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Website Design Hints

Here are some very basic tips to consider when designing websites.

Single-pixel GIF
The single-pixel GIF trick allows you to control the layout of your web graphics. Start by creating a single-pixel GIF file of the colours you need and then use them to create rectangular regions of any size. This allows you to use very small files to span large regions on your web page.

Background sound
Only include background sound if it is absolutely imperative to your site. If you do add music, have a clearly identified prompt for the user to turn it off! The same music will become very annoying for customers who return to your site. Also, sound increases the load time of your site that may loose you potential customers.

As you become accustomed to using advanced HTML, you should remember that not all browsers are capable of handling these advanced features. If you use simple HTML you will reach more customers, but if you do decide to use advanced HTML you can deliver more impact from your web pages. Your decision is dependent upon what you're trying to accomplish.

Frames allow multiple scrollable windows in a page document. You can design a fixed frame with multiple sub-frames of dynamic content allowing you to assign unique URL's to each frame. This will help with search engine positioning.

Think about colours
Remember that different colours represent different moods. A vivid all over background is normally not a good idea. If you want a splash of colour to make your page more attractive, consider adding some well-spaced images. Similarly, a black background creates a dark, confined and enclosed mood. This should be avoided on commercial web sites.

Fonts, typestyle & size
Text should be easily legible. If it is too small or the colour doesn't contrast well with the background, then it will cause eyestrain and customers will exit your site. Likewise if the text is too large users will become tired of scrolling and go somewhere else.

Avoid horizontal scroll
Both images and text should fit on the screen and within frames (if you use frames) without the user having to scroll horizontally. Scrolling vertically is taken for granted, but generally, users do not like to scroll and designers should consider making the visit as enjoyable as possible when laying out pages.

Transparent GIF images
Graphics are usually stored as rectangular images. If you want to present a graphic image with an irregular outline shape, consider using transparent GIF images. Most graphics packages support transparent GIF images and have an options dialog box for controlling the storage of the image.

When you use a transparent GIF image you can specify a single colour as the background colour. When the web browser paints the image it does not paint any of the pixels of this colour. The effect is that the web page background shows through and the image appears to float or be drawn on top of the page background.

Image maps
Image maps allow you to put hyperlinks into graphics images. If your user clicks on the picture, the browser connects to another HTML page. Image maps are often used for top-level indexes on homepages. There are two kinds of image map techniques - server-side and client-side. Server-side image maps use CGI bin scripts that run on your Web server. Client-side image maps are an HTML 3.0 feature, and they are implemented in newer browsers.

Most browsers recognize graphics in GIF and JPEG formats. So when should you use GIF and when should you use JPEG? Both GIF and JPEG files are compressed. GIF uses a lossless compression scheme that is optimised for images with regions of solid colour. JPEG uses a lossy compression scheme that is optimised for images with many mixed colours (like photographs).

GIF files only require additional size when the colour of horizontally adjacent pixels changes. In other words, a horizontal line of a single colour takes the same amount of space no matter how long it is. This makes GIF format ideal for solid colour images like logos, cartoons, and text stored as graphics. JPEG files use a lossy compression technique (slightly adjusting the colours) to give a visually similar image that takes less space. You can choose how much compression (and colour change) you want. For natural, photographic, or multi-colour images, JPEG's do a good job.

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