Basic tips for amateur web designers

Content is king

Search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) all rank your site based on your content. You need to make sure your content has the keywords that you expect people to search to find you are in your content.

This text has to be in HTML. A common problem on the web especially from people using things like MrSite (or any other site builder/WYSIWYG editor) is that they find the font they want to use doesn't work on multiple computers. To get around this, they will create images with the text in the image. As far as the search engines are concerned, there is no text there, so it has zero content to index.

Page structure

The actual HTML structure of the page is important. The search engines bots are getting more and more inteligent in finding what it thinks is the main content on your page. So rather than thinking your navigation is your content, they will generally find your first paragraph. This makes it importantant to make sure your content is wrapped properly in paragraph tags (<p> </p>), otherwise you are just hurting your SEO score.

Grammar and spelling

As well as search engines looking at your site, you also have potential customers coming to your site. Pictures will help grab their attention intially, but they will want to read what you have to say. Simple mistakes, such as brought instead of bought, can be very off putting and scare some customers away.


Test your site in all the major browsers. Just because you don't like Internet Explorer, doesn't mean everyone else has switched to Firefox. IE still accounts for around 60-70% of browsers worldwide. Do you really want to throw away a percentage that big?

Also make sure that your text is readable. Colour contrast is extremely important, not everyone will have the same vision as you. Putting white on yellow or yellow on white will be hard to read, make sure there is a clear contrast, so when using white text, the background must be dark. To test your colours, you can use this handly little tool to see if they are accessible or not. Ideally you want to pass AAA specifications.

Remove the gimmicks

What do I mean by gimmicks? That analogue clock that you have thrown in to fill up that space that you didn't know what to do with.

Hit counters. Hit counters are beyond useless, no one really cares about how many hits your site has had, but it is useful for your competitors to know how well (or bad) you are doing. If you want analytics to see how many people are visiting your site, there are free tools available to you. Google Analytics and GetClicky are two of the most popular.

Mouse cursor trails has some blue bars chasing the mouse around the screen. Do you know something Microsoft, Google, Apple, BBC etc don't know? You are a professional business, not a 12 year old girl telling the world about your pet cats.

Learn about your audience

The first thing to do is learn who is currently visiting your site. Get yourself set up with either Google Analytics and GetClicky which are free analytics packages that can tell you how many visits you are getting and where these visits come from. This will include keywords that are used in searches to get to your site.

Once you have the keywords you are being found on, enter them in to the Google Keywords Tool. This will produce a list of synonyms that you can use in your content to attract a wider range of clients that may not use the same search terms as you are currently using.

Background images

Background images are fine, as long as they are done properly. It may look alright on your 17"/19" monitor, but when the image stops and you get half a white screen when looking on a 24" monitor, it doesn't look very good.

Have a background that blends to a solid colour, or use a repeating background, but don't have repeated large images as they don't look very good. Examples: 1, 2, 3

Spread yourself

Expand yourself across social media platforms. Exposure on the web is good, even if people don't read it, the search engines will see it and think that your website is important as there are a few other websites linking to it.

Examples being Twitter, Facebook (if set to public with the new privacy settings) as well as setting up an external blog.

For the blog, although it does look better to have a built in blog for consistency with design, the links to the site back from an external blog such as or Blogger.

YouTube is currently the second biggest search engine in the UK. It gets more searches than all the main search engines (Google main search excluded). Even if your video is just a simple slideshow of images of a write up with your company name. Keyword the video, add your website URL to the video description.

Images need context

It is all very well having lots of images on your site but without context the images mean nothing to a search engine and may not necessary be clear to a user. But how do you expect people to find these images on your site? You need to make sure that your images are caption or have some sort of description text with them so that they are searchable. Unfortunately the search engines aren't at a stage where they can search within images yet, so you have to use words to describe them.