In order to help make your website more user friendly, I offer the following additional web design tips for your consideration.
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Page Load Time
You have spent hours (days? weeks?) adding that wonderful flash or splash page and positioning those gorgeous graphics in just the right place. You have that “Enter” graphic placed exactly in the center. It looks great to you. What you didn’t consider is that you may be one of the few people to see it because it takes so long for the page, or pages, to load. For the majority of visitors, if it takes much over 30 seconds for something of value to appear, a faster loading site with the information they want is only a click away. That’s why a fast loading web site design should probably be at the top of the list for all web designers. You might design a web site that looks fantastic but few people are going to see it if it takes a long time for something useful to appear. That's why you should keep large graphics and other bandwidth-intensive design elements to a minimum. Images should be optimized for the web so your page takes no more than 10 to 15 seconds to load. Slow load times will deter users from viewing your site. In urban areas maybe half of internet users have broadband connections, however, many still have dial-up connections and they should be kept in mind when creating web pages. Your Home page should download within 10 seconds or less, and internal pages should download within 15 seconds. Remember, your visitors are there for a particular reason. They don't need splash pages or flash pages to get in their way. They want what they came looking for and they want it now! (How many times have you hit the "skip" button to get beyond the opening Flash animation?).
Clear, Simple Content
The content on your site should be clear, simple and as user friendly as possible. After all, your competition's site is only a mouse click away. The easier your site is to work with, the more useful it will be to your audience. This is not a time to save the best for last. The most important thing you have to offer should appear near the top of the page “above the fold”. If you include images, make sure you include an alt tag for each. Don't have unnecessary animated graphics, scrolling text or other moving, flashing items all over the place. They draw attention away from the content.
Proofread your site then proofread it again. Before publishing it, have someone else proofread your page. There is no excuse for misspelled words or incorrect word usage. Using the spellchecker is not always enough. Make sure you have the correct words. You can use Grammar Slammer if you are unsure about the grammar. Use Spellcheck.com if you are uncertain of the spelling of a word.
Custom Error Page
A well designed website should have a useful custom error page that helps visitors if they should click on a broken link or type a URL incorrectly. Your custom error page should reflect the site's overall color, type, and layout structure as much as possible and provide useful links to help visitors find what they're looking for.
Your pages should provide for visitor feedback. A form is useful for this purpose since it helps you to hide from email spiders. It also allows you to control how user feedback is formatted and submitted. Feedback forms should be clear and to the point. Make sure your visitor knows which information is required and which is optional in order to submit the form.
Test on Real Users and Different Browsers
After your site is completed, it should be tested on real users and in different browsers. Just because you are using IE6 doesn’t mean that everyone else is. It is obvious that since you are the designer, you love the content and know how to use the navigation effortlessly. But is this true with your visitors? Do they understand the purpose of the site? Do they enjoy using the site? Is there an incentive for them to return to the site in the future? Your site should have the depth and breadth to encourage visitors to bookmark it and recommend it to others who are interested in the same topic.
Keep the Content Current
After your site is published, it is important to keep the content current. Most good sites are constantly updated, so if yours is out-of-date, users won't return. If your site has static material, users won't need to return as it appears they saw all there was to see the first time. This is true even for large sites.