Preparing Your Website

"If you build it, they will come."

This quotation is a favorite of promotion experts, for it neatly summarizes the, often unconscious, attitude of most new site builders (and some experienced ones unfortunately!). The promotion experts take great delight in transforming the quotation to the following:

"If you build it, and promote it thoroughly and constantly, they will come."

In the realm of web site development the most important thing to learn is the sheer need for promotion. This does not mean however that promotion is some independent entity existing in a void - too often people try to promote badly designed sites. All they worry about is getting people to their site - yet getting people to your site is meaningless if they just hit the back button and never return. I therefore offer the following:

"If you build it, and promote it thoroughly and constantly, they will come - but if it is badly designed they will leave and if there is no content they will not return."

If you have some good ideas don't shoot yourself in the wallet and rush them onto the Web. The Internet may allow anyone to publish - but don't think that you can get away with anything. The following are ten points that you should consider when building your site. They are in no particular order, except for the fact that they have been arranged in a particular way!


Graphics can really help give a site an edge - but they can also serve to undermine a site, so you need to be careful. Internet surfers are an impatient lot - if a site takes longer than a nanosecond to load they tend to hit the back button! So make sure you don't overload any one page with graphics. This is particularly important of your index page. Also make sure that the file sizes of the graphics you do use have been reduced as much as your image editing/compression software will allow.


Frames are an extremely controversial topic, so think long and hard before using them. Don't just use them because you can - use them if you genuinely feel that they improve your site. If you intend to use frames solely to aid navigation, consider alternatives such as navigation bars. Whether your site actually needs frames is something that only you can answer - but there are certain DOs and DON'Ts that will help minimize any negative impact.

Provide a No-Frames version of your site - this is not just for people who do not have frames-capable browsers, it is also for people who simply do not wish to experience frames.

Evil has a new name and this name is 'horizontal scrolling' - so make sure that your use of frames does not mean that horizontal scrolling is required to read text. This is sometimes beyond your control - but you can make sure that the average visitor to your site does not need to scroll horizontally.

Be very careful with the number of frames you decide to use, for only because a visitor has chosen to view the frames version of your site does not mean that they want to negotiate a mosaic come jigsaw puzzle.

The most important point to be made is that under no circumstances whatsoever should you trap external links within your site's frames. It might seem that this is a clever way to keep people at your site - but all it does is guarantee that virtually no one will ever pay a repeat visit to your site. It also makes it extremely unlikely that you will have any success in the realm of reciprocal linking.


Never assume that visitors to your site use the browser that you choose to surf with. You should always view your site with as many different browsers as possible - at least check out your site with Netscape and Internet Explorer. You should also never assume that your visitors will surf in the same way that you do. A lot of people surf with their browser's graphic capability switched off - so make good use of the ALT tag. If your site uses imagemaps - consider complimenting them with text links for key pages.


Make sure that the overall look of the site is professional - this means integrating graphics and text so that they compliment, and don't compete with, each other. It is also a good idea to keep the same layout throughout your site, for consistency is always appreciated. This holds true for such things as background colour as well. If you do wish to go for different looks for different pages - try and stick to variations on a central theme - this theme can be dictated by your index page.


You should be constantly trying to come up with better ways of saying what you want to say. Remember: there's always a better expression just around the corner. Only because an expression is grammatically correct, does not mean that it is satisfactory. If your site is in English and English is not your first language, try and get a native English-speaker to look over your site and advise on colloquialisms etc. Too often sites read like VCR instruction manuals!

6. 1 + 1 = 2:

Following on from the above point - don't waste space stating that: "This web site is under construction," if all you mean is that you keep revising, and adding to, the site. Everyone knows that sites are constantly updated, indeed people expect sites to be under construction in this sense. Even if you feel that your site is genuinely incomplete be careful what you say - try using an expression other than the above, for this expression will often give the wrong impression. Also consider whether it is worth rushing an incomplete site onto the Web. Most importantly however - think very carefully before displaying under construction graphics, for these drive most Internet users mad!


It's the easiest thing in the world to forget to proof-read, so really try and get into the habit of proof-reading everything you do. Nothing looks more unprofessional than typos, spelling mistakes and bad grammar. It's a good idea to get at least one other person to look over your site, for this is the best way to check on spelling and grammar. You can obviously use spell/grammar checking software - but be careful with this, for it is far from perfect - indeed it should only ever compliment proof-reading, it should never replace it.


Keep the content of your site relevant and be as succinct as possible - for the quicker your visitors are brought to an understanding of what your site is about, the better for business. As soon as a person gets to your site, they should be in no doubt as to what you are trying to convey/sell etc.


Most people genuinely put a lot of work into their site. Unfortunately maximum effort does not necessarily mean maximum quality. You need to view your site as objectively as possible - imagine that your site is just a random site that you have come across - what is your first impression? What is your lasting impression? Once again a good thing to do is ask a friend to check out the site - preferably without telling them that it is actually your site.


The above points are just some of the things that you need to consider when building your site. It is true that it is easy to create a web site - but it is far from true that it is easy to create a good web site. There are however some great sites out on the Web - take advantage of this - next time you're surfing and you come across a site you really like, think about why you like it. Always be original, but learn from other people's successes. Also learn from other people's mistakes, for if you find something annoying you can guarantee that others will also find it annoying. Although having said that, remember that just because you find something annoying does not mean that everyone will find it annoying!

Finally - you should remember that the realm of web site development is a mass of perspectives and although all perspectives are valid, some are more valid than others!! So try and strike a balance between learning from others and not being afraid to challenge the existing ways of doing, and not doing, things.

Nic Drew

The Philosophy Service