Web Site Design

This page is one in a series of Web design guide pages and lists some recommendations for overall Web site design.

Web site design is critical to the success of your web presence. As discussed below, planning a site is everything.

Develop a Simple "Home Page"
Your site should have one page which serves as the "master index" of your site. The home page must describe your services, entice uses to read on, and present a logical way for users to read the other information on your site. Yet, the home page is the one page that must be the most restricted in content! If your home page contains extensive graphics or data it may take too long to load over slow modem lines and deter potential customers. The rule of thumb in the industry is that the page should not take more than twenty seconds to load. Of course, given the vast numbers and types of connections on the Internet, it is impossible to estimate what every user will experience. Still, using a modem with average speed (9600 baud) will give a reasonable estimate of performance.
Ideally, the home page will be small enough to completely fit on the screen. To design for this, you should build to the size of an average IBM compatible screen resolution of 640x480. Given that most browsers (such as Netscape) take a good deal of real estate to display menus and buttons, the actual space you have to work with is 620x300 (not very much). To keep your home page small yet still convey the message you want is not easy!

The Site Map
The home page acts as the master index, but the overall design of the web site must be planned carefully. A site which uses the home page as a large table of contents for all of the site's content might be too confusing for customers. The information will seem overwhelming and you may lose their interest. On the other hand, a site with numerous "index" or "menu" pages may end up being a never-ending path that may leave users frustrated looking for the content. A well-balanced and logical organization of pages can be designed using a tool called the "site map."
The site map visually defines how the major pages are related. Below is an example of a site map for York Associates' web site.

It is important to provide a good balance of information so your customers are not intimidated by extraordinarily long pages, but are also not lost in a complex maze of documents.