

If you want to optimize for Google, my advice would be to go for title keyword density of around 50%, and no greater than 75%. For example, if your primary keyphrase is three words long, you many wish to add another three-word phrase to your title, consisting of secondary keywords. Share/Bookmark
Google