Whether you’ve created a sophisticated business Web site
or a home-grown site for the family, you undoubtedly can
do more with it. Just don’t do too much.
Striking a healthy balance between making a Web site
quick to navigate and enhancing it with bells and whistles
has always been a key challenge with Web design. I’m
a firm believer in the Jakob Nielsen school of Web design,
which espouses the view that simple is better.
“Use the KISS principle,” says Nielsen, who’s principal
of the Nielsen Norman Group, author of 10 books on computer
usability, and the world’s preeminent expert of Web
site design. In other words, keep it simple—silly.
Yet there are times when you want to dress up a site
and make it stand out from the crowd. As long as you
keep in mind that the user experience is paramount (otherwise
you won’t have users), there’s no reason not to incorporate
such enhancements as an attractive “theme,” clip art
A theme is a set of graphically designed page headers,
footers, site navigation bars, columns, and tables.
Themes are not only dressy, they also keep your pages
consistent, which helps users get around more easily.
Programs such as Microsoft FrontPage come packaged
with plenty of themes, but you still may not find anything
that is quite right. The FrontPage Stars WebRing, at
is a gateway to not only additional themes, but also
other add-ons and tutorials. PixelMill, at http://www.pixelmill.net,
offers themes and other add-ons for both FrontPage and
the presentation package PowerPoint.
If you’re just starting a site, a template can automate
the process. Templates are complete page layouts onto
which you add your text and other page elements. Most
of today’s Web authoring programs come with templates,
but here too you may find them limited.
The templates in Macromedia Dreamweaver, like Dreamweaver
itself, are more sophisticated than those in Microsoft
FrontPage. If you don’t find the templates you want
in what comes with the package, you can download additional
ones at the templates area of Macromedia’s Web site:
Artwork, used judiciously, can dress up a Web site
or, used overeagerly, can bog it down. Microsoft provides
a large collection of free drawings and photos at its
Design Gallery Live, at http://dgl.microsoft.com,
which you can use with any program, provided you’ve
bought at least one Microsoft program. You can browse
or search for what you want by keyword.
Whatever artwork you use, make sure it’s sized appropriately.
Low-resolution images work better on the Web than slow-loading
high-resolution ones for most purposes. Most image editors,
including Paint Shop Pro and PhotoShop, provide tools
for image sizing.
If you put up lots of images online, you may find Ulead
Systems’ Smart Saver Pro, at http://www.ulead.com,
worthwhile. It specializes in optimizing images for
can enhance a Web site. Without needing to learn programming,
dynamic menus, validating Web forms, and optimizing
users’ experience by directing them to specific pages
depending on which browser they’re using.
You can download a wide selection of scripts from Webmonkey’s
and Internet Related Technologies [http://tech.irt.org/articles/script.htm].
Once you’re finished with your enhancements, you should
at least test them out on your own machine with Microsoft
Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. You can automatically
test your site’s underlying code for compatibility with
different browsers with free tools such as those provided
by the World Wide Web Consortium, at http://validator.w3.org,
and Web Design Group, at http://www.htmlhelp.com.
NetMechanic’s Browser Photo service, at http://www.netmechanic.com,
performs more comprehensive checking by sending you
images of your Web site using multiple browsers and
multiple screen sizes on Windows PCs, Macs, and WebTVs.
You should also periodically test any links to other
sites that you include in your site. Microsoft FrontPage
can do this for you. With other software, you can automatically
test links to make sure they work with tools such at
LinkAlarm, at http://www.linkalarm.com,
and Watchfire, at http://tetranetsoftware.com.
These automated tools are helpful. But don’t neglect
to test your site with real people. Even if you’ve created
a small site and can’t conduct formal usability testing,
you can still observe how people are able to get around
your site, and you can ask them whether they find it
Make it worth their while, and people will honor your
site with return visits.
is a syndicated columnist and author of the book Straight
Talk About the Information Superhighway. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org