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What Makes a Good Website?:
Principles of Web Publishing for Individuals

Paul Halsall


There are many types of website. Some are fun sites, designed to entertain the eye: these are specifically designed to "bop". Others are content-heavy commercial sites which change daily and require huge staffs to maintain them - for example the various news websites.

The net now has as many "Gee Whiz" sites as are necessary.

No individual can compete with the massive sites such as pathfinder.com But individuals can make a contribution in two ways:

  • By creating very focused and specific lists of web links.
  • By creating very focused and specific content based pages.

Here are some principles in creating focused and useful web pages with interesting content:

Principles of Page Design

  1. Keep HTML Simple
    It has become tedious to be bounced around a web of unnecessary webpages which have to be loaded and unloaded each time. Many browsers simply do not work quickly enough. Where possible I prefer to put links to most content on one large - if necessary - page. It will load more quickly, and you can use local search techniques. HTML Tables can be useful, but HTML Frames are overused.
  2. Reduce Graphics
    Color and a simple background are fine, as are a small number of illustrations. Graphics are fine also when they are the point of the page [for instance at art sites]. But large graphic files scattered for no real reason are not helpful.
  3. Stop the Clicking
    Does anyone one enjoy "clicking" around complex web sites? They are a pain to use, and liable to become impossible to manage if the your project gets large.

Goals of History Sites

  1. Make the Information Available
    From my other sites, I find it important to have as many texts as possible online. In the coastal US people can usually get anything from a library, but I find I get quite a number of comments from around the world now, from places where texts are simply not available.
  2. Add Content
    Too many web sites show graphic or technical ability, but have no content. This is OK when the page is simply a marker, for instance giving the name and address of an organization. But why not give readers more? Add relevant texts [without breaking copyright!]. Link to other content-full sites.
  3. Tell a Story
    A content based web page will function as a book or resource for students. Try, then, to put the data you are making available into some context, either by organizing it carefully or by commenting on it. Creating a web page is a form of publishing. Take the responsibility for doing it well.
  4. Point to Other Opinions
    If possible include pointers to opinions other than the ones you hold. Doing so will strengthen confidence in your honesty.

My Sites: