A Beginner’s Guide to Web Design & Publishing

A Beginner’s Guide to Web Design & Publishing

For anyone who desires to announce their website to display their business, art, or other interests online, designing a website need not overwhelm them.

For any and every website, content is king. Intentions are great, but the Internet is a busy and complex place. To reach out and call awareness to itself, a website must present its content in a way that will meet the needs and, most importantly, the expectations of the Internet users who might go looking for that information. It means that the navigation should conform to some basic rules, and certain visual elements should be placed in prominent and expected places to achieve maximum effect.

The core design question to be asked and answered is:

What structure and visual representation of the work, product, interest, or cause will present it in its best light and make it as easy as possible for users to find their way around the site?

Beyond that, the actual design process can be contracted out (whole or in part) or not, based on the web publisher’s level of technical skill.

Designing or Finding a Designer

For many new web entrepreneurs, the most challenging part of putting their work or interests online is the design process. The web developer can design his/her website or hire someone to prepare it for him.

For the tech-savvy publisher, designing his/her website need not be a tricky proposition. From Dreamweaver, Microsoft FrontPage, WordPress, and other WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) programs to page design programs supplied by most web hosting companies. 

(complete with page templates and other essential web design tools), There are many ways to basically cut and paste together a functional website in a couple of hours.

For web entrepreneurs who have neither the time nor the inclination to design their site or want or need an advanced design, hiring a competent designer is a fairly straightforward process. It should be obvious to establish a designer with some viewable samples of their work already online by asking around on forums or among friends and colleagues.

Basic Design Principles

If the content is king, then the content must stand out. All design elements should “point” (lead the user’s eye) toward the main content being displayed. For this purpose, it makes the most insight to position the main content front and center in the design (in the middle column in a three-column design layout, etc.) Navigation buttons and tabs should be clearly and concisely labeled and prominently placed (typically at the top or left of every page or major subsection).

Next to the actual content, contact information may be the second most crucial aspect of any website. Suppose the site’s ultimate purpose is to display the products, creative work, or the elements of a hobby or charitable cause so they can get some recognition to generate business or interest. In that case, interested Internet users must get in touch with the site owner. For this reason, contact information should be put in one of three familiar places on the site and should include at least two methods of contact.

Typically contact information is placed either at the top or bottom (header or footer) of at least the home page (if not every page). Some people like to put their contact information on their page, with a link to “Contact” or “Contact Info.” prominently displayed in the site’s navigation scheme.

The contact information should contain at least an email address and a phone number. For email, it’s best to include an Email link, so all the interested party has to do is click a button and a blank email will automatically be generated and addressed.

In a standard three-column webpage, the right-hand column can be used for advertising or for short (5-12 word) teasers/links for other content on the same site.

One of the best ways to get ideas for design is to look at the other websites, copy the elements that seem to work, and present the content in its best light. For those who plan to hire a designer, this is particularly important as it lets them show the designer exactly what styles and formats they like. It saves a tremendous amount of design time and cost.

Designing With a Consistent Style

Stylistically it helps to begin all website designs using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). This unified system of styling the text and graphic elements of a website helps web designers and website owners maintain a consistent look to the pages of a website.

Notice of Copyright and Use Restrictions

The final item of critical importance on any website is the copyright notice, ownership attribution, and usage restrictions. It should be placed in the footer on every page of the site.

An example of this information would be:

The content of this site is the feature of Glenn D. Kaufmann and cannot be used without prior written authorization.

Many people consider the design of the website to be the most crucial and often most challenging part of starting a website. Though complicated and critical to maximizing the benefit of the site, the design of any website can be elegantly simple or highly complex. Either way, the work of designing a website to display their writing online can quickly be done by the site owner themselves or farmed out to a professional either for money or for bartered services.



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