The Internet these days is where millions of people gather their information, news, and connect with friends, family, and even strangers. There is an enormous amount of potential for anyone with a little time, patience, and moxie to create and design their own website. The software programs that are used by professionals are often out of reach financially for a majority of these weekend website warriors, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t take charge and build some impressive websites of their own.
Even the most ardent web designers are looking to other methods for web design, features, and versatility because there are numerous free templates as well as templates that are available for purchase or for free that allow one to alter, tweak, and build off of them. The world of website design has continued to evolve and change through the years and as it has done so, especially with the advent of Web 2.0, it has become both much simpler, but also more versatile than ever before.
If a person has an interest in website design, or need to develop one for their own personal business, they no longer have to pay thousands of dollars for a professional looking site, especially if they don’t have those kinds of funds lying around. All they need is a web address (a domain) and a hosting company and from there, it’s strictly a matter of figuring out what kind of design they want, the purpose of the website, and determining how much they want to spend, if anything on their new website.
Website designs can range from basic to visually intensive, from personal to business based, complete with shopping carts and checkout features. If you have heard about blogging and blogs, such as Wordpress or Blogger, these blogging platforms are very versatile and give the most novice individual access to a number of templates and tools to design and grow their own website.
Basics of Web Design
What a lot of people don’t fully understand about web design is that without a plan in place before setting out to build the website, regardless of the type that they are planning on building, the function and form of the website will likely fail. The first thing that you should do when designing your first website is to use a sheet of paper, or a notepad, and lay out a plan for your website.
Websites across the World Wide Web vary greatly from one to another. There is no right or wrong format of template to use. Yet every single website has a landing page. This is usually, but not always, the home page. The home page, or landing page, is the first page that potential visitors will see when they type in your website’s url.
What is a url?
The url is the web address that a person types in to find your website. Google, for instance, is a url. Think of the url as your home or business’s address. Without an address, it would be impossible for people to find out where you live or where to go to do business with you, right? Every website that is launched does need a url for others to find it.
Do you need a url to begin web design? No. There are a number of programs, such as Adobe’s Dreamweaver, that allow you to build your website offline, using the files on your computer as the home base. This website design will allow you to click on and open new windows, as long as you have created the files for them. But what point is it in building a website that you’re not planning on launching for people on the Internet to find? There’s not much point, actually.
Before you start designing your website, go to a domain registry, such as GoDaddy to find a web domain address. The name you choose should have something to do with your business and the shorter and easier it is to remember, the more success you will have with it. If you are building your first website for your thoughts, then your name could be a good url. Many urls have already been taken, but these registry companies will often suggest other potential urls for you to use.
If you don’t want to pay for it, there are some that you can find that are free. You can also go to a blogging platform, such as Wordpress or Blogger, and get a url for free, though it will always be preceded by the company’s name before your own.
Web design layout
Once you know your url, then you have the name for your website. Next it’s time to figure out how many pages you want your website to have. Each time your visitor has to click on a link and are brought to another web address, even if it’s under your url, that is another page. Most website basics have the following:
• Home page
• About Us/Me page
• Contact Us/Me page
These are the basic pages. You may want to have more pages, offering more information, especially if you are designing this website for a potential business you want to operate. So, figure out what pages you will want to have for your website. Try to keep it simple, however, since you’re new to the design aspect.
Once you have your pages figure out (limit them to seven in the beginning), then you’re ready to start developing the content layout.
Again, you want to design your layout on paper before attempting to build it with a web design program. If you are going to use a blogging platform, then it’s a good idea to also lay out what you want on paper. The reasons for this are simple: if you know what you want, then it will be easier to spot when you come across it. If you don’t know what you want, then you are going to be throwing darts in the dark, so to speak, and you might find a template that looks cool, but is not going to work for you in the long run.
Start with your home page. Visit a number of websites and get a feel for what inspires you to want to know more about the person or business. Figure out what kind of layout appeals to you the most. Use these sites as references for your own design and begin to structure your basic website along those lines.
Every home page should have a menu of the other sub-pages that is easy to see and simple to find. These links to your other pages could run across the top, on the left side, or occasionally on the right side. They should never be along the bottom unless you don’t want people to find them.
Common sight locations
The average Internet user will notice the upper left corner of the page first. This is usually where logos or a single photo is placed. It’s also generally where the website name is located.
At the bottom right of the page is generally what’s known as a ‘call to action.’ This is like a ‘Buy It Now’ feature that entices people to know more or contact you. Everything else in between can either be missed or ignored, but if you have those two elements in place, then your website design will be effective.
In the days before Web 2.0, people designed websites with a tremendous amount of text. Too much, in fact. Even today, home pages are constantly overloaded with content. Sub-pages are where you want to put the meat and potatoes of your website. These can actually be of any length, really, but you do want to remember that the longer the page, the more important layout will be for your visitors.
Imagine visiting a website that has pages and pages of text without any breaks in it, no paragraphs, no bullet points, no images or graphics. It’s like reading a very dull and overly boring book and you won’t capture much attention. For a large amount of text, unless you are writing stories, keep the layout pleasing to the eye.
Images and videos
Images and videos are a great asset for almost any website, but the more than you have on your website, the slower the website will load. Use images that are small in file size, user-friendly for the web, and link to videos such as Youtube.
Look at the website load time
When you begin designing websites, you need to focus on load times for your web pages. Load times are measures of how long the page will take to open based on different connection speeds. While most of the first-world countries now seem to have high-speed Internet connections these days, that’s not always the case; millions of people still connect using dial-up services.
If you are planning on attracting people to your website, then the slower it loads the more likely it will be that they give up and move onto another site. When you add too many images or images and graphics that are large files, you slow down the load time for the website. Limit these and try to keep your load times to under two seconds for high speed access.
Search Engines and Optimization
When you start with website design, the first thing that you will want to focus on is learning the process of design. Once you have the design aspect down and are working on improving your skills, the next thing you will want to do is focus on search engine optimization, or SEO for short.
The Internet is a vast open highway of information, yet unless people can find your website, it will sit there in the middle of cyberspace unnoticed. Search engines are the most common and popular way that Internet users find websites and in order to most high enough on the rankings, you need to add appropriate keywords to your website’s content.
For more information on SEO, simply search the term in any search engine and you will find a host of information to improve your website’s search engine ranking.
Frequently Asked Questions
I’ve heard that website design is very complex. I’m not very computer savvy. Is there hope for me?
With the advent of some amazing programs, as well as a host of templates that exist on the web for free use, or even low-cost use, anyone can be able to design their own website, either as a hobby or a future profession.
Doesn’t website hosting and design programs cost a lot?
There are a number of free hosting plans that exist, as well as some very basic and free web design programs that anyone can use. There are some basic stipulations for their use, though, such as allowing advertising on the site in inconspicuous places, but if you are under a tight budget, these options are great.
Contrary to some common beliefs that had lingered through the years, website design is much easier and more practical for just about anyone to do. While most novices are not going to be able to compete with the experienced professional website designers, as there are many levels and layers of programming that can be carried out to make a website appeal to a wider audience, the basics are all the same.
Website design is a great way for creatively minded people to stretch themselves and discover their inner genius. Ultimately, with so many free templates that exist and a variety of design and programming options, there is basically no limit to the type, style, or function that a person can tackle when it comes to website design. Ten years ago, the idea that anyone could design a website was almost laughable. Today, it is almost an expectation.
If you have the desire to start designing your own website, whether for fun or for profit, there are plenty of resources at your disposal to create some awe-inspiring and wonderful websites.