Creating a good successful web site can be tough, this guide aims to help you plan, build and market your site with a selection of expert advice and tips.

Planning & Preparation

Plan your site

Make a list of what you want to acheive, using the good old pen and paper (do you remember those old gems?) Another great tip is to use a program like Powerpoint to create an organisation chart to show the relationships between pages of your site.

Open your mind

Gather your inspiration from many sources, not just online. take a step back and look at some magazines, books but most of all look into your own mind think of your past experiences and skills and see if any will make some great site content.

You must be passionate!

Be sure to decide on content that you know alot about and really enjoy! Don't be afraid to be passionate about your site and its content. If you give it the commitment your site will become an true extension of yourself and people will want to see your content.

Use proven concepts

Dont' try and re-invent the wheel, layouts and navigation principles are good things to base on ideas already established on other sitrs. Take a look around at some of the worlds most popular sites and take some tips.

Finding a Home

Choose an established host

Absolutely make sure that you choose a well known host that has been around for years. Theres nothing worst than falling for a fancy hosting website then having problems becuase it's a one man band that can't deliver the server side reliability or software you may need in future.

Be sceptical

If its too good to be true, it probably is! Be on the look out for hidden costs, they may limit bandwidth, amount of database connections, or charge for support. Most of all remember that unlimited dosent always mean unlimited!

Consider Search Habits

User will often search for a product or service rather that your company name. For example a vinyard may choose or, as well as its company name. But remember the more sites you have the more marketing you will need to do, but it can be worth it.

Quality of service

I your website is constantly going down or timing out, look for another service provider as the long wait will often put visitors off returning to your site indefinatley. (If you are using database connections with your site make sure you check the connetion limits).

Design & Development

Know your HTML

If your new to web development use a WYSUWYG editor like Coffee Cup in the early stages. But always try to learn directly from the code itself as this will make it easier to find and fix any designs problems that may arise in the future.

Sizing your layouts

Until recently I would of said to design for 800x600 resolution as this was the limit for most 14" monitors, but after looking at some statistics less than 14% of users now use this resolution. So push the boat out and design your site for the 1024x768 generation! You can also try using expandable layouts with widths in percentages (%)

Shorten lengthy text

Internet users are unforgiving and have a short attention span, so keep is short and sweet! (Also break-up bulky text into shorter paragraphs with some added titles or images)

Update at least one thing!

Identify something you can update regularly such as "latest news" or "tip of the week" both your visitors and search engines will love you for it.

Always use lower-case filenames

When saving scripting files for web use always use lowercase lettering as web browsers always read domains as lower-case, hypenated or underscore is also a good move for longer complex names such as "my_great_website.html"

Use Background Warfare

Keep your main background subtle and use eye catching higher contrast ones for elements of the page that you want to stand out at visitors, I will often use some form of gradient or colourful image for this.

Don't be the Tortoise or the Hare

A bad site is a bad message to your visitors so don't launch it until it is ready and tested, on the other hand don't waste time over designing pages or constantly making sure that your code complies with the latest validation schemes, it will slow you down to the point were you may just stop. Instead get your site working, then concentrate on getting it out there.

Use JPG's and GIF's correctly

Photographic images are normally saved as JPG's, but images that use a minimum amount of colours logos, text etc should be saved as GIF's (this will improve load times on all non-photographic content)

Make an Impact!

You only have seconds to make an impact to your sites viewers, so make sure your homepage makes an immediate impression! But remeber the 10 second rule (homepages should not take longer than 10 seconds to appear).

Use calls to action

Offer clear calls to actions in the form of eye-catching buttons or graphics, this can turn your homepage into the perfect site map and help visitors get to where they need to go.

Add a "Links" page

Creating a links page leaves you nice and ready for search engine optimisation, as when you trade links with other web sites they will often want to see thier link on your site in advance.

Search Engine Optimisation

Add META tags

The single most important thing is to add Meta tags to your site with keywords and a dsecription, this is the first thing the search engines robots will read and use when listing your web site.

Don't spam search engines

Avoid spamming or over submitting your web site to search engines, it may take time but be patient and do other things to promote your site while you wait. Sites created specifically for search engine robots should also be avoided.

Keep up to date

A lot of traffic can be generated if visitors realise theres regular updates or something new on your web site. (Think of it this way, theres no point having a sports web site with match results from two months ago).

Farewell Frames, Goodbye Tables

Avoid using the older methods of wed design, frames are a nightmare for search engine optimisation, and TABLES were never even designed for layouts, they will also make your sites overall code much longer, due to this many larger sites have saved in bandwidth costs after converting to CSS

Print your URL everywhere

Integrate your URL into your company logo as a permanent strapline this ensures people will remember it whenever they think of you or your products/services.

Put in the work

Don't just sit there and wait for the world to come to you, get out there and submit your site to top sites and directories. Its also good to contact webmasters of other web sites and offer a link trade.

Get on the Open Directory

Get listed with the Open Directory Its one of the most important links you can build and its FREE.

Tailor your titles

Give each page of your site its own unique title and description text, espesially when its a product page, as you can define keywords that people might be searching for relating to your product or service.

Don't mess up the search

If you have a search box on your site make it search the site not the web. Also theres nothing more anoying that a search not picking up on something because its slightly mis-spelt or written with a capital. Use synonym tables in the search to get around typos.

Your Sites Usability

Plan your site

Make a list of what you want to acheive, using the good old pen and paper (do you remember those old gems?) Another great tip is to use a program like Powerpoint to create an organisation chart to show the relationships between pages of your site.

Catch your errors

Iam sure we have all visited a website that has displayed a "This page cannot be found" error, it can often dissapoint and confuse users when this happens. So create a custom 404 error page that includes your main navigation elements to help users find their way back to your site in this event. This can usually be found in your sites hosting control panel.

Keep things consistent

Consistency of look, feel, layout and button location is often the key to good usability, giving users a feeling of familiar surroundings helping them get around.

Cross browser compatibility

Constantly thinking about how your site is going to come across is the key to great usability. But be sure to test each of your pages in various browsers and different systems as it can sometimes get messy.


Heres a great article explaining why pixel-perfect web design is just not possible. Also see our article on "Internet Explorer CSS bug fixes"

Don't make people work hard

People often leave website because they don't understand what they are being asked to do or how they need to find a specific peice of information, as talked about previously try calls to action and clear navigation, avoid jargon and abriviations. (A good way to look at it is always think of your visitors as children).

Proof Read

Nothing says "I'm an amateur" more than an article riddled with grammatical/spelling errors. Copy your text into Word as many web site editors from Notepad to Dreamweaver will not help you out with this. Maybe also get someone else to read your work to catch things you might have missed.

Get a second opinion

The more time you spend on your site the harder it will be to see it from a different, fresh perspective. Get some of your friends to use your site and give you feedback on any problems they have.

Use Google!

The last peice of advice I can give is to use Google, they have everything you need to promote, advertise, track visitors and optimise your web site, heres the links to just some of thier useful services:


Webmaster Tools
Google Anaytics

Also see our Graphics Design Guide >>>

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