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The list below is more of a common sense list. I have tried to give reasons and not just provide another list of rules. I hope you find it useful.
- Use the title attribute.
- Many page elements can benefit from the title attribute. Apply them to links and forms to provide extra information. Most modern browsers support the title tag and it also helps with your page keyword density for search engines. You have nothing to lose by using the title attribute so why not take advantage of it.
- Use the image alt tag.
- Be descriptive, don't use a list of keywords. Speech browsers read the alt tag so make sure it makes sense when read out loud. It is also used as alternative text if the image fails to download or if the visitor has images turned off.
- Always specify width and height on images.
- When you don't specify width and height on images your webpage will take longer to display. The browser has to wait until an image downloads before it can calculate its dimensions, then it has to recalculate the page layout. If you provide that information the browser makes the space for the image before it fully downloads thus speeding up your page display.
- Use style sheets instead of <font> tags.
- <font> tags are now being depreciated and are not guaranteed to be supported in future releases. You should consider making the move to style sheets as soon as possible.
- Don't use "Best Viewed with..." text.
- What this really says is "I am too lazy to make a proper website" or "If you don't use the same browser as me then I don't care about you". I'm not saying you can't have a design spec for your site but you have to cater for visitors who, for whatever reason, can't use the latest browsers. Accessibility is also a big issue which is set to become an even bigger issue as the web develops.
- Use an html alternative "Skip Intro" with flash.
- I have seen this many times where a site has a flash "Splash Page" and the "Skip Intro" link is embedded in the movie. Make sure you provide an html alternative for users who cannot use flash or prefer not to install it. You are restricting visitors to your site - remember not everyone may be viewing from home where they have control of installing plug-ins etc. Getting visitors is hard enough without putting un-neccessary obstacles in their way.
- Don't use Java applets as your main navigation.
- As above, think about visitors who cannot view java applets. Many companies or education facilities will have java disabled for safety reasons. It can also be slow to initialize on some browsers (especially netscape 4x). From a search engine perspective, they cannot follow links within applets or flash movies. I believe this might not always be the case but you can't go wrong with html link tags.
- Restrict background music.
- If you must have background music on your webpage then make sure there is an option to turn it off. Avoid looping, if you must have background music then don't force your visitor to listen to it forever. Remember computers can also be used for playing cd's so your background music could have visitors hitting the back button and you lose another visitor.
- Don't use lots of animated gifs.
- Animated gifs are are drain on computer resources so if you must use them then use them sparingly. Remember the reason people are at your site, if you have something to offer don't distract them with flashing eye candy.
- Don't mess with the cursors.
- With style sheets you can change the cursors. But this is one time where "just because you can doesn't mean you should" My advice is don't do it - its confusing especially when used on links.
- Make sure your text is readable.
- Choose your colors carefully - for example, red or green text on black is really difficult to read. You must pay attention to font sizes as well, using a font size less than 8pt becomes unreadable on different browsers or OS. You might have 20/20 vision but your visitor might not.