Like any good book, ad or comic strip in the Sunday paper, there are mandatory elements that make any document easy to read, understand and cause the reader to come back for more.
What you call your page is as important as the content in it. The title is the first thing a person sees that attracts them to your page. It is the title that the search engines, like Yahoo or Excite use to create their index databases. These databases in turn points people to your page. Browsers also use titles in the name fields to bookmark a page. Your title should be to the point, reflect the content of the page, and not so long as to go into two lines.
Headings are the first text, after the title that the visitor will see. As such, the headings should be descriptive of the content that follows. Sometimes it is good to use catchy phrases in a heading to direct the visitor to that section, and to keep their attention. Also, for the casual reader who might not want to read your entire document, regardless of how well the content is put together, headings provide a way for them to find quickly what exactly they are looking for. This will keep them coming back when they want more information in a different area, or to re read the same topic again.
A page with cluttered content and no headings can be frustrating to a visitor, who may have already spent thirty minutes in a search engine just looking for a page like yours. A well worded heading that takes them to what they want, may very well prompt them to bookmark the page for later reference.
The Body of a web page is the main part, the part the web surfer has come for. Keeping in mind the kind of people you will be attracting to your site is as important as what you are going to say. One thing to keep in mind is the amount of text you put in your body. The best rule is, if you can count the number of screens of text on one hand, then you are in the ball park of the amount of text you should have. If your document requires more than five screens try to break up the subject into smaller parts. and create links to each part, with relative links to other documents that may be of interest to the reader. This will help your site to be a hit.
Unless you are creating a page for the Local artist, or a theme on graphics, it would be best to keep the graphics down to a minimum. Perhaps one or two at the top of the document, and one for each heading or screen, to keep the page interesting and exciting, without having them take away from the content. It is the content of any web page that makes or breaks it. No matter how good the graphics may be, they will only increase download time, and seldom do they encourage a steady flow of repeat hits from the same people.
Throughout the web site, the body should be laid out in a consistent manner, to provide continuity for users. You should provide plenty of white space and headings for easy scanning. Write short paragraphs, and have the graphics you use, relate to the content of the page, but only when absolutely necessary.
The last element on your web page is the footer. This is used mainly for contact information, site links, any copyright information you may want to include; and if you desire, your mailing address and phone contact information. It may also be a good idea to include the date of the last update of the page. This will help those that come by determine if there is any new information on the page and how current it is.
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