Web Design: Principles of Good Practice

This is an outline of our principles – what we consider to be good practice when we design and build websites. This document covers design, accessibility, content and linking strategies, but we also apply good practice to things behind the scenes such as code management and, of course, in our dealings with clients.

Design

Be consistent in design and navigation: users should always know where they are on your websites. Create a naturally flowing hierarchy of pages so that each one is accessible within a few clicks, and leave a ‘breadcrumb trail’ so users can keep track of their navigation.
 
Designs should work across browsers: there are some differences in the way Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc. render web pages but with the use of stylesheets, designs should work on all the main browsers.
 
Degrade gracefully: if a whizzy new feature is decided upon for users with the most modern browsers, an alternative should be provided for people with older browsers that can't deal with the technology.
 
"Anyone who slaps a 'this page is best viewed with Browser X' label on a web page appears to be yearning for the bad old days, before the web, when you had very little chance of reading a document written on another computer, another word processor, or another network."
Tim Berners-Lee, 1996.

Content

The principles of writing good content apply across all media. Be clear and concise. We keep in mind George Orwell's six elementary rules ("Politics and the English Language", 1946):

“Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

Never use a long word where a short one will do.

If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out.

Never use the passive where you can use the active.

Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”

Links

Make sure all your content can be linked to, forever, by humans as well as machines. Use URLs that won't change like ‘/news/2017-02/my-article’
 
Maximise routes to important content:
  • use a standard menu system
  • have a site map
  • syndicate your content with RSS
  • encourage others to link to your site by producing relevant, interesting content
  • ensure your content is indexed in search engines

Accessibility

Consider all users: accessibility is not an optional extra. Sites that are designed from the ground up to be accessible work better for all users. In particular be aware that:
  • users may have problems reading small type on a screen
  • they may need text to be read out to them
  • they may find it difficult or impossible to use a mouse
  • some colour contrasts can be problematic for some users
  • you may need to provide alternative languages for some users
  • some users may not be able to hear audio messages
  • they may need to use older technology that is slower and can't run the most up to date software
  • they may not have access to fast connections

For more information on how we make our websites accessible, please see our article 'Designing an Accessible Website'.

Code

Aim to make code clean, clear and standard; ensuring that code conforms to current web standards will allow the greatest number of people to access the site via whatever browser.

Client Communications

Last but very definitely not least, we try to impose our principles on all our communications with you. In particular we attempt to:
  • listen carefully to our clients
  • understand what our clients are trying to achieve
  • demystify technology by using simple language to explain complex concepts
  • always exceed expectations
To speak to a member of our team about handling your web project, get in touch today on 0117 909 6967 or by filling in our online contact form.
 

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