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HOME::Web Techniques

Top 7 Tips to Keep from Driving Away Your Web Site Guests

By Larry Dotson

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The Internet is millions and millions of pages deep. It's hard enough to get people to your site, let alone keep them there for a while. A site designer should always strive to make their site as inclusive as possible for the majority of visitors. With that goal in mind, let's look at common mistakes that send traffic in the other direction.

  1. Access Time - If it takes too long to load your page, no one will. Placing all your content in tables, large image files, too many images, a slow server, slow loading Java applets, and total file size of the page all effect load time. Slow loading pages do one thing, they give a lot of people index finger exercise as they hit their back button!

  2. Information Overload - Don't put too much information on one page. A page should never be more than four screen lengths (click the scroll bar four times, if you're not at the bottom of the page, it's too long). Three or less screen lengths is ideal. If your pages are longer than that, look for ways to break up the content into more specific groupings and highlight the groupings in a menu so visitors can find just what they're interested in with more precision and timeliness.

  3. Under Construction Pages - These were cute when they first appeared in 1996, but now just shout "Newbie" to anyone with any net savvy. Wait until the content is developed before putting up a link to it. It is ok to mention what is coming down the road if you must, but don't send guests to a page they just have to page back from because there is no content.

  4. Horizontal scroll - Nothing annoys visitors more than having to scroll right, scroll left, scroll right, scroll left - just to read a page. Web sites designed at 800x600 screen resolution are *user unfriendly* for surfers at 640x480 - and approximately half of Internet surfers are at this setting. Surf at 800x600 if you like, but design at 640x480 if you want a user friendly site.

  5. Auto-play Sounds - Many people surf the Internet at work, school, and other public places. The last thing they want is music coming from their computer that gives them away. Others like to listen to their choices, like Real Audio. Auto-play files (embedded midi songs, etc.) play at the same time as their chosen broadcast so it interferes with their listening preference. Offer a choice, or at least a control to turn it off.

  6. Browser Compatibility - Be sure to check your code in at least IE and Netscape. Now that they are both free there are few good reasons not to. What may work fine on your browser could crash your visitor's browser. No one will return to a page that crashes them. Java is a major cause of computer crashes. Always warn guests that the next page contains Java. Java applets run off of the visitors computer and use memory resources. Machines with little memory muscle will crash. Even a high octane machine may crash that has many programs already open or encounters poorly written code, and there's plenty of that around.

  7. Bleeding Edge Technology - Java, cascading style sheets, Active X, XML, etc. are all whiz-bang cool gizmos. But since the technologies are not supported by all browsers and can cause a computer to crash or a page not to load, they should be used with caution. It's wise to stay 1 - 2 years behind the bleeding edge to keep your site useable for the vast majority.

Follow these 7 rules for site design and you will be ensured your guests are not leaving because of poorly a conceived design strategy. If you have interesting and useful content, you should enjoy traffic that visits more than your index page.

Today's Top7Business Article Was Submitted By Boogie Jack. Boogie Jack's Web Depot - Now serving over a half million page views per month! Subscribe to my monthly newsletter for an entertaining yet enlightening look at all things Internet. Send any email to:


Article Submitted On: August 31, 1999