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The Do and Don't Do List

By Craig Goldwyn, visibility.tv


  • Design for 800 x 600 pixel monitors. Never force them to scroll left and right.
  • Make extensive use of Cascading Style Sheets. They insure your site will look the way you want on all browsers and operating systems. They also make your site more compatible with cell phone and pda browsers.
  • Put your logo on all pages. Put the same navigation tools on every page in the same place, preferably on the top or on the left.
  • Make sure you include a privacy statement, info about yourself, a telephone number, location and hours of business.
  • All transactions must be secure.
  • Make navigation intuitive. There are millions of people who are new to the net every year. Don't lose them with arcane symbols and visual language they might misunderstand.
  • Use images! Use small icons for navigation if possible.
  • Use alt tags and titles for images.
  • Use metatags and keywords and page descriptions for the search engine spiders.
  • Compress images for quick downloads. I know you want your pictures to look their best, but no one will see them if they are too large. Compress jpegs to 60% or less!
  • Seek simplicity. Nothing beats a white background.
  • Be consistent throughout the site. Make ALL links the same color. Don't confuse people.
  • Edit text carefully. Typos and grammatical errors look unprofessional. Hire an editor if necessary.
  • Edit pictures carefully. Ask "does it really need to be on the site?"
  • Do not use frames unless necessary. They hide the url of a page and make it hard for people to bookmark pages they want to return to.
  • Give pages sensible titles. They will appear in the browser and printouts, and some search engines need them.
  • Keep url names short and intuitive. Name it gallery.html, not glry.html.
  • Minimize clicks. Every click you put between the start and the destination is a filter and people get left behind.
  • Add useful content. If you are a photographer, write an article for brides on recommended poses. If you have instructional and educational content on your site, if it is not all sell sell sell, some search engines will rank you higher, and people seeking this sort of info might find you more easily.
  • Have your host set the server software so people don't need to enter "www".
  • Add something new every now and then. Let them know you're alive.
  • Have a guestbook or a way to collect email addresses. Send out a short text email when you add something or enhance the site. Keep it to text. Many people cannot read html email, and many others block email with attachments.
  • Avoid linkrot. Test all links. There are tools to test for you.
  • Consider getting high speed access so sending pictures and pages to the site will go faster. Look into DSL or cable.
  • Make all your links to internal pages relative not absolute. This will allow you to test on any server or move the whole site from one machine to another without breaking links.
  • Put your url and email address on all your printed matter. Business cards, letterhead, envelopes, brochures, etc.
  • Study your logs, but make sure your analysis software is omitting your own browsing so you are not misled by counting your own browsing or your site.
  • Use digital image metadata to store your name, copyright, email, and keywords. Some programs, like Photoshop, allow you to embed info like this in the image file so it can be found by search engines that know how to read it.
  • Create personal, humorous error pages. "Oops!" Is better than "Error 404". Put your email address on the error page a
  • Tell your host about any nudity or violent images on your site before people complain.
  • Test test test. Test with Windows, Mac, Explorer, Netscape, Opera, AOL, WebTV. Have friends test test test.
  • Promote the site with search engines and mutual links.
  • Plan on the site taking time and money. You just can't slap it online and ignore it. Make sure you or someone on staff has time to do the job right.
  • Learn how the web works. Surf. Buy. Search. View source.
  • Get help when you need it.
  • Take criticism as valuable. Pay attention to it. Praise is meaningless, criticism is priceless.
  • Sell!


  • Don't over-design. Design for design sake is bad for business. Design for a novice. Ask your Grandma to test it.
  • Don't use Flash unless necessary, and if you do, keep it small.
  • Don't use rollovers unless necessary.
  • Don't use dates on pages unless the info is subject to change or the news is tied to a date. Dated pages get old fast and make the site look stale.
  • Think carefully before you take ads. Why sell somebody else's website? Sell yourself! OK, maybe a charity, but make sure the ad page opens in a new, smaller window, so your page remains in the background. If you have a link to another site, do the same thing. Open a new smaller window. Don't send people away!
  • Don't use visitor counters (you know, the ones that look like odometers). Nobody needs to know how many people have visited your site. You can get this info from your logs.
  • Don't let pages get longer than three screens. Don't make people scroll a lot. One screen is ideal.
  • Don't email subscribers more than twice per month.
  • Don't use black backgrounds. Type breaks up against it, and it is getting hackneyed.
  • Don't get cute. 2sexy4u@snotnose.com is not professional.
  • Don't use automatically changing dates. People can set some browsers to email them when a page has changed. A date that changes automatically every day activates this "subscription" function, they go to your site, see nothing has changed, and get mad.
  • Don't use sounds without advance notice. People browse at night and loud noises wake people up. And don't ever use sound loops. They drive people crazy and they leave just to get away from the noise.
  • Don't use any typeface other than Verdana, Arial, Courier, or Times. These four are on practically every computer. Helvetica and other decorative fonts are not. If the font you specify isn't living on the customer's computer, the type will either switch to another font or be illegible.
  • Don't hold out the hope that you can control design. Current html and browsers give you a lot of control, but not nearly as much as you want. Be prepared for people to override your font sizes, or link colors. Lines will wrap in the oddest places. Heads will be widowed.
  • Don't use clipart. It always looks cheap.
  • Don't let table borders show. They look ugly. Set them for 0.
  • Don't use symbols such as % or ! in urls. They will break some servers. Don't use spaces in urls either.
  • Don't change urls. If you name a page mysite.com/gallery.html, don't change it to mysite.com/portfolio.html. People who have bookmarked the original page will get an error page and you may lose them.
  • Don't try to do it all yourself.
  • Don't be afraid to sell something!

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