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September 15, 2005

Five questions for your web designer

Do the pages validate?
Is the HTML or CSS valid? The W3C provides a free validation services online at validator.w3.org and jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator. Valid HTML and CSS goes a long way towards ensuring your website will look right on various browsers.

Which browsers do you test on?
You want to make sure you audience is as wide as possible right? How does you website look on different browsers? According to thecounter.com, the top 4 browsers were Microsoft IE 6.x, Firefox, IE 5.x and Safari – for over 97% of the market. Will your site look good on them all?

What’s your layout, CSS or tables?
Since the introduction of Cascading Style Sheets, CSS, there has been movement away from table based designs. The standards bodies have stated that HTML tables should be used for tabular data only – not for layout. Layout should be separated from the content using style sheets. There are many advantages here: CSS sites load quicker, take up less bandwidth, are more accessible to handicapped visitors and are easier to print.

Are the pages search engine friendly?
Looking for information on the web? Where do you go first? If you answered google, yahoo, or msn then you’ve visited a major search engine. Search engines crawl and index the web so when we type phrases like “hobby shop raleigh” we get results instantly. To index the internet, these engines employ sophisticated algorithms to “rank” the results. The algorithms are proprietary and closely guarded trade secrets, but some information is available to the page designer. Use of page titles, heading tags, emphasis and keyword links all improve your chances of getting a higher ranking. Of course content is king, so don’t forget that!

What about the details?
Yes, there are a myriad of details that differentiate a professional website from an amateur one. Does you designer provide custom error pages or do you get the default 404 page? What about alt-tags on your images? If an image can’t load for some reason, the alt-tag will be visible. Hover-over help text – sometimes called “tool-tips” – can make your site more user friendly. A very small detail – in fact 16x16 bytes – is the favicon.ico. This icon associated with your site that appears in the browser’s address bar or next to your site name in a visitor’s bookmarks.

Posted by Doug Griswold at September 15, 2005 06:12 PM

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