a website is a complex, multistage process. RussianMoon
will involve you at every stage to make the site reflect your
personality and goals.
Web design principles
Four elements govern a site's proper operation. The artistic or visual component comes first, as it has immediate impact. The second element, structure, is not fully visible and derives from your site's architecture and the underlying HTML coding. The third, arguably most important element is content: the words and pictures that convey your message. The final element is the technology your site relies on to function.
Artistic element. The unique "look" of your website establishes your image and may either attract or repel the viewer. As a marketing tool, your site should share the same graphic elements (logo, color scheme, etc.) as your printed materials, such as business cards, stationery, and brochures. Distracting backgrounds, clashing colors, and annoying animation should be avoided. The latest flashy graphics slow site loading and may detract from a professional business image.
A website should also optimize browsing by adopting color schemes from among the 216 browser-safe colors and accommodate people with partial sight or color deficiencies by captioning graphics to convey their message to those who turn off graphics or use special reader software.
Content rules. Not only must your site impress visually, it must have impeccable content. Typographical and grammatical errors sprinkled throughout sloppily written text will undermine your best efforts to communicate. A web-savvy editor will scrutinize your content to make certain it enhances your image.
Structure. Your site must have clear, easy-to-use site layout and navigation so viewers can find what they seek with a minimum of clicking and confusion. RussianMoon will incorporate appropriate metatag keywords and descriptions into the background coding for high search engine ranking.
Web technology. A website may incorporate technologies from a growing pool of resources. While many of these technologies fall into the bells-and-whistles category and may not greatly enhance your Internet presence, you should understand some basic functions.
Your Web host or server provides a computer that supports your website. Your URL (Universal Resource Locator), or domain name, will point viewers to your web server. The hosting service should offer reliable, fast connections, security, email accounts, visitor traffic statistics, and backups.
Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML), the computer programming language used to develop your website, provides formatting tools such as hyperlinks, graphics, tables, frames, forms, and meta tags. This language continues to evolve, but browsers lag behind in supporting all HTML features. Therefore, RussianMoon will optimize your site to appear correctly on a variety of platforms, monitors, and browsers. Other languages, such as JAVA and CGI scripts, may also be used for special purposes.
Getting started on your site
The first step toward creating a website is to define its purpose (perhaps more than one). Some possibilities include the following:
Defining your audience
Who are you trying to reach, and what is their technology level? Do they have the latest browsers, large monitors, and high-speed Internet access, or are they on the trailing edge, with 14.4 modems and 12" monitors? If you keep your design really simple (no Java or CGI scripts, no frames), use a Web-safe color palette, and avoid large, slow-loading images and animation, you can feel confident most people will see the same thing.
Website development process
Once you have established your objectives and define your website's scope, RussianMoon will prototype your site and post it on the Web in a private area. You can then review it for feedback and suggestions. We will then refine the prototype for further review, repeating until the site meets your approval.
When the design is final, we will test it thoroughly, proofreading the text and ensuring that all links and other elements work correctly. To ensure flawless performance and appearance, we test your site with the most popular web browsers, Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer.
Once you have an Internet presence you should integrate it with your business. Give a group or individual responsibility for Web content. Familiarize your marketing staff with the site's content and structure. Place your URL on printed materials (business cards, stationery, brochures and ads) to direct viewers to your site.
Many of the top search engines survey the entire Web on a regular basis, but you may also register your site with selected search engines. Some services will do this for a price, but with mixed success. Depending on your business strategy and image, you may decide to use other techniques, such as banner advertising, email lists, link exchanges, and print advertising.
Maintenance and Updates
Visitors will return to your website if you keep the content fresh. Plan to update certain web pages often, especially your home page. A small "What's New" section on that page will direct visitors to new or updated material. Viewers like freebies, so consider offering something free on a periodic basis, perhaps a memorable quotation or tip related to your business specialty. Fresh website content also improves your ranking on search engines. Finally, potential clients will have greater confidence that your company really exists and that you care about them.
RussianMoon develops color schemes from among the 216 web-safe colors, i.e., ones that the popular browsers display roughly the same. A designer can specify other colors, but some computer video cards produce them by a dithering process (alternating dots of different colors) that can yield a muddy result. 216 may sound like a lot of colors, but the choice is uneven: rich in some areas, poor in others.
In addition, different monitors render colors differently. Ultimately, you have to pick colors that look good on the monitors you use yourself and hope that others will see something close to that. This situation is changing as video technology advances, but for now we usually work within this limitation.
You may specify any typeface for your website, but to see it, viewers must have installed the same font on their own computers. Otherwise they will see the default Times Roman or Helvetica, possibly altering your well-planned layout in the process.
To guarantee a viewer will see your exotic choice, you must incorporate it into a graphic file. However, this has a cost: longer page download time. Furthermore, people who don't view graphics (those who turn off graphics or have impaired vision) won't see them at all.
The situation is improving, though, with some new typefaces free from Microsoft in recent software and on its website. New type-embedding technologies may also expand choice in this area. For now, your site should use common typefaces as much as possible, resorting to graphics only when absolutely necessary.
More information about Web design
Back to RussianMoon home
© R. Michael Conner 1999–2003. All rights reserved.