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Design guidelines

Before starting on your home page, think about what you are trying to achieve. What is the message (if any!) that you wish to convey?

You probably have a mental picture of the structure of the information you are going to publish. If you were writing a book, you would divide the material into chapters. Writing for the Internet is exactly the same. Develop a structure for your pages and make this structure explicit.

It is easy to feel 'lost' within a Web space, especially if its boundaries are not clear. You can convey the size and scope of your site by using a map or contents page.

Let your readers control the site. Offer navigation buttons to allow them to link to the different sections of your site.

Reading from a screen is not like reading a book or magazine. Long passages of text are hard on the eye and should be broken up into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Web browsing is a fractured activity. Hypertext links mean that your readers may only dwell on your page until they see an interesting link. If you want them to read your page, you must get and then maintain their interest.

Page size and layout
Your page layout options are limited with HTML. Look at the HTML source of other Websites to see how they work around these restrictions.

If you have structured your material effectively, you should be able to structure it into manageable 'chunks'. Don't make your reader scroll down the page for too long - it would be better to split the information across two pages.

Graphics and images
A number of sites on the Web offer royalty-free graphics that you can download and use in your pages:

Clip Art, Clip Art and more Clip Art!
Laurie McCanna's Free Art Site

Some Web browsers cannot show images, or your readers may choose to view Web pages with images turned off (which allows them to download pages quickly). Test your pages with images switched off in your browser to see whether they are readable.

Browsers differ in the way they interpret HTML. While HTML has evolved over the years, some browsers have not! Be sure to test your work in different browsers for compatibility. If you want your pages to be accessible to the largest audience, resist the temptation to use the latest features that new browsers offer.

The most popular PC screens are 13 or 14 inches in size, and operate at a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. Don't forget this when laying out your pages, especially if you are working on a larger monitor at a higher resolution!

A page with lots of images will take much longer to download than a page made of text. Use pictures and graphics sparingly but effectively. It is sometimes a good idea to put a 'thumbnail' picture on your page, which when clicked on, links to a larger version of the same image. This gives your readers a choice.

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