The design of a website must take into account several factors that are important to provide the visitors with the pertinent information and a pleasant experience that makes them want to come back, and get more new visitors.
The layout of the content is often as critical as the content itself. This layout should serve as a mean to present the website information in a clear and consistent manner. Well presented information is easy to find and understand. You made a great effort in producing the best and most interesting content for your site. Don’t ruin it by using a cumbersome presentation that frustrates and scares away visitors. A visitor must be able to follow the flow of information in a fluid and natural way.
There are many different layout paradigms, you can find many examples available from popular websites or you can also use predefined templates available from several sources, from free website design dedicated websites to professional services that can be hired for this purpose. And don’t forget to consider a common display size (usually 1024×768 pixels) so the pages display fully in the viewers screen.
The context of each web page is another factor to consider. A newspaper can be used as an example of what I mean: You would not include a sports article in a crime section. It may help to think of a website as a kind of newspaper, where a user can access each page expecting to find consistent and related content. But don’t forget to take advantage of the higher potential of a webpage; the content can be static like in the newspaper, but also dynamic and interactive.
Compatibility is another issue that sometimes is overlooked. There are several different hardware and software platforms that may be used to display your web pages and you have to be aware of the differences, limitations or requirements of each one. This will not limit the potential audience of your website. Although there are some widely recognized and accepted standards precisely defined for this purpose, at least one of the major web browsers is non-compliant, so you need to allow for this limitation, in order to cover as much ground as possible. Anyway, you can still use older standards that are supported by essentially all the software and hardware available today. Using the earlier versions of XHTML, CSS and image file formats like jpg, gif and png, you can be fairly sure that almost anyone will be able to navigate your site.
Providing a logical and straightforward path to navigate between pages in a website is also an essential part of any web design. Users should be able to effortlessly follow the laid out paths without getting lost, and with escape routes to proceed forward, go back or reach easily the starting point (the home page). Sometimes this is considered part of the layout or structure or the site.
There are many other web design considerations you need to pay attention to, and depending on the size and complexity of the website can be more or less flexible. The most important aspect for any web designer is to make sure visitors find easily what they will be looking for, and are able to easily interact with the site. This basic concept will help increase your website traffic.