Website Design vs. Function

Jan 20


John Buchanan

John Buchanan

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Easily,Website Design vs. Function Articles one of the biggest mistakes webmasters make when first
starting out on the web is in the design of their site. This
is extremely understandable, considering that, in the brick and
mortar world, a business's success is often dependent on it's
appearance. The more money put into the look and design of a
business, the better it often does.

Unfortunately, this doesn't completely transfer over into the
world of the web. In the world of the web, there is a huge
difference between creating an aesthetically pleasing site, and
creating a site that is going to be functional and have the best
possibility for success.

All too often, when people first begin on the web, they design their
site as if to be a work of art. Making sure it has lots of
beautiful graphics, fancy javascript, flash, etc. While all of
these things can definitely create a beautiful site, they are also
some of the biggest hindrances to a business's success.

On the net, there are two key things a webmaster must always keep
in mind when designing a site; the visitor and the search engines. If
a visitor has to wait to long for a page to download or a search
engine can't properly index a site, it doesn't matter how beautiful
and informative the site is, it will not generate the business needed
to survive, much less excel.

Let's look at a few of the most common things you should be aware of.

*Page Size*

While broadband access is gaining ground, at least half of all
internet users still use dial up connections. This means that the
majority of a sites visitors will be downloading the pages at about
3-4 kilobytes per second.

It is estimated that if a page doesn't load within 8-10 seconds you
will lose 1/3 of your visitors. That means that a page should not
be any more than 30 kilobytes total including text, graphics,
html, javascript, etc.

Logo's, backgrounds, and other images, are great, but if they are
causing your pages to load too slowly, they are doing you more harm
than good. Quite honestly, your visitors do not care about your logo,
graphics, backgrounds etc. They are there for one reason and one
reason see what you can offer them.

If you must use graphics keep their file size as small as possible
by optimizing the graphics to the utmost extent possible and keeping
the image size small.

*Splash Pages/Flash Intros*

These are the bane of the internet. If you have a splash page whether
its made up of a large graphic or a pretty flash intro, you are
crippling your chances. Design firms often love to talk their clients
into these pages because they get to be creative (oh..and charge more).

The truth is, creating one of these pages as the entrance way to your
site is one of the single worst things you can do. Visitors hate
splash pages, because they often take too long to download and they
don't provide with the visitor with anything. Remember, the visitor is
there for one reason, to see what you have to offer them and get the
information they are seeking. A huge graphic doesn't answer any of
their questions, it only delays their search.

A Flash into is much the same, while it will generally download very
quickly, it still delays the visitor in finding what he or she is
looking for.

One of the biggest rules you should remember is to keep the amount of
clicks a visitor must make to get to quality information down to a
bare minimum. With every successive click a visitor must make, there
is more of a chance he/she will give up and go somewhere else.

I've seen many reports from different sites that used (notice the past
tense) Flash Intro pages. Hardly surprising is the fact that on average,
a whopping 20%-30% of the visitors left the site after accessing ONLY
the homepage (where the splash page or flash intro was).

The second reason to stay away from these is that it has a huge affect
on search engines. Search engines can only index text, a huge graphic
or flash intro doesn't give the engines anything to index. As a result
the homepage, which is often the highest ranking page on a site, has
almost no chance of ranking well at all. In addition, depending on how
the links from the graphic or flash to internal pages are coded, the
engines may not be able to follow the links to the rest of the pages
on the site which means your site will not get spidered properly.

To summarize, stay away from splash pages and flash intro's. Give the
visitor some actual text to read and the engines something to index.
Your visitor retention will go up, and so will your search engine


Hyperlinks are your bread and butter when dealing with the search
engines. They are the way in which search engines find all of the
pages on your site and index them. If a search engine can't follow
a hyperlink, it won't be able to index the destination page, meaning
parts of your site may become invisible to the engines.

Be sure to use only true hyperlinks in your site. I've seen many
sites that use some javascript links instead of actual hyperlinks.
While these will work for most browsers (about 90%), they don't
give the engines anything to follow.

A true hyperlink should say:

href="URL of page here.html"

Any other type of link is most likely not going to be followed

*Body Text*

As I mentioned before, engines can only index text. Too often I
see sites that use graphic representations of text or a large
graphic that has some of their most important text within it.
Do whatever you can to stay away from this. If your most important
words are in graphic format, you have taken away the thing that the
engines need most to properly index and rank your site.

Engines also want to see continuity in the structure of a page. When
a webmaster uses lots of tables, frames, and other design elements,
it breaks up the flow of the text on the page, and can have a
negative effect on your rankings.

Whenever possible, use as few tables as possible. When you do use
tables, do your best to not break up a paragraph or sentence into
separate cells in a table, this destroys the flow of the text and
causes the words to be seen as unrelated fragments instead of part
of the same continuous sentence/paragraph.

It is important to realize that engines do not see the pages the
same way a visitor does. While the visitor sees the page displayed
properly with all of the next flowing nicely, an engine sees only
the HTML code behind the page that breaks up the flow of the text.

In general, the simpler the page and the HTML behind it, the better
the ranking will be.


Always be sure to be aware of the impact that a particular design
element will have on both your visitors and the ability of the engines
to properly index your site.

By understanding how the engines work, what they look for, what they
can and can't do, you will vastly increase your chances of successfully
achieving the rankings needed to make your business a success.