So you've finally decided it's time to create your own web site. After all, your friends and business associates have one and you don't want to be left behind. Great web sites all have a few common elements about them, and that's what I'll be discussing here. It's usually a good idea to plan the site out on paper before even touching your PC. It can be difficult to come up with content staring at a blank computer screen, so get out an old fashioned pen and paper and let those creative juices flow. You want to be sure to include all there is to know about your products and/or services.
Once you decide on the main topics you'll be using it's time to plan out the navigation. You need to make it simple and easy for visitors to find their way around your site, otherwise they'll get frustrated and leave. Keep the navigation consistent on all pages so your guests don't have to re-learn the menus from page to page. Graphic links are usually more effective than plain text, but use something readable and easy on the eyes. Be sure the color of the hyperlinks coordinate with the rest of your site.
You should include your contact information at the bottom of every page, at the very least an email address. Businesses should include phone, fax, and company name as well. Not everyone enters a site through the front door and if you fail to include this information, they won't know where they are or how to get in touch with you for comments and/or suggestions. If you surf the Net for any length of time, you'll be amazed at just how many sites fail to include this vital information. Including a feedback form is a good way to add some interactivity and makes it easy for people to ask questions without having to pick up the phone.
If your site is large you might want to include a search mechanism to help visitors find what they are looking for. The more information you include the harder it gets for visitors to find exactly what they want. A search form makes this simple and convenient.
Having a web site means making constant updates. People want to know that the information they are reading is fresh and new. That being said, you may include the last date the page was updated on all of the pages in your site. This lets the public know when changes were last made. Or, you can include a "whats new" page that is specifically for this purpose. Your regular visitors will expecially appreciate this feature.
Adding a page of related links is another great idea. You can contact other site owners and ask to exchange links or just add other sites that you like that complement yours. By asking to exchange links you help generate traffic for each other's sites. The best sites on the Net usually offer links to related web sites where more information can be found on the same topic. If you can write a brief description next to each link all the better. If you do include a link page, check it from time to time to get rid of any dead links. It's very annoying to click on a link and get an error.
If you take all of these tips and implement them on your web site, you'll have an interesting, well-designed site that people will want to return to again and again.
Merle is creator and developer of Merle's World, lives in Cleveland, Ohio and is passionate about the Internet. She thinks it's just amazing that we can now communicate with people all over the world with just a few clicks of the mouse. The playing field for starting your own business has been leveled by this wonderful technology known as the Internet. Almost anyone who has a dream and the inspiration to pursue it can start their business on the Net and market to a world wide audience.