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The Dog Speaks

Check this page often, because we will change out the content here on a regular basis. This month, we'll focus on web site tips and advice...

Typefaces on the web

Using different fonts on the web is not as simple as it is in print. For example, let's say you would like your web pages' text to display in the typeface Adobe Caslon Pro. In order for your web pages to actually appear in this typeface, your visitors must have the Adobe Caslon Pro typeface installed in their computers. If your visitors do not have this typeface, your web pages will look completely different than what you intended.

The only way to have a special typeface display exactly as you intend it to display on a web page is to put the typeface in a graphic image. This, however, causes problems for search engines. Search engines can read text. They can't read an image file. There are workarounds for things like page and sections headings (like we have used on this website), but this is not recommended for paragraph text.

Therefore, web pages must use the most common system fonts that are typically installed on all computers - both PC and Mac. When a font is designated for website paragraph text, it is designated as a list of fonts. Your visitors' computer will go through the list, and use the first font it finds available in it's system.

The most common serif typefaces are Times, Times New Roman, Georgia, and Trebuchet MS. The most common sans-serif typefaces are Arial, Helvetica, Verdana, and Tahoma.

5 Rules of web page design and layout

  • Your site should be easy to read. This includes things like font size, font color and it's contrast to the background color, line length, line spacing, and text alignment. For example, a web page that is set to fill 100% of the width of the screen, may look fine at a screen resolution of 800x600, or even 1024x768, but a visitor with a resolution of 1600x1200 will see very long lines of text. Long lines of text make it hard for the eye to easily move all the way back to the left of the page and find the next line of text.
  • Your site should be easy to navigate. Your navigation should be consistent throughout the site. It should not move, disappear, or change at all from one page to the next. You can't rely on your visitor's ability to use their 'back' button.
  • Your site should be easy to find. When it comes to your website, you can't subscribe to the 'build it and they will come' theory. Your site needs to be promoted. After development, your URL should be printed on everything: business cards, letterhead, company vehicles, etc. It should be promoted through print advertising, word-of-mouth, and other media. You should also encourage complimentary businesses to link to your site (and vice-versa) from theirs. Think of your site as being part of an internet road map. If other sites link to yours, then there are roads to bring visitors to you. If however, your site lives on an island in the middle of the web - where no other sites link to yours - it will be difficult for visitors to make their way to you.
  • Your site layout and design should be consistent throughout the site. Don't change fonts, link colors, or headline and image treatments. If you use a 1 pixel green border around an image, then always use a 1 pixel green border around images. Inconsistent layout and design will confuse your visitors.
  • Your site should be quick to download. Studies have shown that your visitors will wait only 8 seconds for your page to load, before clicking away. If you have image galleries, you should offer visitors an initial thumbnail image and let them decide to load the larger picture. Flash animations should have a 'loading...' feature so that visitors can see that progress is being made. Always consider function before features. All of those big pictures may look great, but they won't do you any good if people click away before they've loaded.

Tips for writing web site content

People read a web page differently than a newspaper, book or magazine. They skim and scan. They look for headings, sections, links and for things to click on next. Your web site text should have a clear structure, including headings and sub-headings, allowing your visitors to easily scan for what they are interested in. Bulleted lists are good. Paragraphs should be shorter than they would be for a brochure. The same with sentence length. Do not use links that say 'click here'. Your links should be descriptive of where they are linking to.

Your web site text should answer three questions for your visitors: 1. Why should I visit your site? 2. Why should I come back? and 3. What makes your site/service different or better than others?

Should I maintain my own web site?

Uhhhh... NO! Well, what did you expect coming from a designer? There are many reasons why this is not a good idea. Over time, a site that is not well maintained will deteriorate. It will develop inconsistencies in appearance and structure. Without the proper software, you can place images on a page that are an improper resolution for the web - causing your pages to get 'fat'. You can use depricated tags and coding.

We know, there are web site editing programs out there that make it seem like anyone can do this. But these programs aren't perfect. Even the software we use has it's faults. It can place erroneous code in your pages, can code for things that will only work on one browser and crash another, and allow a novice to do things to your website that will hurt your search engine rankings. Unless you know what to look for in 'code view', a novice will not catch these errors.

We have spent the money on the proper software and have the expensive education to go along with it. We have years of experience and knowledge to draw on. We keep up on the latest language specifications and standards. The learning curve in this field never ends.

After a short while, a site that has not been well maintained will need professional help to get it back into shape. This will most likely cost more than if you had a designer performing the regular maintenance all along. For these reasons, we don't suggest maintaining your own site. We have solutions for organizations that want to maintain sections of their own sites.

We can build you web-based forms that will allow you to do this without corrupting the page code. Contact us to learn more about our self-maintenance solutions.