Creating web pages for
Information Services

Summary

This web page is designed for information professionals, librarians and library staff who are considering putting together pages for themselves, their users and their organisations. It concentrates on the design aspect of web pages, rather than the technicalities of HTML coding.

What makes a successful web page?

A good web page should be

Where do I start?

Writing a web page should be the very last step of all, not the first! Before you even think about putting a page together, you need to sit down and consider a number of very important questions.

The design stage

Broad and shallow or narrow and deep?

Broad and shallow:

A good example of broad and shallow is Phil's search engine page home page.

Narrow and deep:

A good example of narrow and deep is Tesco Supermarket site, where each of the anchors leads to another series of anchors. Do however bear in mind that whichever method you use, the page must look attractive.

Text

Are some examples of what not to do (and some things you should do!) on a Web page.

If you mix different header font sizes it will cause confusion in the mind of the reader of your page.
The same thing will happen if you use lots of different font styles!
You'll find that BLINKING text can be very, very ANNOYING after a short while.
Don't let your text scroll off the right hand side of the screen. And here's another example.

Backgrounds

Lets start by having a look at some backgrounds. A background can add colour to a page and can help set a particular atmosphere.

Graphics

Always ask yourself what the graphic is for!

The main Conservative Party web page is a splendid example of how not to produce an opening page.

Authority of the site

People need to be able to trust the data that they are getting off the web pages that you create. There are a number of ways in which you can do this.

The site at Jaguar Cars is an interesting example of how some of this works and how some of it does not. Another splendid example of just how this should be achieved is Sheila Webber's site which is about business information (Please note: this is an archived version of her old site, which is no longer available. I continue to use it because it's an excellent example of how to put a web page together!)

Navigation

Site maps are a great idea - they allow people to get quickly and directly to the pages that you've got on your site. A site map should be clear, and leave the user in no doubt as to where they'll end up. Unlike this site at the Lethbridge Research Centre. If you're using navigation bars, make sure that it's obvious! and that they work properly! If you're going to have a search function, make sure that it works. Make sure that your links are clear, make sense, and the user knows where they are going to go to, unlike this site.

Flash

Don't use it. Really. It's a bad idea - it's hard, if not impossible for search engines to index flash data, and it is often used to no purpose other than to say 'we can use flash'. I found a lovely example of something called Houston's. Can you work out what the site is about?

Don't make your users jump through hoops!

Users want to get to somewhere on your website, and they want to get there quickly. Don't make them jump through hoops to get there. This website forces uses to go through several pages to get to the online ordering section, and then... Also, try not to have registration unless you absolutely have to!

Re-directors

A re-director will immediately take you from one page to another. If they're not done well, they can be very difficult to escape from!

Content

Don't go overboard and try and cram everything onto a single page.
Make sure that the page is readable!.
Make sure the content uses good keywords, unlike this site which doesn't really get to grips with telling us much about what they actually do!
Keep it simple, straightforward and clear. Remember that you can create as many pages as necessary to cover the information you want to provide. Try, whenever possible, to keep to one concept per page.
Your opening paragraph is very important! This will be used by some search engines to provide the abstract or summary for your page and well encourage or put people off visiting your page.
Resist the urge to do 'keyword stuffing'. Here's another example, which I found when doing a Google search for Championship manager
While you're at it, don't put in hidden text either!
Try not to have long and involved user agreements.

Consistency

Your site should be consistent, especially for navigation - it will make life easier for people who come and visit you. If it's not consistent, it gets confusing and irritating.

Frames

Frames seem to be a good idea, but most of the time they are a waste of space and just confuse the user. Where are you supposed to be looking? It's not clear from this painting site. However, too many frames can render a page unreadable. Also, ensure that there is both a frames and a non-frames version of the site available.

Copyright

When you produce a page of text you, or your organisation will automatically own the copyright. It makes sense to put a copyright notice at the bottom of each page however, or perhaps a copyright statement stating what people can or cannot do with the material on your site.
If you are tempted to use material from another web page (particularly graphics) make sure that what you want to use is in the public domain, or that you get permission from the copyright owner to use the material on your site.

Links

You can put links from your pages to any other site on the Web. There are a number of cases going through various courts around the world at the moment, so I would suggest that before you do so, you contact the Webmaster of the site(s) concerned and ask for permission.
Please also remember that other people can link directly to your site without your knowledge. You can however do searches on a variety of search engines to see what sites have linked to you; in Altavista for example, the syntax is link:<url> (without the < > ).

Create a personalised error message

There's no need for people to see that useless 404 error message when you can create your own. This is an example from Brent Council and the Kilburn Public Library

Examples of library sites

The New York Public Library
South Bank University

And for really bad design....

The current winner is Philip Nixon's website.


This page is © Phil Bradley, 2004. Last updated 13th October 2004. Please read my Copyright statement before using it.