Great Web Design With A Few Simple Steps

Many amateur web designers look up to the skills of other designers without knowing that many simple tricks exist in order to create some very nice looking web sites.

HTML is quite a difficult language for laying out text and graphics. The advent of Cascading Style Sheets made this a lot better, but a very simple solution to the problem of layout is to use tables that don’t contain borders. Within HTML, this can be done by adding the attribute BORDER=”0″ to the TABLE tag. Nevertheless, most HTML editors, such as Dreamweaver and FrontPage, will enable you to set the border to 0 as one of the table’s properties.

Perhaps the biggest problem some newcomers have to face is in finding suitable images that look fine. In most cases, images can be found through the use of a simple Google image search. More often that usual, these images will be used under copyright so their use risks potential legal action. One method around this is to buy royalty-free images on CD / DVD or directly from the Web. Obviously, you will need to take care to check the license agreement. For instance, the images might only be royalty-free for non-commercial uses. Another option is to take your own images using a digital camera (or scanning in your own photos). Once again, in order to minimize the risk of legal action you should try to get permission from people shown in the photos before putting them up on the web.

Even after you locate or create images, a good design might still be difficult given the ‘blocky’ nature of the photos that will typically be in a rectangular shape. This will lead to the major tip for improving your web site design. If you use stock photos, look for ‘photo-objects’ instead of photos. These are photos which have had the background taken away. Where the background should be is in fact transparent, which implies that you can put the photo-objects onto any background.

When you use your own images, you can very easily create photo-objects through the use of a ‘green screen’ behind the subject you are taking photos of. You can load the image into any piece of imaging software that has a magic wand tool. Then you can simply click on a section of the green screen and press delete in order to remove the background.

There is nothing ‘miraculous’ about a green screen. Any bit of material that has a consistent color and is fairly flat should be okay. Green or blue work best as these are very different from skin tones that don’t disappear when you make use of the magic wand. (Obviously, if they are wearing green clothes these might suddenly become transparent).

Backgrounds can be taken away through the use of a magic wand tool (and eraser for fine details) from photos with a normal background, but you can expect to take many steps and more time. Even if you cannot remove the background you can also add some spice to your images with simple steps such as adding a drop shadow or adding a frame such as a photograph.

With all these simple steps you should be able to develop web sites that look a lot more professional.


James Reid is contributing editor at WebDesignArticles.net. This article may be reproduced provided that its complete content, links and author byline are kept intact and unchanged. No additional links permitted. Hyperlinks and/or URLs must remain both human clickable and search engine spiderable.

Using Your Web Site Graphics To Their Best Advantage

Graphics can make a site more attractive when used properly; also, it can make your visitor’s impression a positive one. However, you must be cautious, because if a web site is unattractive, your visitor will get a negative impression and click away.

When you insert graphics on your web pages, you must try to use your sense of logic. For example, adding more graphics won’t make your website better! Don’t overwhelm your site with graphics, clip art, and animated gifs. Excessive graphics can lead to your page loading slowly, as well as muddling the web page. Also, excessive graphics can aggravate your visitors, and increase the difficulty for your visitors to read the content.

In fact, graphics should only be used in order to contribute to a site’s good functioning. A header graphic for example is good for your site to be recognized, your products can be shown using graphics, drawing attention to important sales points can be used with arrows or check boxes, and a button for your payment link. If you like, you can also add a footer graphic, buttons for your navigation menu, and/ or a background image. Other graphics should only be used if they are for adding something to your site.

It is best to only use JPG or GIF formats for your graphics since these two formats are universally used on the Internet. A new format called PNG will come into use soon, but it is not broadly used and therefore not supported in all browsers.

You can obtain images from several places. They can be personal images or images that you’ve bought. You can also download images for free from the following websites: Free Images at http://www.freeimages.co.uk/ which offers over 2500 free photos and Stock.xchng at http://www.sxc.hu/ which has over 100,000 free photos for you to choose from. Several other sites also offer graphics like buttons, arrows, clip art, GIFs, etc. Some are free, others you might need to buy. Of course, you must be ready to spend hours browsing through thousands of images or graphics till you find the right one.

If you want your page to load faster, make sure you optimize your images and graphics. To do so, you will have to reduce the graphics to their smallest size while still maintaining their quality. The larger your file size, the more KB it will take up and the longer it will take to load. Your graphic mustn’t be larger than 30 KB on your web pages and you must always include a height and width attribute in your image tag for the download time to be optimal.

These tools can help you optimize your graphics and images:

1) PIXresizer, a free image resizer from Bluefive you must download.
Software at http://bluefive.pair.com/pixresizer.htm.

2) Dynamic drive offers a free online image optimizer for JPG,
GIF and PNG formats at http://tools.dynamicdrive.com/imageoptimizer/.

Use JPG graphics for photos and GIF graphics for anything else on your web site like buttons and arrows. JPG graphics are good for photos because they use a compression method that does not reduce the number of colors in the image. GIFs are usually better for graphics containing few colors as they can only use a 256 color palette. A colourful GIF, may need to be saved as a JPG for its quality to be kept intact.

When first visiting your web site, a viewer will see your header graphic so it must tell him what the content of your site is about. Part of your web site’s identity is in the header graphic so it must be used on each page of your site.

Consider your header graphic as the cover of a book. A book cover should catch the attention and the user and encourage him or her to open the book. The purpose of a header graphic is the same; it should encourage your visitor to stay on your site and look through it.

If you have products to sell, put in an image, especially if your products include ebooks and downloadable software. As these products are virtual and not physical, your visitors will feel safer about buying the product if they see a book cover or a software box.

You can also use arrow or check box graphics to grab the attention for the most important areas of your sales letter, but don’t overdo it. If you use these graphics excessively, your visitor will disregard them.

Your payment button can be a simple “Pay Here” type button or a more complicated one which will include credit cards images together with the payment information. Always use graphics that fit in with the theme of your web site.

You can use a narrow colored strip for your footer or a smaller version of your header graphic. Always put in the copyright information.

Make sure your background image, color, colors used in your text, and the colors in your graphics don’t clash. All the works of your web page should be in harmony. Look at how all the graphics come together as a whole, not individually.

Finally, make sure the graphics match the theme of the site. If your site is more romantic, choose pastel colors and minimal graphics. On the other hand, if your site is bolder, use brighter colors and loud images.

Graphics are an important part of any web site design. When used properly, they can be a really positive feature for your site.


J.M. Stevens is contributing editor at WebDesignArticles.net. This article may be reproduced provided that its complete content, links and author byline are kept intact and unchanged. No additional links permitted. Hyperlinks and/or URLs must remain both human clickable and search engine spiderable.