If you are starting to build a web site there are fundamental principles of web design you want to get right

These basic principles are obvious to me but I’ve done over 500 sites. If your new to the Internet take a few minutes and look over this material. If you do these things now, you’ll save lots of effort and/or heartache later. Here are 10 principles of web design to guide you through the process.

Ironically it as actually easier for us to do a new site than to take over an existing site. We are experts at listening to what you do and embodying that on the Internet. If you want to do a new site, call us. We’ll give you recommendations, get you off to a good start, and save you tons of work down the road!

1. Own and protect your domain name

Whenever we take on a new client the first thing I do is investigate the domain name. What you need is a location on the web to manage your domain name and a username and password to access it. If you don’t have the username and password to access your domain name at the registrar you need to get it. This is fundamental so don’t overlook it. We hear horror stories all the time about someone else controlling the domain name against the owner’s will. Domain names are worth thousands now and if you lose control of it you cannot get it back. Don’t delegate ownership of your domain name regardless of how “convenient” it may seem. Know where it is and how to access it. Look at the domain name on the whois database. There is an email of record. If you can’t receive that email your job of getting your name back is a lot tougher. Do what you have to do – beg, cajole, pay, whatever you need to do to get access to the name. Having access means knowing where the management console is and having access to it. If you don’t have it, you have work to do. You wouldn’t build a house on land you don’t own. Secure your domain name first.

2. Get your domain name first and then name the business

If you’re starting out you’re probably brainstorming about business names. Forget it. You’re wasting your time. Start your search at Go Daddy. See what’s available. If you do it the other way around you’ll be disappointed. All the obvious names are gone. You’ll see that as soon as you start looking. The search for a business name is predicated on what’s available now. It’s challenge enough to find a domain name that works. You don’t need to complicate it with having a preconceived idea about what you’d like to have.

3. The domain name of your Web site can make or break your traffic

People on the Internet move in schools like fish. If you expect to do business with your site, drop your line into a school of fish. The ego-centered notion that you can drop your line wherever and attract people to it you will not work. Before you commit $$$ to your site check out Google’s keyword finder tool. Look and see how many searches per month are going on for what you sell. When you find a term with high search volume (over 5000 per month) buy the dot com version of those exact words. Chances are it will be gone. If you have to, add a dash or buy the dot net version. Keep looking until you find something good. Make sure it matches. Don’t use acronyms or abbreviations. No one searches on that stuff.

4. Don’t overlook html

When designing a site the first thing most people do is abandon traditional html and go for maximum bells and whistles. They build a ridiculously complicated monstrosity that no one can maintain. Then they hit the slightest problem, like it displays differently in different browsers, and the whole thing collapses. People like traditional sites with pictures and words and real information. They shun fancy sites. They abhor flash sites. They aren’t interested in technological achievement in the least. They want to find what they are looking for. If they don’t see it – and I mean immediately – they are out of there. Don’t hit them with progress bars. It’s the kiss of death.

5. Make you site organization clear

The human mind processes lists with 3 to 8 items. Any less is too few. Any more is too many. Users should be able to glance at your main page and see exactly how the site is organized. Users will not dig and hunt through a Web site. Why would they? There are millions of them. Your Web site must be intuitive. The “next move” should be apparent. Browsing web pages is work and users are impatient. Users must see what they need and to go directly to it. Make sure your site is clearly organized into menus of 3 to 8 options that is easy to navigate. Two small menus are better than one big one.

6. Check your site with a Google site map to insure your pages are accessible

Roll over and flip out menus are all the rage. Man, they look great. There’s just one problem – Google can’t crawl them. When you run a Google site map against your site (there are dozens of web sites offering them) you’ll find it only sees your main page and nothing else. If the site map can’t crawl them, Google can’t either. Add text links to the bottom of your pages allowing spiders to get to all the pages of your site. Rerun the site map to insure that Google can see all your pages.

7. The Flash era is over. Don’t use it in Web design

Flash was a great technology in its day. Flash requires a player and allows the Web designer unlimited possibilities including game-type logic. While Flash can make an incredible piece the problem is that Apple phones and Ipads don’t use. This stems back to a conflict between Steve Jobs (former Apple CEO) and Adobe back during the dawn of the computer age. Steve Jobs simple would not allow Flash on any of his products.

This bias continues to this day. This has been enough to essentially kill flash as a web design medium. This, along with Flashes inability to been seen by search engines, makes Flash a non-started.

This industry has moved to JQuery and HTML5. Make sure your Web site is built with new technology, that CAN be seen by search engines, instead of Flash.

8. Microsoft Internet Explorer era is over too

Microsoft aficionados would like to believe it is but it’s not true. Internet Explorer has been slipping lately. Microsoft has its own functions and its own coding. I don’t recommend developing in Frontpage for this reason. It fills the page with Microsoft specific functions and code that don’t apply in other browsers. I recommend getting an Adobe product like Dreamweaver.

9. Know your site speed and keep load times short

Google is well aware of site speed. Think of it from their perspective. They want responsive sites in their search results. When you click on a Google search result, you expect to be taken to a page that loads quickly, or at least in a reasonable amount of time. What you do not expect is to be taken to a site that is intolerably slow to load. No one wants that.

Google search results are basically recommendations from Google. They monitor site loading speed. When creating a site be cognizant of site speed. For example you may want to load a widget from another site on your page. It seems like a positive thing to do until you realize that your entire site is dependent upon that other being up, online, and relatively fast. If your page load stops and waits for that widget to be served, it could slow everything down.

Another variable is connection speed and server load. It may seem like a great thing to put you site on free or budget hosting except that these companies are under no obligation to give you a fast site. On the contrary they want to load their servers and networks with thousands of site. Response speed is not their goal.

Be aware of site speed as Google demotes sites that are slow to load.

10. Sign up to Google Webmaster and follow to their guidelines

Google is the name of the game. Without Google you have nothing. When you finish your site, sign it up with Google. There are a few things Google wants:

a. Google insists on unique page titles. Go through the site and make sure that every page has a unique page title (located in the head tag) and the title is appropriate for the content on the page.

b. Google likes the written word. You don’t want to hit your users with a wall of words but you don’t want the site devoid of information either. Google wants to see relevant information.

c. Google hates duplicate content. Don’t clone. They hate that. Make sure every page is unique. If you duplicate a site or use content from somewhere else, make sure you rewrite it. If they catch you using duplicate content you’ll never get ranked.

I could go on for days about the principles of web design. That’s because I do it all the time. There is a lot to it and no one knows it all. However if you follow these 10 principles of Web design you’ll be off to a good start.