There are a number of website design aspects that can be optimized to improve your sites traffic pulling prowess. Some are specifically directly related to search engine optimization (SEO) while others are more system and user related. It is also noteworthy to consider the various standards pertaining to Internet technologies as represented by the client/server and peer-to-peer network environments. Here are a few of the more productive ones:
CSS Tableless Website Design – Use CSS to organize the layout of your website using div tags rather than using tables. Search engines tend to view your site’s text content with a higher weighting if you do this.
Standards Compliance – Using and complying with the Internet standards as defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) will go a long way to ensuring that your website is viewable by all and sundry.
Fonts – It is advisable to use non-proprietary fonts that most if not all browsers out there will be able to render successfully. It is most desirable that the user be presented with an on screen display of your web pages that is consistent with the website developer/designer’s intentions whilst being reliably rendered regardless of the device used to view it. Veranda and Arial are two fonts that meet these requirements.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Realize that in the bigger scheme of things Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of your website is a long term strategy and that regardless of how well optimized your website may be you are not going to get rushed off your feet tomorrow. That is unless you are targeting keywords with little or no competition. There are numerous sites dedicated to the topic of SEO as well as thousands of online SEO forums so if you want to check them out further just search using SEO as the keyword.
Load Speed – With all of the talk about search engine optimization and “rich” Web 2.0 implementation features many web designers seem to have forgotten one of the most fundamental principles underlying a successful web site and that is load speed.
Users (including myself) will generally wait a few seconds for a site to load but once ten seconds elapses without much happening on screen they will simply move on to the next site. If the second site loads real quick then the user is quite likely to return every time they are presented with the same circumstances that triggered their initial visit.
Statistically; lost visitors rarely return for a second dose of a poorly performing website so you need to “hook” them the first time as it will most likely be the only opportunity that you will ever get. No second chances here. Numerous large high resolution photos and graphics are renowned for slowing a website down from the user’s perspective.
Dependencies – Do not use features that will require a user to install any software in order to view your site or parts of it. Most users are reluctant to oblige. Many simply can’t as they don’t have sufficient user rights and privileges to do so.
This is usually because the system administrator needs to carefully control anything and everything that goes into the production network environment. Reasons they do this include potential incompatibilities and licensing arrangements. It may also be contrary to the terms and conditions under which the user is granted computer and network access and usage rights. This is most often the case with educational institutions and enterprises of all sizes.
Newsletter and RSS Feeds – Have a newsletter subscription form that your visitors can use to subscribe to prominently displayed on your website. Incorporate the capacity for visitors to subscribe to RSS feeds.
Both newsletter and RSS feeds work best when you use them to attract visitors to your site in order for you to have a shot at selling them something. Make both your newsletter and RSS feeds free to subscribe to. Use a professional online auto-responder service such as aweber.com or getresponse.com
Social Networking and Bookmarking – Social networks are here to stay so we had better get used to this fact and make adjustments in our website designs to incorporate social networking and bookmarking buttons, scripts and widgets.
“Tell-a-Friend” and “Share This” – You can also install scripts that will allow you to exploit the standard Share This button. It is an easy way for visitors to send articles or website information that they found enlightening, entertaining or useful to family and friends as well as to work colleagues.
Site Maps – It is important to create site maps for your website and to submit it to Google. Visit xml-sitemaps.com to create free site maps for all of your websites. Once done upload it to your website and then submit it to Google at: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/siteoverview?hl=en
Alternatively you can create and submit a sitemap for each website you run using Site Explorer: http://www.siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com
User Comments – In today’s Web 2.0 world it is important to include some user interaction features in your website’s design. Viewer comments and forums are easy to implement and do add significantly to your visitor’s overall experience. You might even consider a short but funny video. Starting a blog or user’s forum on your website are options worthy of consideration.