How To Make Your Web Site Look Professional

These days, websites have become a necessity for almost every organization. People turn to websites to find out everything from the history of an organization to the services it offers. In many cases, the website will be the FIRST representation of the organization an individual sees. And you know that old cliche — first impressions are everything! If the website is unprofessional or perceived to be unprofessional, that first impression is less likely to be a favorable one. After all, if the organization can’t even bother to put together a professional website, how can anyone be sure if the WORK they do is professional?

Creating a website is no easy matter, however. There are plenty of sites out there on the web that can teach you the basics of mark-up languages (HTML, CSS) as well as sites that can teach you how to draw amazing graphics in Photoshop and Illustrator (just Google “html tutorials” or “photoshop tutorials” and you’ll find them).

But knowing how to code HTML and how to create killer graphics only comprise part of the deal. You must also know how to make them play well together. It’s like making a soup — you can grow the veggies and butcher the meat, but if you can’t mix ’em in a pot and add the right spices — well, you’re on your way to a kitchen nightmare!

Now, I can’t teach you to become a star web chef overnight, but the following list will tell you four things NOT to do when gathering up your website-building ingredients. Warning — this list is blunt and honest, and it is not my intention to offend. I have been guilty of every single one of these myself, so I know what it is like! Without further ado, let’s start!

So, what makes a website look like it was designed by an amateur and not a professional?

  1. Amateur web designers overuse the Times New Roman font.

This is probably because most browsers default to Times New Roman and the inexperienced designer either doesn’t understand fonts or just doesn’t know any better. Serif fonts like Times New Roman have little “serifs” (or decorative “tips”) on the ends of their strokes. They are not recommended for the web (or for most other computer-based applications for that matter) because they are not as readable as sans-serif fonts. Sans-serif fonts — as you might have guessed — lack the serifs. Now, the opposite is true for print media. Serif fonts are hard to read in print, but on the screen where simpler is better, serifs simply get in the way.

If you want your site to look professional, limit the use of serif fonts. They are great for short blocks of text, such as headlines, logos or blockquotes. If you really want to use a serif font for your body copy, consider using Georgia instead of Times New Roman. Georgia is one of the few serif fonts that are highly readable on computer screens due to its wide x-height. Two examples of sites that use the Georgia font effectively (at the time of this writing) are The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

Bottom line: avoid Times New Roman. Use serif fonts sparingly, such as for logos and headlines. Stick to sans serif fonts such as Arial, Verdana, Helvetica, Trebuchet MS or Tahoma for body text. If you must use a serif font throughout, use Georgia because it has a better readability than Times New Roman.

  1. Amateur web designers put text directly on top of background patterns.

Inexperienced web designers do not understand that their site will look unprofessional if they slap text directly on top of a background pattern. The result is an unreadable mess. (90% of MySpace layouts, anyone?) Background patterns are called background patterns for a reason — they must support the foreground elements (such as your main body text and graphics), not compete with them! The background and foreground are not created equal.

If you really want a background pattern, put your main body text in a containing div layer that has a solid color fill that compliments the background pattern. Only in specific design circumstances can you place text directly on top of a background patern. In these cases, the background pattern should be very subtle and muted.

Bottom line: put text on top of a solid color, not directly on top of background patterns. If you must put text on top of a background pattern, be sure that the pattern is subtle and does not compete with the main content. It’s called “background” for a reason!

  1. Amateur websites lack a color scheme.

The key to professionalism is a color scheme. Ideally, no more than 4 colors in addition to black and white should appear on a single page. The colors should go together naturally. I should be able to visit your site and point out the color scheme immediately. All colors used on your site–from text to graphics–should fit this scheme, and the scheme should carry through on all pages of your site. An alternative approach is color-coding each page of your site, but each page should have the same type of scheme. For example, if your “Company Info” page has a red color scheme and the “Products” page has a blue color scheme, the variants used in each scheme should match. 100% red, 50% red, 40% red on one page — 100% blue, 50% blue and 40% blue on another page. Color theory is a wide subject but you can get by with the basics. If it is not your area of expertise, now is the time to either purchase a color book (I recommend “The Color Index” by Jim Krause) or Google “color theory” to find free tutorials. There are even entire web communities devoted to creating and sharing color schemes — COLOURLovers and Adobe’s kuler to name a few.

Here’s a quick tip to get you started in the world of Color Theory — next time you open your graphics program, take a closer look at that color wheel. Learn that colors on the opposite ends of the wheel or spectrum are complimentary and work well together. Blue and orange, yellow and violet, black and white, and all the shades in between.

Bottom line: don’t just pick colors at random. Choose colors that belong together and stick with them.

  1. Amateur websites lack an overall design.

This is a big one. Quite often, amateur sites have no actual design. They are just an assortment of pages with a textured background, text flung on top of that background and no real color scheme or real cohesive design element that makes all the text, graphics and other items on the page look like they actually belong on the page.

I guess what I am ranting about here is the lack of FLAVOR in unprofessional sites. If a soup doesn’t have some overarching spice to give it a distinctive taste, then how do all of the veggies and meat inside it work together? This is one of the hardest hurdles to jump because it requires artistry, something that is not easily taught. The best way to get better is simply to practice. Take a look at different design galleries for inspiration. Six Revisions has a list of 18 great galleries to get you started. Sample the flavors and try something different with each design that you do. Eventually you’ll discover whicht design techniques you like and which ones you don’t like. Before you know it, you’ll develop your own personal web design style!

If you check some works of web developer in Mumbai, you’ll see that they don’t lack any design at all. Instead, their websites have great quality content and designs. This is why a lot of businesses boost their traffic and in return generate leads.

Bottom line: make an actual design for your site so it doesn’t look like some random hodgepodge of text and images. Look at web design galleries for inspiration and practice different design techniques as you work toward developing your personal style.

Well, that’s it for now!

It takes time to become a seasoned web designer, but if you avoid the four things listed above and actively work to improve your web artistry skills, before you know it you will be whipping up amazing sites that any organization will be proud to rock!