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Useful Tips

250 Quick Web Design Tips (Part 1)

As web professionals, we’re always looking for ways to improve our knowledge and skills. Tips, tricks and checklists are often one of the most underused yet potentially useful models of providing great, quick and easy to follow pieces of useful information.

You may or may not know some of the tips below — and you may or may not agree with everything listed — but hopefully it will give you some ideas for your own sites or motivate you to create a checklist to help cover your bases.

Perhaps a few items may even inspire you investigating a subject further, and that would be pretty awesome too.

This is the first part of a 2-part series. In this first part, we will cover planning, content creation, and design elements.

Part 2: 250 Quick Web Design Tips (Part 2)
Planning and Getting Into the Web Design Profession

Planning what your website needs to contain can help you scale the project size.

One fundamental aspect of creating a website is the planning stage. This includes things like looking for a domain registrar and hosting package, seeking out inspiration for your design, building the information architecture, and much more.

Getting your website’s purpose mapped out will help you better write content (to match your needs) and more effectively create a design that will retain the look-and-feel you want to put across.

Below are some tips and tricks which may prove useful when you’re making decisions before putting your (or your clients’) website together.

Picking Domain Names
1. Many people are used to seeing the www at the beginning of a website address (e.g. www.sixvision.com). Ensure your website functions both with and without this famous subdomain.

2. Reserving a subdomain called m (e.g. m.sixrevisions.com) for mobile devices has become a common web design convention. It’s cheaper than — and as widely recognised as — the .mobi top-level domain (TLD).

3. Most of the non-technical general public tend to only recognise .com, .net and .org. It’s worth checking the TLDs you want are available before dedicating yourself to a brand name.

4. Avoid using dashes in your domain name. (e.g. sixrevisions.com versus six-revisions.com).

5. Domain hacks like del.icio.us have become pretty popular, and while they may be harder to spell, they can give you an awesome alternative to a simple but unavailable .com address.

6. If you want to target a local audience, it may well benefit you to purchase a country code top-level domain (ccTLD) in your own country. Something like co.uk may be great for grabbing regional visitors in the UK.

7. Remember that some ccTLD domains require you to be a resident of a certain country. If you don’t live there, you could forfeit the TLD as a violation of the registrar’s agreement.

8. WHOIS privacy can be a dicey affair when you allow your registrar to put their details in place of your own. You run the risk that you may lose the domain if a conflict occurs.

9. Domain auctions like Sedo can be a great place to get a domain that’s already been taken. While it can be somewhat expensive to pick up a rare domain, you might find yourself the owner of your preferred domain name.

Web Hosting
10. When picking a website host, ensure that you check what you’ll get in the package. Disk space, bandwidth, CPU usage and other specified features may decide the cost you’ll encounter. If you already have a web host, test their performance using these tools.

11. Beware of hosts proclaiming unlimited bandwidth or resources. Everything in this world is finite and you may find yourself falling short of contractual small print and fair use policies.

12. If you’re starting a website or service of your own, it pays to start off with shared or grid hosting rather than a VPS or dedicated because you won’t know how many visitors you will need to cater for.

13. Free hosting for commercial use is not a good idea. If you plan on having a commercial website, it makes sense to avoid the intrusive advertisements and purchase some basic web hosting.

Development Platform
14. If you want to have a good testing environment that will run PHP and mySQL on your own PC, install XAMPP. It’s quick, easy and will help you get things running before you go live.

15. Unless you know what you’re doing and have the money to finance the infrastructure, hosting your own website may not be the best or most economical idea (as fun as it sounds).

16. Pick your development platform carefully as some products (such as WYSIWYG editors) inherently produce less reliable code than a classic text editor that allows you to write by hand.

17. You don’t need to rely on Adobe or Microsoft software to create a fantastic website as there are lots of free and open source products which can do the job without cost.

18. Ideas: GIMP, Inkscape, Dia, FileZilla, IcoFX, Audacity, Paint.NET, Scribus, Eclipse, Skype, KeePass, Xenu Link Sleuth, Tweetdeck, FoxIt Reader and Notepad++ are great free products for designers. For more great open source products, read the article called 30 Useful Open Source Apps for Web Designers.

19. Finding a good selection of checklists and cheat sheets can give the fledgling designer some quick, easy places to get advice on how best to approach a task.

Project Management
20. Set yourself aside a decent workspace environment. The less distractions your workspace has, the better off you will be in terms of productivity.

21. Always have realistic expectations about how long a project will take to complete. Rushing your work and releasing it "half-baked" can cause issues — just look at Windows Vista.

22. Getting some decent time-tracking or project management software is important. It’s far too easy to get distracted and lose sight of the big picture if you’ve lots of small tasks to achieve.

23. To-do lists may seem inconsequential and rather trivial, but you may find them useful in structuring all the various tasks you need to deal with and setting yourself deadlines.

24. Always keep learning because there is no excuse in allowing your education to lapse or become deprecated. You could keep up to date with news through design blogs or perhaps learn a new web language.

25. There are many fantastic web design books and magazines out there. They also cover a wide range of subjects with ever-increasing depth as a source of education they are second to none.

26. Web resources like Six Revisions are great for learning new techniques. While perhaps not as in-depth as books, many web resources offer you useful and up-to-date advice on the web industry.

27. Remember to verify anything you learn through a third party resource. There’s an awful lot of outdated information out there (like W3Schools) that could encourage bad habits.

28. Sites are beginning to teach classroom-style lessons and video-based instruction classes (e.g. Lynda.com) on web design and development. They can get pricey, but may be good alternatives to a degree.

Specialization and Competitive Analysis
29. There are many sectors you can work in as a web professional (web designer, UX, UI, front-end development, etc). You shouldn’t restrict yourself to a core subject unless you know exactly what you want to end up doing.

30. Whether you decide to become a Jack of all trades or a specialist is entirely up to what you prefer. It’s worth noting that there is enough work in the industry to cater to both work styles.

31. Investigate what your competitors are doing with their services as you can learn so much from the mistakes or successes that others have had — they can be a goldmine of ideas.

Learning About Your Target Audience
32. Research is the mother of all invention if you’re going to work on any project. It pays to ensure what you’re planning will meet the needs of the audience you’re trying to gain.

33. Always try to be inventive with what you create. There’s no point cloning another successful website when you could improve upon it to convert some of their existing user base.

34. If you plan to produce a blog or an informative website, ensure that you know your subject. Trying to create a medical blog with no knowledge is not a good idea. You should be passionate and be well read about your subject matter.

35. Seek out the kind of people who might want to use the service your planning and ask them what they would like to see in such a website and what popular topics is worthy of inclusion.

36. If you’re stuck for ideas for what kind of site to create, browse around the web looking for subjects that are popular. You could serve a niche market where there’s existing demand.

37. Finding inspiration for a site can come from the most unlikely sources. Watching movies or TV, taking a walk, or even talking to your friends and family can help you get business ideas.

Handling Data
38. Deciding whether you need an SSL certificate or not depends on whether sensitive personal details like credit cards or login information will be processed. It may be worth buying one.

39. Handling your customer’s information is of critical importance. Never store passwords as plain text documents and do what you can to encrypt details that are stored in databases.

Conceptualization and Information Architecture (IA)
40. Creating a visual sitemap before you start building the website can do wonders for your core structure. If you know what pages you may need initially, you can plan the content ahead.

41. Certain types of websites require certain types of documents. Most portfolio websites, for example, have a contact page. Seek other likeminded websites to get required page ideas.

42. When in doubt, always do what works and the norm. There’s a reason why certain types of websites succeed. It’s because they follow conventional practices that visitors will adapt to quickly.

43. Concept sketches are useful for developing your ideas. Sometimes a piece of paper or a napkin with some doodles can assist you in turning what’s in your mind into a workable design.

44. Wireframes are a simple, underused method of planning and plotting out an idea. You can create something as simple as basic shapes, right down to mapping out your site structure.

45. Beyond wireframes, you could also consider a working prototype when planning your site. Mocking up a quick and simple website can eliminate potential feature flaws quickly and easily.

46. Brainstorming is another fantastic but underused method to evolve your business or website ideas. Picking a loose concept and mapping related ideas to it can give quick but abstract results.

47. Some site owners write a business plan to scope out a project’s evolution before it happens. If you find yourself too easily distracted, it might prove to be a useful document to make.

48. Determine what kind of person you are, and the way you use websites. It’s quite subjective, but provides a good grounding point in conceptualising how an idea can become a real product.

49. Products like EverNote or Microsoft OneNote provide you with a great platform to gather and store research and ideas. Think of it like a sketchbook you can turn to for inspiration.

50. Never give up. It’s so easy to think an idea has fallen flat, and most people tend to move on far too quickly. Most ideas can become what they’re intended to be with enough hard work.


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