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Your Website's Design

See your site through the eyes of a visitor.
(Not as easy as it sounds)

The most common problem on the Internet is websites designed by and for designers, not for users.

You see them every time you go on the Internet: sites you have to fight with to get what you want. Sites that are all ads (or seem to be), sites with stuff flashing at you, sites that seem to bury what you want behind pages and pages of stuff you don't care about.

You use the Search box and get "Sorry, no pages found" (even though you know it's there), or you get 1000 pages and no easy way to see where your desired info is.

You go to the Site Map and see the designer's concept of how the site's information is organized. It differs enormously from how you want it to be organized.

Why do they do this?

Because they are unable to see their sites through the eyes of users.

As a guidebook author, I learned to look at travel destinations the way my readers would see them, not just the way I saw them.

I saw the dangerously uneven sidewalks an 80-year-old arthritic traveler might fear, and the lack of diaper-changing facilities new parents would miss, and the ripoff prices that cost-conscious travelers would avoid. After all, I was writing my guidebooks for them, not for me.

I wanted a readership of more than one (me).

This simple-sounding proposition is actually quite difficult, especially when seen in the light of your website's global reach: do you really know what people from 191 countries are looking for?

Well, you need to think about it, and to design your site to satisfy as many of them as possible.

First, a Little Plagiarism
Here's where a little quiet plagiarism comes in handy. Surf the 'Net to other websites on the topic of your choice, make notes on what they've done right and wrong. Borrow their ideas, and avoid their errors.

Next, Make an Outline
Just like planning a book project, next you need an outline of your site, made with your site's purpose in mind.

Then, Draw a Diagram
Outline and diagram are not the same thing (although they are similar). Your outline shows the info you'll present, and the hierarchy in which you will present it. Your diagram clarifies and solidifies this hierarchy, taking the power and flexibility of hypertext into consideration.

Hypertext, not Linear Text
Before finalizing your diagram, you need to learn about Optimized Hypertext. Then you need to ponder Optimized Hypertext on a long cruise (oh boy!), or a car or plane ride, or while sitting through a boring meeting, because unless you are under five years of age you have been schooled all your life in linear text, and Optimized Hypertext is fundamentally different.

It's easy to write bad hypertext, and a challenge to write Optimized Hypertext. Believe me.

Learn all that, and next you can learn about good web page design.


What Makes a Good Website?

Good Information Design

Good Navigation Design

Good Content

All About Links

Do It Yourself or Hire a Web Designer?

How to Find a Web Designer

Designing Your Website

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Tom Brosnahan