Web Design Rules: 18 Rules the Best Web Developers Follow

There are many practices that web developers follow.  The best Web Designers & web developers though, set themselves apart by staying on top of the latest trends, maintaining a high level of credibility, and establishing a diverse and robust web presence.  Following the 18 rules listed below will surely get you closer to being one of the web’s best web developers, if you are already not one.

1. Don’t push information on your visitors. Let your visitors choose and decide what they want to read. Giving them the control over their viewing experience. Ask yourself: what would be my reaction to a dozen of pop-ups and tons of ad blocks?

2. Poor advertising is evil. Don’t focus on the ad revenue side of your site.  Visitors start forming opinions about your website within seconds of visiting your page.  If it is loaded with ads, it may actually have a negative impact on your visitors, which can hurt your ad revenues in the long run. Try to balance your ad placement and quantity with the flow of the content and page layout.

3. Be a source of information. Virtually everyone on the web is looking for specific information.  Whether it is for a product, service, or just educational, sharing your expertise and experiences sets your business website apart from the others and adds value to the content.

4. Develop your own style. Never ever “copy” someone else’s efforts.  Try to be as original as possible.  This will make your site and its content unique and fresh.  A fresh spin on something that has been done before is acceptable because having a new take on existing material creates unique content.  So, surf the web and let it inspire you.

5. Obey the standards. Standards may seem like a pain, but sticking to them will save you headache in the future.  Code that is written in compliance with web standards has a much better chance of being rendered properly in the various browsers people use on the web these days.  It also has a better chance of being rendered properly for the various versions of these browsers; older and newer.

6. Be clear. Your website needs to communicate as clearly as possible to its visitors. You only have a few seconds to make that initial impact on the visitor.  Telling them exactly where to find things and exactly what product or services you offer help the visitor feel comfortable in using your site to gather information and/or make their decision.  If it is something that is complex, break it up into digestible chunks.

7. Use Internet Explorer as a baseline. Don’t design your code for special browsers or special resolutions. Regardless of how you feel about Internet Explorer, it still used by more than 85% of web users; and that demands a web developer’s respect.  In most cases, getting your code to render properly in IE6 means it will probably render properly in most browsers.  There are, of course, exceptions.  One day IE6 will be ancient and there will be a new baseline, which is determined by the most popular browser used.

8. Content is king. Some of the most successful websites bring something new and useful to the web.  There are millions of cookie cutter websites out there and users get bored with them.  Fresh, useful, and entertaining content is in high demand and you will find visitors to your site thirsty for more once you give them a taste.

9. Web-crawlers and SEO should be an afterthought. Don’t think in keywords; unless you want your website to seem artificial.  Time spent on SEO would be much better spent on creating more useful content.  Creating great content and sharing it through the web will naturally help your search engine rankings improve.

10. Share content naturally, don’t spam. Sharing your content naturally means, you are sharing with people who would actually be interested in it. Think about the sites they are likely to visit.  Keep in mind that you are writing to a human being, who can effectively spread your content across the web by sharing it or using social media to bookmark it, etc. Don’t spam or advertise, offer useful content for the potential readers of the content.

11. Answer your e-mails immediately. Quick personalized responses are a must with communicating through email on the web.  Make the person you are communicating to feel important by giving a personalized response and show them that you think their time is valuable by responding quickly.  Automated emails feel cookie cutter and can leave a negative impression of you.

12. Engage in Social Media. Gain visibility for your site by using Digg, Reddit, Mixx, del.icio.us, Ma.gnolia, StumbleUpon and hundreds of other social media websites. The great thing about social media, is that it is word of mouth advertising for the web.  Once social media users find useful content, they often share it across the web using other social media sites, linking to your content from their blog, and more.

13. Make connections, and nurture relationships. The best web developers often write guest posts on other blogs.  They are active in developer forums.  They are administrators for comments on blogs and more.  Doing these thing helps build key connections that will increase your credibility as well as build on your list of relationships with other developers who have strong credibility.  This can open many doors.  Make sure, when forming strategic relationships on the web, balance the give and take to make sure there is something in it for both parties.

14. Take advantage of the “worldwide” web. The world is a big place and more and more people are coming to the web.  Don’t be afraid to expand your web presence beyond your local niche or country.  As long as the information you are providing is useful, the visitors will come to learn more, regardless of where they are.  Ideas transcend borders.

15. Build sites for “users”, not the site “owner”. This can always be tricky when dealing with clients.  Most developers have had the experience of clients who envision a site that is really meant for them and not for users.  It is our job as developers to educate our clients to ensure that the websites we create are built around the user’s experience.  Most clients are grateful when you share this information.

16. Always keep learning. The landscape of the web changes fast and developers have to change with it or else their skills run the risk of being outdated.  The best way to do this is to subscribe to blogs using RSS.  Social media is now playing a big role in the way informational pages are tagged and shared.  Check out our List of 100 Web Designers to Follow on Twitter.

17. Find inspirational resources for creativity. Sometimes all you need to do is browse through other people’s work to get ideas.  Sometimes you just need some coffee.  If you still can’t shake the creativity block, take a break to clear your mind or get some exercise to get the blood flowing in your brain.

18. Beautify the Web. Most web developers realize CSS designs are beautiful; not to mention more efficient on the coding side of things.  Even if you don’t know CSS very well, you can still get ideas from CSS Table Gallery, CSS Zen Garden, Comment Design Showcase, Typography, and Form Assembly Garden.

Some of these rules may seem very basic, but remember that it is the combined implementation of these rules that make the web’s best developers stand out.  Please feel free to provide with any feedback or any suggestions of what should be added to this list.