Don Marti

Sun 17 Apr 2005 08:33:53 PM PDT

Little things count

Here is some random stuff to pay attention to in your next web site redesign.

Validation: does your CMS and/or templating system actually produce valid HTML? Better to check this while still roughing out the new site than to try to fix while in production.

Email addresses: is there a relevant contact address on every page? People write back and a lot of them have something useful to say. If they're writing to complain about your company, then eventually they will give up and post to a message board somewhere about how unresponsive your company is. And don't say you're hiding from spam -- "webmaster" will get a ton of spam anyway. Deal. If you run a storefront operation, you let people come in the door. If you run a net operation, you let people send you mail.

The "target" attribute on links is like telling your users you don't think they know which mouse button does what. And it totally messes up tabbed browsing. Let it go. If you're a control freak and want to control which windows pop up on other people's screens when, write non-web apps for a while to get it out of your system.

If the search doesn't work just make a "search this site with Google" form. Even if it's not up to date, it's better than a broken search.

Make the layout "springy" where you can. Avoid explicit widths so that the pages will look good in a variety of browser window sizes.

Old URLs: Make a list of the pages to which you could possibly have incoming links -- usually that's every page on your site -- and set up a redirect for absolutely everything whose URL will change in the redesign. Not doing this is just throwing away your Google Juice. (For bonus points, automatically dump your old sitemap to Apache Redirect directives.)

Keep the actual markup in the pages simple and apply fonts, colors, and margins in CSS. The more complicated the markup, the longer it takes to download and the harder it will be to track down a validation error. Any browser too old to do CSS and PNG probably has a security hole anyway.