The Internet is overflowing with sites offering all sorts of information and services. Web design and development are complex activities involving a variety of skills. When it comes to measuring the success of a Web project, you naturally need to refer to its original brief. However, there is a series of common areas for determining the success, failure or relative quality of any single page. In this article we'll go over the basic aspects to consider when trying to establish whether or not a page is well constructed and to bear in mind when building pages yourself.
Information and MediaYou might think it would go without saying that the most important element in a Web page is its content, but sadly many developers tend to forget this. When approaching the construction of a Web page, the first step should ideally be establishing what the content will be. This includes data, text and media, for example images, audio, video and even animation items. A successful Web page presents the content users expect and need it to.
For example, if you browse to a page by following a link from a search engine or other site, you will have certain expectations about what it should contain, normally determined by the information in the link you followed. A successful page fulfils the user's expectation based on the page and site title, with information and media content that is relevant, good quality and detailed enough to give the user what they're looking for.
User InteractivityMost modern Web pages do not simply display static information for users to read. A typical page will also give the user an interactive experience of some kind. Naturally this depends on the purpose of a particular page. For example, a page with a form in which users enter information needs a reliable interaction process in order to do the job it is designed to do. At the other end of the spectrum, a page on a wiki site merely needs to display the information along with some links to other resources, so the interaction level does not need to be sophisticated in this case.
Formatting and StyleWeb pages are basically comprised of content and formatting. It is generally considered good practice to keep the content of a site well separated from its formatting code. Typically, the content is defined using HTML markup, with Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) providing the formatting rules, including layout, colours, backgrounds and more. Keeping the styling separate from the markup content makes a page more amenable to user preferences.
Accessibility is the major issue for formatting in Web pages. As well as ensuring that a page appears correctly in different browsers, on different operating systems and on different types of device (for example mobile phones and tablet PCs), developers need to consider the range of possible users who may be accessing their pages. You cannot make any assumptions about the user or their computing equipment when creating Web page. Successful pages are those that function equally well for the full range of users accessing them.
It is hugely important that developers choose the right tools to deliver particular Web pages. By making use of server technologies, developers can create sites with dynamic data as well as sites with a stimulating level of user interaction. Unfortunately, developers often use technologies simply because they can, rather than because they are ideally suited to a project. When deciding whether to use a particular tool, it's best to ask whether or not it will best serve the purpose and content of the site, which it will do in a successful case.
Pitfalls and TipsThere are lots of common pitfalls and mistakes in Web design and development. Being mindful of these is a great way to avoid making them in your own sites. Many websites publish useful guides from experienced developers detailing what not to do. It's also a good idea to validate your Web page code to maintain a good level of quality.
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