From the February 2000 issue of Startups

When you first launched your Web site, you sat back and marveled at the fusion of technology and design. But now it's a year, six months or even three months later, you realize you're your own worst critic.

Trends blow like a hurricane in the accelerated medium of cyberspace, and at second glance, you're probably questioning whether your Web site is really keeping up with the times. Boost your Web presence with some of these guidelines for improving its overall usability and look:

1. Put graphics on a diet. As a rule of thumb, it's best to keep images under 12KB so all users, regardless of the speed of their connection, can load them in a timely fashion. Remember, monitors display everything at 72dpi, so there's no point in posting multiple Web graphics at weighty resolutions. Ditch the colorful monkeys, elephants and trapeze artists; this is a business site, not a visual circus!

2. Is it necessary? Your first site sports bulky, long-loading animations for simple icons such as "Mail" and "Contact Us." Dump them. Trim the fat of graphics, animations, blinking text, dancing babies and smiley faces that serve no purpose other than looking cool. Do away with front doors or splash pages. Also, save images in the appropriate format--.jpeg for photographs, .gif for graphics.

3. Make navigation easy. Do you have a consistent, easy-to-understand navigation bar in place? Can users switch easily from one section of the site to another, and do they know where they are at all times? A little navigation help goes a long way.

4. Optimize your code. Clean up dead links and your page will load faster. If you developed your site with a WYSIWYG program like Macromedia's Dreamweaver or Microsoft FrontPage, you need a really good code editor, even if it means hiring a professional. Do-it-yourselfers should definitely take advantage of very cool tools like WebsiteGarage and Doctor HTML.

5. Color it safe. That funky, aquamarine background might not preserve its integrity across cyberspace. Play it safe and stick to the 216 hues browsers can read. For color choices, visit www.lynda.com/hex.html .


Web geek Karen Solomon writes about technology and e-business for a number of publications, including Wired and Business 2.0.