Like most of you guys, I too am always on the look-out for that leg up needed to give me that essential competitive edge to stay in the web design & development game. With that in mind, I thought I’d share with you what I’ve managed to learn about web design & development, SEO & SEM as well as web standards & accessibility in the hope that what I know is of use to someone else.
Words that walk the fine line
The first thing that the keen eyed amongst you will notice is the littering of emboldened keywords & key phrases scattered throughout the first paragraph, most of which linking back to specific service pages my company website .. look! I did it again!
There’s a fine line between being ‘spammy’, damaging legibility and then just plain putting people off. However, the plus sides are, you’re presenting some of the things that search engines want to see.
Top tips for web designers & developers
So without further ado, here’s my top tips for giving your website or specific web pages a lift and infusing them with some of the good stuff!
1. Sound like your dad: be an authority
Authority is essential. You need to speak (well, write) with an air of authority. Talk about your chosen topic in a manor that draws upon your knowledge & experience. Be passionate, too. People will pick up on this and feel compelled to read on. But don’t try too hard. No one likes a zealot!
2. Engage, don’t bore: keep the reader happy
Sometimes, a given topic can be a little dry, a little dusty, a little staid.
If you must, get yourself a copywriter. If you must, dig deep and spend money on getting someone involved who knows how to write engaging, lively copy (that means text.)
3. Entitled to everything: make the titles stand out!
When you’re building your copy, build a hierarchy into your pages by using the titles. Make sure that you use your titles well. Using the right keywords & key phrases is essential.
4. Highlights: pick out the text that matters
Much like I’ve been doing throughout this document, embolden those words that convey something very special. This highlighting of words means added emphasis and the search engines will look to make the most of this special marking.
5. Standard barer: flying the flag for standards compliance
Standards compliance isn’t just about accessibility, it’s about ensuring that the search engines can make the most of what you’ve spent good time building.
So if you take the time to do things right, you get a two-for-the-price-of-one deal – in the one hand, your website is on its way to being accessible, while at the same times, it’s helping the search engines do their thang!
6. Back to basics: break out the dictionary and check your spelling
Spell check your copy. There’s nothing worse than bumping through a website when nearly all of the web pages are chock-full of typos. No amount of design niceness will make up for that. Plus, you lose credibility. No excuses .. oh, and grammar, too. ‘Nuff said.
7. Image is everything: be picture-perfect with the right words
Sticking images into your web pages is all good & well, but that’s only the beginning. If you want to squeeze each & every last drop of effort out of those images, use the alt attribute on the img tag.
Don’t just type in anything, when giving an image a description, be as descriptive and as accurate as possible. Remember: when you hunt down those images with Google and Yahoo!, how do you think those guys know what you’re looking for? Be relevant and be descriptive.
8. FYI: make acronyms work for your words, not against them
It’s pretty safe to assume that it’s never safe to assume. If you must use acronyms, then make sure that you use the acronym tag.
Just because you and your friends have been using an acronym for an age, that doesn’t mean everyone else knows what it means.
You might be thinking: “So why don’t I just NOT use the acronym?” Because the opposite is sometimes true. If you were to say Universal Serial Bus, most people might just stare at you like you’re talking ancient Greek. But if you said: USB, then all would be fine & dandy. Plus, by adding in the full term, you’re adding more content into your web pages that the search engines will happily munch away on.
9. A hard cell: using tables for layout is a crime!
Yes, yes, yes! I know! I’ve been there, I’ve done that. But now I’m reformed. I’ve gone clean and I’m now mending my ways .. I’m here telling you about how tables can really mess things up for you and your website.
Remember how I compared the search engines to really fussy readers? Well, it’s worse than that. Imagine you had this huge Microsoft Excel file with thousands upon thousands of columns & rows. Now imagine having to navigate that with only the arrow keys on your keyboard.
How bad would that be, eh?
Well, when you use tables for content on website, the search engines have to dig down through those tables to get to the content. This is bad. In fact, it gets worse still. Not only do the search engines have to do this, but anyone using a screen reader application will have to do the same, too.
So if you’re going to use tables, use them for what they were designed for: tabulated data and not images and text.
About the Author: Wayne Smallman is the Managing Director of Octane Interactive, a British-based web design agency (www.octane.uk.net) and author of the Blah, Blah! Technology ‘blog (myblah-blah-tech.blogspot.com/).