Many people have heard of Web Standards but aren't too sure about what it actually means. Web Standards are basically a set of rules a bit like what Building regulations are to the Construction Industry. The World Wide Web Consortium was set up in 1994 by a team of people, headed by Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the Web. The idea was to keep a standard by which people should use the Web and publish sites on it. These are the guidelines that allow Web sites to be 'future proof' and allow the HTML (the latest being version 5) to flow correctly.
The way your site is built does have an impact on how well recieved your site is on things like search engines. More importantly it makes sure that the information contained on your site is as accessible to as many people as possible. That is why I stick strictly to these standards which over time has just become the way I work.
This is the area a lot of ameteur Web Designers skim over, if you run many of their sites through the validation tool at W3C, they will probably fail the test.
This is the term given to the way in which people interact with your site. It is a whole way of thinking that only the more professional Web Designers are used to. There are many conventions that over time, have been adopted by the Web Design Industry but it is always changing with new ideas being designed all the time.
As an example, most people look straight to the top of any Web page for the main navigation. It is instinctive and something that is just accepted, this is Usability at its most basic. Something less obvious would be the use of breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are the small trail of links that signify where you are within the site. Some don't need them or they are not present because of another reason, this reason being that the site has a User journey designed into it so that the Web site is engineered to push users somewhere in particular.
The name Breadcrumb was inspired by the famous story of Hanzel and Gretal which draws on the whole idea of how being lost isn't very nice.
Breadcrumbs help the person using the site to know where they are and gives them the confidence that they are not lost.
These are just a couple of examples from the huge amount of usability issues surrounding the design of most sites, unless they are very basic sites with only a few pages. All these seemingly small things add up to a better experience for someone using your site. This will directly affect the amount of visitors you keep as a result of having a good experience when they visit your site. This is something that I strongly believe in and will always call upon during any Web Design process.
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Learn something about making Web Sites. These articles are for anyone involved in using, designing or building them.