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Rules for Good Web Pages

Last modified: 02-Oct-97
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These are our Rules and Guidelines for producing Bandwidth-Friendly™ web pages.

We do try to follow them quite rigidly, but I'm sure you will tell us when we don't!
Also, let us know what you think of our guidelines, whether they are useful, or whether you completely disagree with them.

We also have pages providing more details of other related Internet and Web Technologies which you may find of use.

* You only have 15 seconds of download to grab the viewers interest!
Research has shown that a viewer will cancel a download after only 15 seconds if you have not given them enough to grab their interest and occupy their attention while the rest of your page loads.
* Don't use more than 20 KB of graphics on any page.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but is it really worth 200 KB of bandwidth? Remember the 15-second rule! Even if you want to use graphics extensively, there are methods for reducing the size of the images without significant loss of picture quality. As a rule of thumb 4 KB is a BIG image, so 20 KB represents a LOT of graphics!
This rule can be relaxed slightly on internal company Intranets, but not to a huge extent as the person may still be across the Atlantic so your pages may have to travel half way round the world to be viewed.
* Specify WIDTH & HEIGHT on *ALL* images.
This allows the users browser to render the rest of the page while continuing to download the graphics in the background. People WILL NOT wait to see your "tarty graphics" load if they are there to find factual information. In most cases images are "decoration" on your pages, rather than real "content", so make sure they don't stop the browser delivering the page content to the viewed quickly.
* Reuse a small set of images throughout your site.
Once one image is in the browsers cache, subsequent uses of that image can be displayed very quickly without requiring further network traffic. Therefore, it is advisable to choose, and stick to, a small set of graphics that can be used through out your web site.
* Don't make viewers resize or scroll.
Don't force visitors to resize their browser window or scroll too far to see the main page content. Web pages should generally be designed so that they can be viewed reasonably well on a 640 pixel wide screen. While a lot of users have significantly wider screens, they may want to use this extra space to have two or more browser windows besides each other, and you certainly can't assume you have the whole screen at your disposal! Of the two, requiring a scroll to see more content is preferable to needing to resize, and scrolling is obviously unavoidable in certain situations [like this site, for example!!] with heavy duty content. However, do try to keep in mind your viewers possible circumstances.
(Based on a suggestion by Arndt Schoenewald.)
This is one of the most important principles of web page design - the Golden Rectangle.
* Remember the page title.
Almost all browsers use the page title as the description of a link when recording a bookmark, so this is how people will find you again from their "favourite places" bookmarks. NEVER, EVER, EVER leave the title BLANK!
* Don't click HERE!
Use links, don't talk about them. Avoid saying something like
"For some information on link descriptions click here"
and instead try to make the link text a description of what the viewer will find by following the link, something like
"Information on link descriptions"
The worst possible situation is to have multiple "here" links, which the viewer has to study closely to ensure they hit the one they want! - You should do the hard work for them, so that they enjoy visiting your web-site.
* Use a spell checker.
There is nothing more embarrassing than 60 million people pointing out the minor spelling mistake on your new web-site (you do like reading e-mail, don't you?), but it is the easiest thing in the world to forget to do - so make a deliberate effort.
* Always give the viewer some way to contact you.
Your web-site must contain some sort of contact information, even if this is only a telephone number! What should the visitor do if they like your site so much, they want to buy your company? :-)
However, the worst thing you can do is not provide an electronic means of contacting you (e-mail, on-line feedback form, etc.), because that is the biggest message to the world that you just haven't got the hang of this on-line web stuff!
* Give visitors some reasons to make a return visit.
You want your site to be popular (don't you?), and the best way to do this is for your visitors to come back again and again. This will only happen if there is something on your site that interests them, whether that be an online game, chat or regular new content and news.

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