A new web designer

  scoops 09:43 01 Jan 2005

I work in marketing, and I thought that it might be usefull for my career if I learnt how to design web sites. So, in my spare time I have been teaching my self. I am moving to Birmingham in a few weeks and so thought a good site idea may be a guide to the city.

I have now created most of the site, although I am still adding content etc. I could now do with a bit of advice as to how I can get the site to look just that bit more professional/slick.

Comments would be appreciated.

click here

  Forum Editor 10:46 01 Jan 2005

from others. My immediate comments are:-

1. The total lack of images on your inside pages will induce boredom, and people will tend to click away. People buy with their eyes, and the very best information sites are image-rich. When teaching web-design I always refer people to the BBC news site
click here as an example of how to present information in an attractive and readily-accessible way.

2. Large areas of text are difficult to read on-screen. Try putting text into columns (like a newspaper) in bite-sized chunks, and experiment with a smaller text size (8point verdana bold is ideal) interspersed with images.

3. Ads are fine on an information site - people expect to see them - but beware of losing the correct balance between content and banner ads....too many ads blinking and flashing is a distraction and an irritation. The giant Amazon banner that greets you on the bottom of the 'about Brum' page is a real horror.

4. Get your site properly hosted on its own domain name - sites that are in free ISP space will be ostracised by the big search engines, and a free web-space address in the browser bar is a glaring sign of an amateur effort.

You're off to a good start, but in the community web-site arena the competition is fierce, and only the best survive. I suggest that you spend some time looking at other, similar sites where you'll pick up tips on how to lay out your content. Research has shown that the average visitor to an information site will spend between 4 and 6 seconds appraising a page before deciding whether to stay or move on - that's a pretty small window of opportunity for a web designer.

  scoops 18:27 01 Jan 2005

I take your point about lack of images. At the moment I am trying to take my own photos to place on the site. I just haven't been able to get up to brum to take as many as I would like, but this matter should change soon.
The ads probably are a bit over bearing at the moment, I suppose I have just been seeing what you can get etc. I am to cut these down and make them as relevent to the page as poss.
On the restaurant pages, I have been thinking of adding a facility that allows people to rate (1-5) restaurants if they have been there and add comments, how would I do this.
Would be keen to get the site hosted properly, just didnt want to comment to much money at first

  LeadingMNMs 18:56 01 Jan 2005

If you want users to be able to rate restaurants and make comments then I would think that you would need to use scripts and a database.

I haven't got around to any of these myself yet, so hopefully someone else will be able to fill you in on the specifics of what is required.

  Forum Editor 18:04 02 Jan 2005

showing the location of prominent local areas/landmarks might be a very useful addition to your site.

  Taran 14:26 03 Jan 2005

Be very, very careful about allowing any form of unapproved visitor comments. Polls and comments are easy to set up and you can find any amount of free scripts to help you kicl things off. Try the excellent Hotscripts.com site click here for some ideas to get things up and running.

Allowing unapproved comments from site visitors allows anyone to say anything they like and have it posted online for all to see. This forum runs on that basis and, thankfully, it enjoys an excellent atmosphere and (usually) high level of behavious from its members. Such is not always the cacs though, and while this forum is people with a large group of like-minded members a visitor comments area on an unmoderated site can fall foul of posts which could include racist, abusive, and illegal content which you, as the site publisher could end up by being held responsible for.

You need to think very carefully about a disclaimer policy, possibly also a privacy policy and whther or not to allow unapproved comments by your visitors. Most good comments scripts allow you the option of previewing the comment before allowing it to go into the public domain and some also offer bad word filtering and so on.

There's a lot more to it than just providing the sort of features you are considering. Integrating third party scripts or writing your own is the easy part - policing things is the hard part.


  scoops 15:25 04 Jan 2005

...I have reduced the file sizes of the images on the index page, this I hope will cut down load time. I have also been tidying up some of the ad banners. I am also in the process of getting the domain hosted by 1&1, who incidently can help with scripts for polls etc. On that note Taran, I was just thinkg of letting people rank the restaurants that they have visited, not sure that I would want to allow for comments yet for the good reasons that you point out, I would try and approve them before they appeared on the site, should I go down this route.

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