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House Hunting in Cyberia: Tips

The advantage of the World Wide Web is that everyone becomes a publisher - putting up information he sees fit. But this also has its minuses, as people who know the basics of HTML assume that they know how to create homepages - and nothing could be further from the truth. An analogy would be an ordinary typist claiming to be a DTP professional who can create attractive brochures and documents. Doing DTP work is a whole new ball game altogether - and a person needs to have a sense of design and formatting to succeed. Ditto with homepages. To make webpages that stand out from the clutter, the following points need to be kept in mind:

  • Don't overload your webpages with information. The beauty of HTML is that it allows you to link related material and files together. This allows you to provide information in brief, and then allow the surfer to click for more information on topics that interest him. Keep your webpages below 15 Kb (including graphics), and ensure that the surfer gets to see some text within 30 seconds.

  • A few graphics break the monotony of long paragraphs of textual information. So use them sparingly, making sure that the files are small (less than 10 Kb), so that the webpage downloads fast, and the user does not get tired of waiting and move on to another site. Also learn to use the alt option in the <img> tag to describe the image, so that those who can't see images, can at least get an idea of what that particular image is all about.

  • Thrills and frills like sound files, animated images, frames, javascript and java all can show that you know how to create fancy pages (or where to copy them from), but end up making the webpage take forever to download, making the surfer impatient, and sometimes irritated. For instance there are webpages that continuously change colours or keep flashing different colours, and there are those that have unnecessary ticker tapes running in the status bar that start off as being distracting, but quickly become a source of irritation.

  • When you create a webpage, try not to make it design it for a specific browser. If you must, ensure that there is an alternate version for browsers that do not support these fancy features. To start off, Netscape and Internet Explorer support certain features that the competition does not. Designing exclusively for any one would mean alienating uses who use the other browser. Then there are thousands of users who use text only browsers (lynx on shell accounts) to surf the WWW. Take pity on them too. What does your HTML look like without graphics? See it for yourself at <http://www.slcc.edu/webguide/lynxit.html>

  • Maintain a standard look and feel for your webpages, so that people know with just one look that they are on your site. What you could do is create a basic template that remains constant throughout your site to maintain consistency.

  • Make navigation of your webpages easy. This way the user can jump to any major section from anypage on your site. Maintaining a sitemap (how your webpages are grouped and organised) is one great way to make life for surfers easy.

  • Most importantly, don't show off. Just because something can be implemented using fancy technology, doesn't mean you have to include it on your pages.

  • Finally, check and double check your pages to verify links are correct and fully functional. Also test your pages on different browsers to see that the formatting does not get ruined.

Those were just a few pointers to be borne in mind while creating and designing your new home on the Web. Remember that the Web is your face to the world, and this is your chance to portray the image you want, to a potential 100 million surfers all around the world.


This story Copyright © Lyndon Cerejo. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998 Dr. Raj Mehta. All rights reserved.