Make Your Site Valuable to Your Readers
There aren’t any magic pills to create a great web page that everyone will visit again and again, but there are things you can do to help. Some key things to focus on are making the site as easy to use and user-friendly as possible. It should also load quickly and provide what the readers want right up front.
The ten tips in this article will help you improve your pages and make them something your readers are interested in reading and passing on to others.
1. Keep your focus on fast pages.
Speedy pages are always important. No matter how fast the average connection is for your readers, there is always more data, more content, more images, more everything for them to download. The thing about speed is that people only notice it when it’s absent. So creating fast web pages often feels unappreciated, but if you follow the tips in this article, your pages won’t be slow, and so your readers will stay longer.
2. Keep your pages short, but not too short
Writing for the web is different from writing for print. People skim online, especially when they first get to a page. You want the contents of your page to give them what they want quickly, but provide enough detail for those who want expansion on the basics. This article gives you tips for writing web content.
3. Good navigation on your websites is critical
Navigation on your websites is what gets readers around on the page and the site. Long web pages can benefit from tables of contents using anchor links to help readers get around. But you should also have good site-wide navigation.
4. Keep images small and use sprites whenever possible
Small images are about the download speed more than the physical size. Beginning web designers often create web pages that would be wonderful if their images weren’t so large. It’s not okay to take a photograph and upload it to your website without resizing it and optimizing it to be as small as possible (but no smaller).
CSS sprites are also a very important way to speed up your site images. If you have several images that are used across several pages on your site (such as your navigation icons or your logo), you can use sprites to cache the images so that they do not need to be re-downloaded on the second page your customers visit. Plus, with the images stored as one larger image, that reduces the HTTP requests for your page, which is a huge speed enhancement.
5. Use appropriate colors.
Remember that web pages are, by their very nature, international. Even if you intend your page for a specific country or locality it will be seen by other people. And so you should be aware of what the color choices you use on your web page are saying to people around the world. When you create your web color scheme keep in mind color symbolism.
6. Write as globally as you can.
As mentioned above, websites are global. So great websites acknowledge that. You should make sure that things like currencies, measurements, dates, and times are clear so that all your readers will know exactly what you mean.
7. Check your spelling and grammar.
Many people are not tolerant of spelling errors. You can write a completely error free topic for years, and then have one simple “teh” instead of “the” and you will get irate emails from some customers, and many will give up in disgust without contacting you at all. It may seem unfair, but people judge websites by the quality of the writing, and spelling and grammar errors are an obvious indicator of quality for many people.
8. Keep links current.
Broken links are another sign for many readers (and search engines, too) that a site is not maintained. And why would anyone want to stick around on a site that even the owner doesn’t care for? Unfortunately, link rot is something that happens without even noticing. So it’s important to use an HTML validator and link checker to help you check older pages for broken links.
9. Annotate your links.
Annotating your links means that you should write links that explain where the reader is going to go, and what they are going to find there. By creating links that are clear and explanatory, you help your readers and make them want to click.
While I don’t recommend writing “click here” for a link, you may discover that adding that type of directive right before a link can help some readers understand that the underlined, different colored text is intended to be clicked on. You shouldn’t use “click here” as the text of any link, but that direction can be useful for sites that cater to an older audience who might not understand how links work.
Creating Better Links
10. Put contact information on your pages.
Many web designers are uncomfortable with contact information on their website. It feels like a violation of privacy. You may be thinking “but what if they actually contact me?” It’s true, it could happen. But most contacts you receive are going to be related to your site or useful in some fashion. I’m not advocating you place information on your site that you aren’t comfortable with, but providing some way to contact you is important for a website.
Contact information reminds people that the site is maintained by another person. This means they may be more charitable and more willing to respect you when they do make contact. Plus by putting contact information on your site, you are helping your readers trust you. If there is an email address or phone number, they know they can contact you if there’s a problem.
And finally, if you do have contact information on your site, follow up on it. Answering your contacts is the best way to create a long-lasting customer, especially as so many email messages go unanswered.
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