How to Develop a Professional Looking Website

Written By: Timothy Fish Published: 3/7/2007

Someone who was looking for the answer to this visited my website the other day. It struck me as an interesting topic to consider, so I decided to expound upon the topic. One of the things that makes it interesting is that there were so many possible definitions of what might be considered a professional looking website. Take a look at Googleís website. Many people would consider it to be a professional looking website. Take a look at Microsoftís website. It too can be considered a professional looking website. The are both professional looking, but they are vastly different in their appearance.

I have designed several websites. Some of these might be considered to be more professional looking than some of the others. I have found that in defining what is and is not a professional looking website there is much more involved than just the appearance of the website.

Develop a Professional Looking Website Beginning with Content

In any website, content is king. It doesnít matter how great a website looks, if you have nothing to say it is worthless. How often do you visit a website that is nothing but links? For most of us, it isnít very often. When we do, we really donít care what the site looks like. Having pages of links makes the site look cheap no matter how the webmaster dresses up the pig. DMOZ does it about as good as anyone and the site still looks unprofessional.

For websites that have something to say, the nature of the content does not have to be changed. It doesnít matter if the site is intended to sell cars, explain how something works or show off a someoneís grandchildren. Any of these sites can be developed into a professional looking website, but what makes a car dealerís website look professional will not make Grandmaís website look professional. To develop a professional looking website, you must know the nature of the content and develop a website that presents that content effectively. A car dealerís site is likely to have darker, complimentary colors while Grandmaís website might have bold primary colors with butterflies and flowers. A car dealerís site will have pictures of shiny cars while a Grandmaís site will have pictures of children. If the two sites were reversed they would look unprofessional.

Develop a Professional Looking Website by Keeping it Simple

One of the mistakes that rookie webmasters often make is to develop a website like they would select food from a smorgasbord. A webmaster might see something that someone else has done and say, ďI gotta get me some of that.Ē He sees a calendar and he has to have it. He sees a game and he has to have it. He sees a video and he has to have it. He sees a website with background music and he has to have it. In his effort to show everyone what a great webmaster he is, he has to have everything.

Instead of grabbing everything, focus on those things that are truly needed. Let the content speak for itself and not clutter the website with extraneous stuff. In most cases, it is best to leave off the moving gif and flashing text. Audio and video can be good if used appropriately, but it should only be used to get the point across and not because the webmaster thinks it is cool. Always focus on the content and the purpose of the site. It something is contrary to the purpose then it does not belong in a professional looking website.

Develop a Professional Looking Website by Being Consistent

A professional looking website has a common theme. A car dealer wants to sell cars. That is his theme. Grandma wants to brag about her grandkids. That is her theme. In developing a professional looking website it is important that there is a common thread that runs through the website. The color scheme should be the same on all pages. The layout should be pretty much the same. There is room for variation, but it is best to limit variation. Ideally, the website will use the same template throughout.

There are some exceptions to he rule. If a website has more than one theme, such as Grandma wanting to show off her grandkid and wants to show off her quilts, she might want to use more than one color scheme. She might use bold colors for her grandkids and pastels for the quilt pages, but she should remain consistent through the common themed pages. It would also be good to have some elements that are common to both. The font might be the same for both. The general layout might be the same even though one has childís toy in the top left corner while the other has quilt pieces. Pulling the elements together tells the user that they are part of the same site.

Develop a Professional Looking Website by Keeping it Updated

Nothing says unprofessional like a website that has information that is out of date. If a webmaster is truly a professional webmaster then he will have the time to keep the site up to date. Images that donít load, links that are out of date, information that is no longer relevant are all examples of things that make a site appear unprofessional.

Keeping a site updated can require lots of time. It is easy to add information to a site, but it is often difficult to remove obsolete data. When possible, it is best to automate the process. It is tedious work for a person to go through a site removing obsolete data, but there are ways to use the computer to do this. For more information, consider reading Church Website Design.

Develop a Professional Looking Website by Meeting User Expectations

Walk into a dark room and you will probably feel on either side of the door to find a light switch. You have developed an expectation based on your previous experience. The same is true when someone visits a website for the first time. A user expects to find certain things. If the user finds something other than what he expects then he may feel that the site is not professional.

One expectation is that the major navigational links will be either at the top or the left of the page. This partly due to a top left to bottom right reading order. We expect the important stuff to be above the fold. We expect the table of contents to be at the front of the book. Few things are more important than navigation links.

Another expectation is that links will have a different appearance than the rest of the text. Usually, the user expects links to be underlined if they appear in normal text. Because of this it is best not to use underlining for any other purpose. Instead of underlines, make use of Italic and Bold.

Just a Brief Look

The suggestions I have made are only a few of the things that can be done and considered when you Develop a Professional Looking Website. Books have been written about the subject. If there is one key thing to take from this, to Develop a Professional Looking Website you need to know the content and know how the user should see the content when he enters the site. Consider if the presentation of the data is the way you would want the user to see it. If it isnít then adjust the design until it matches your vision.