ALL ABOUT WEB PAGE DESIGN
Web page design is one of the most rewarding and well-paying careers in today’s world. Countless books have already been written on the subject, in addition to tutorials on the Web itself. In this article, we shall get down to the “nitty-gritty” of designing web pages, a task that should be regarded as an art rather than a science.
HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) was invented in 1991, the same year the Web first came into being, specifically to write web pages. It is one of the most highly structured computer languages that have ever been written—it is composed essentially of tags, and the rules for using them are quite rigid. Each tag is composed of a single word enclosed in arrow symbols (<>), and for every one you use—with certain exceptions—you have to use it again with a left slash between the arrow and the label. Furthermore, certain tags must have others placed within them. For instance, the head tags must have the text within them further enclosed in title tags because other things can also be included there. HTML tags bracket the document itself.
Other tags can be used to do various other tasks—to alter the size and alignment of the text, make it appear in boldface type, italics or underlined, create numbered and unnumbered lists, and so on.
THE STRUCTURE OF A WEB PAGE
Now that we have the specifics of the language sorted out, let us now examine how a well-organized page is laid out. A computer language can be described scientifically, but you have the freedom to determine how to use it to fulfill your purposes—which is, after all, why we labeled web page design as an art earlier.
Every website should have a title that clearly states what its subject is. Thus, if yours is a business of whatever sort, then the name of that business should be placed so that it is the first thing that visitors see when they come to the site. It should also be possible to tell at a glance whether this is a business site or a personal one.
The other elements should be arranged in a way that makes sense to the visitor, who should navigate his or her way through with no real difficulty. Headings and subheadings should clearly mark off one section of the page from another (HTML allows up to six levels of headings.) The subheadings on each level should clearly be subsumed under the category on the next level above them.
THE VISUAL ELEMENT—IMAGES, BACKGROUND DESIGN AND TEXT COLORS
No website should ever include text alone—human beings react more strongly to visual communication than verbal communication. Certainly, people like to be able to look at what they are buying. The pictures that you include on your site should, in some way, add to its message and should be placed close to the text that they support. The size of the images needs to be considered too—the bigger it is, the longer it takes for it to download, although this fact is somewhat less important now than it was ten years ago owing to the development of high-speed connections. Make sure that your images do not clutter the page, and never include any picture “just for the hell of it” or decorate your web page.
Also, part of the visual aspect of web page design is the colors that you use. Both the background and the text can be given different colors, of which several thousand are available. Choose a color that suits the “mood”—certain colors almost universally evoke fixed responses. One place where you can go to see a comprehensive list of web colors is on Wikipedia.
As to the color of the text, black is almost always okay, unless the background color is too dark for it to show up on, in which case white should be used. All other text colors should be used sparingly for special effects like this. In general, text color that contrasts with that of the background is easy to read, though too much contrast will create a vibration effect that is also difficult to read.
THE AUDIENCE AND YOUR PAGE
Your audience is the number one reason for creating your website. Therefore you will have to keep them at the front of your mind when designing it. If it is a personal site made to express your tastes or opinions on various subjects, then it is unlikely that you will get many visitors. On the other hand, a business site needs to be well structured so that customers can find the merchandise they are looking for.
PAGES WITHIN THE SITE
It is always good to divide the site into different pages, with a link to all of them on the main one. Alternatively, you can provide links to other points on the same page (such locations are indicated in the URL by a # symbol).
CAREERS IN WEB PAGE DESIGN
Many universities and colleges have classes in web page design. But if you teach yourself and learn well enough, who knows? You may get hired on the spot.