Website Creation Issues

About this document

Table of contents


The purpose of this document is to improve the website creation process and the result, whether doing it for yourself or someone else, or hiring someone else to do it.  This document is written to be understandable by people not experienced in web development.

This document supplies issues and objectives to consider, including possibilities that might not have been considered otherwise.  They are organized in a useful outline.  They are explained, including reasons and tradeoffs, to assist determining preferences and setting priorities.  Many decisions depend on what target audience is desired.

All of this helps facilitate communication among people creating a website.  Expectations about what is included can be clarified, among owner, customer, developer, and service providers.  Then a determination can be made whether omitted features are desired, whether they are available, and whether they cost extra.  Possibly some things included should be omitted.

This document does not describe the steps to create or maintain a website.  Nor is it organized as frequently asked questions and their answers.

Copyright © 2003 by David Cohen.

Content Considerations

Some beneficial content also have negative consequences, such as increasing cost in time and money, or distracting website visitors from other information, or decreasing accessibility.  To help decide appropriate tradeoffs, rank features by how important they are.

Information quality.  How important is having information that is clear, concise, or grammatical?  How much time should be spent to ensure facts are complete, correct, or current?  How organized, symmetrical, or ordered do you want your website?  Having the information public quickly sometimes is more important than initial quality which long-term becomes very important.

Graphics.  Much more than text, graphics can significantly lengthen time to load pages when the Internet connection is slow.  Care should be taken to ensure message is conveyed when graphics are not rendered.  Sometimes, graphics are used to precisely control the appearance of text.  Graphics can increase the amount of time and ink used to print pages.  And, the additional data transferred from your website's server can increase your costs, and decrease response time.  Graphics, to reduce its negative impact, can be compressed, which sometimes reduces its quality.

Page dimensions.  Conserve paper used when your pages are printed, and minimize scrolling required when your pages are viewed.  Both can improve and degrade readability, depending on how it is done.  For example, extra spacing can obscure the big picture.

Artistry.  How important are having pages that are visually artistic, creative, unique, attractive, or memorable?  Do you want text that is verbally poetic, descriptive, or flowing?  Sometimes being poetic, cute, or stylish can hinder clarity and slow communication by not being straightforward.  See also the paragraph about using graphics, often used to increase visual appeal.  Sometimes the time to spent making pages artistic is better spent creating other content.

Privacy.  Decide what information, including personal information, should be public, and what should remain private.  For example, any email address on a web page will probably receive unsolicited commercial email (spam).  There are ways to reduce how much spam you receive, but will hinder contact.

Objectiveness.  Do you want to convince people at the expense of being unbiased?

Details.  Having complete information can be useful, but it can obscure the big picture if not also summarized.  For example, within your website, divide information by whether it changes often, so people already familiar with older information can clearly see new or changing information.  Also, reduce clutter by not duplicating information that is already elsewhere on the Internet.  Instead, include links to it, unless you are presenting it with advantages over the information elsewhere.  Provide overviews to let visitors decide whether to read more.

Advertisements.  All the above issues should be considered for advertisements on your website.  Determined whether the money they earn are worth the costs.  For example, advertisements can increase the size of your web pages, and distract visitors from your information.  And, they are often presented as graphics, with those associated disadvantages.  Plus, some collect information about your visitors.  Consider what you are advertising; advertisements are often manipulative, misleading, or useless.  Using them as a source of information can be detrimental.  Do you want to support what is being advertised, or the advertiser?  Advertisements are usually inefficient on the world scope.  The information usually can be conveyed in a more productive manner.  We need a more efficient method to learn about products, and to compensate websites for the information they provide.

Linking.  Being a feature introduced with computers, links introduce new considerations.

How much space do you want between sentences?  To help see where one sentence end, and another beings, some people prefer to end their sentences with more space than the amount following punctuation that does not end a sentence, or more space than separates any two words within a sentence.  Some people feel separating sentences with double the normal word spacing is too much, or can't be done simply or without other drawbacks.

Grammar standards.  Do you want the grammar, especially punctuation, to conform to traditional rules, or do you want to be logical at the expense of conformity?

Development and Maintenance

How much do you want to...

Who and When

Process trade-offs: For initial pages and changes, how much/many...

Sources of content

Content Types

Types of content presented

Page content relationships (HTML)

Document information


Purposes of a website presence

Page subjects (some of many)

Server technical features


Features of host server


Email services

Tools for page creation, change, and validation

Maintainability and Accessibility

A page usually includes, besides content, also instructions to specify how and where the content is rendered.  Those instructions, the code behind the content, affect how accessible the page is to how many people, and how easy the page and website are to maintain.

Accessibility.  The more useable your pages to more visitors, the more limited the number of technology and style options available to render them, and therefor, the less you can force your pages to appear as you intend.  If you want your content accessible to all, there are guidelines to which pages need to conform, to allow them to be rendered in spite of the varying capabilities of visitors.  A page's style quality for most visitors might need to be sacrificed in order to have the page accessible to other visitors.  Or, you can provide multiple formats of the same information, and let visitors or their browsers choose which to render.

Visitor capabilities.  Care needs to be taken if you want to convey your desired message in spite of the varying capabilities of visitors.  Designing pages for the web is in many ways more difficult than for paper because capabilities vary so much by web visitor, while there are only a few paper size standards.  How a web page is rendered depends on many more factors, including the following.

Alternatives for content that might not be rendered.  When using capabilities that are not always available, such as scripts or graphics that need proprietary software, many web pages provide alternate forms of important information.

Visitor preferences.  Do you want to allow visitors to adjust formatting to their preferences and needs?  Do you want to override visitor-controlled formatting settings that are used when formatting is not specified in the page?  Some style, such as colors and fonts, when not specified by your pages, will be determined by the visitors' browser settings that might be set but rarely are.  Do you want to allow visitors to override the formatting you specify?  Or, do you want to specify exactly how your pages will appear, ignoring style preferences specified by the visitor?

Maintainability.  Certain coding practices can help make a web page and site more maintainable, easier to change and keep consistent, by current and future developers.  For example, centralizing style specifications allows common settings to be changed one place to adjust all relevant locations and pages.  It also facilitates consistent formatting, because repetition makes inconsistency more difficult to find.  But, it can be done only with methods that are not as widely supported, so some visitors will not see all your formatting, so your pages will often not appear exactly as you want.  Another good practice is well formatted code and an organized file system, although they don't affect how your pages appear.

Language standards.  Adhering to published standards allows code validation.  The version used should be specified in each page's coding.  Each later HTML specification, and strict variations of earlier ones, encourage better coding practices and help future compatibility.  The latest version of HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is XHTML 1.  The previous version is HTML 4.01.  The standard style languages are CSS and XSL.  For JavaScript, see Standard ECMA-262: ECMAScript Language Specification.  To verify that pages comply to the specified standard, they should be check using the appropriate validation software

Style languages.  Where and how should a page override visitors' browsers' style defaults?  The coding method used to specify a page's style differs between older and newer HTML specifications.  Specifying style is a part of the older, but not newer, versions of the HTML specifications.  Newer, but not older, versions of the HTML language allow stating a non-HTML style language to render style specifications.  As time goes on, the new browsers usually support more of the style languages, as well continuing to handle the older HTML.  But, even the latest browsers don't fully support the latest style language specifications.  In other words, most newer browsers still render the old commands, but older browsers ignore the new ones.  But, accessibility is improved by using the new standards.  Therefor, you often need to choose between having pages that are usable by alternate devices and visually impaired people, or having pages appear as you want presented, especially by older browsers.

Organize structure and style to help pages be more accessible and maintainable.

Other Sources of Information

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