There is no one "right way" to design a Web site, but there are bad design elements to avoid. Follow these simple guidelines to ensure visitors do not waste time searching for the information they need.
- Select colors with care. Don't use too many colors for a single page. Use three to four primary colors and tones of colors instead of contrasting ones.
- Do not employ too many images as it slows down the page loading. Avoid using animated gifs, excess Java, loud graphics, sound and video, if possible.
- The portal should allow the user to maneuver across to its other pages. It must also allow the user to return to the main page. A site map helps to assist users in familiarizing themselves with the Web site.
- Be consistent in the design. Make sure there is a general consistency throughout all pages. Changing colors and fonts disorientates the users and does not show cohesion.
- Organize the information properly. Avoid missing links and disorganized data that require endless searching.
- Use metadata, or "data about data", which describes the content, quality, condition, and other characteristics of data, in order to provide access to it. Dublin Core is one of the standards used to describe the page to search engines and the user.
- Use quality pictures. If the portal looks like a kindergarten scrawl by your five-year old, it probably is. Focus on a good design and use quality pictures for the Web page and layout.
Roy Chan is a consultant with the Systems Integration Group for NEC Solutions Asia-Pacific.