Designing your own website can be fun and rewarding. You can learn the basics from this article, but to really get into web design it's a good idea to take some classes. Once you have selected a website design package like Microsoft FrontPage or Macromedia Dreamweaver, it's time to get started on your website. Regardless of the package you choose, there are certain commonalities in how you use web design software.
- Select a background. This gives you the basis for your color scheme. You can either choose a solid color, a printed background, or even a watermark of your company logo.
- Choose color. If you choose a solid color, you will find a menu of colors in your software. If the basic color you choose isn't quite right, you can "tweak" it, making it darker, lighter, brighter, whatever you like. You will likely also find complimentary colors if your program has a color wheel; choose adjacent colors or colors on a diagonal from your original choice.
- Pattern. If you want to use a pattern, you can either use one that you create in a graphic design program, or one from a stock photo collection. You can buy stock photos either piecemeal online, or by whole collection either online or at any software store. While they are called photos, you will be able to find pattern graphics in these collections.
- Logo. If you want your company's logo as a watermarked background, set your logo as the background image, and then indicate in the background options that you would like to have it as a watermark. State your preference as to its placement - on either side or right in the middle of the page. You can choose for it to just appear once, or for your text to "glide" over it.
- Design a header. This might include the website's name, your logo, a graphic - whatever you want to immediately convey to your visitor. Make sure your header isn't too big; you want your visitor to see some content above the fold (what appears on the screen prior to scrolling down), and someone is likely to leave if a graphic takes to long to load. The point is to catch your visitor's attention without detracting from your content.
- Choose where you want to put your menu links. This is up to your preference, but standard practice is either in the middle up top, on the left side, or, if you don't have a lot of content on each page, you can have your menu links on the bottom of the page. Think about appearance of links. Do you want them to look like regular text, but for an underline to appear when your visitor mouses over each link? Do you want the standard underlined and blue link appearance? You can experiment to see what looks best and conveys the look you want.
- Choose your font and font color. The font can set the tone of your website. Do you want a serious tone to your site? A casual tone? Is your website geared towards kids and families? After you have inputted some content, you may want to select your text and try out various fonts to see which one catches your eye. In general, Times New Roman, Arial, Garamond, and Verdana are safe bets that stay consistent regardless of your visitor's monitor. Other fonts may look odd on different monitors and operating systems.
As far as color, make sure it is a hue that compliments your background, while being enough of a contrast to stand out against your background. Light colors look good against dark or busy backgrounds, while navy or another dark color looks good against light background.
Make sure that your text size is reasonable; your visitor won't read through your content if your text size is too small. Many sites use size 8, which is a bit on the small side, but generally readable if your background is a solid color and light. 10 is a good size - not too big, not too small. Large text on the whole page looks either amateurish or comical. Use with caution.
- Determine your content. Your content will have a lot to do with your search engine rankings, as well as your ability to retain a visitor once they are on your site.
- Consider add-ons. Flash movies, demonstration videos, software product demos - these are all good thing to consider adding to your site. Beware of music, however. If someone is at work or at a library, music playing without the visitor's consent is the fastest way to get the browser shut down and the visitor convinced never to go back to your website.
- Always have a contact form or e-mail. This way, potential clients can get in touch with you, or someone can contribute their thoughts about your website. And frankly, strangers come out of the woodwork to correct your spelling and grammar - free proofreading!
- Speaking of which, run a grammar and spell check on your content in your web design software. A site looks far less professional if there are abundant spelling and grammatical errors. This is a great feature common to most web design software packages. They tend to work like word processors, so the process should be fairly intuitive.
- Add meta-data. Meta-data does not appear on your website, but rather is read by the search engines and used to determine your search engine rankings among other things. This is where copyright data appears (although you can certainly put a visible copyright mark anywhere on your site), as well as date last modified, keywords, etc. If you are looking for search engine traffic, this is an especially important step. Do not try to falsely improve your rankings by including non-relevant keywords or descriptions. The search engine robots can detect this and you will be penalized for it. Most web design packages have wizards or intuitive menus to help you create your meta-data.
Those are the basic elements you need in order to use website design software. Be sure to choose a software package you are comfortable with, and have fun designing your website! After you've finished your website, you can always look into web design as a new career - especially if you back up your recently-earned knowledge with a few formal design classes.