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Dos and don’ts for formatting website content

27th November 2015

It’s important for your website to look and feel professional at all times, and there are a lot of factors that all combine to create this.

Many techniques used when updating websites five to ten years ago are no longer considered standard practice, so make sure you’re up to date on current trends to keep yourself in the game.

Animations

Don’t: Don’t use flash animations on your website – Flash isn’t supported on popular devices like iPhones and iPads so there is already going to be a large number of people who won’t be able to access it. Animations on websites are considered an outdated and old-fashioned technique of adding vibrancy to a website.

Do: Instead of animations, consider embedded videos from external services like YouTube and Vimeo to give the website some life and something for the reader to engage in. Don’t forget photos too – high quality photos lend a massive amount of weight to your copy so the use of high quality, impactful images will do your website a world of good.

Images

Don’t: Don’t upload photos straight from your camera to your website – these will have huge file sizes! While the displayed thumbnail will only look small, if your website has the ability to click through and open the image in a larger window, the huge file size will need to be opened which is going to have detrimental effect on loading times, as well as your disk space.

Do: Resize your images before uploading at all times. Make the images the optimum size they need to be  (1000 pixels wide is normally a decent middle ground for gallery photos) and then upload them. The file sizes will be considerably smaller which will reduce the amount of disk space used and also reduce the amount of frustrated website visitors due to slow loading speeds.

Giving importance to text

Don’t: While this was popular with HTML websites and in the early days of content management systems, having different coloured and sized text is no longer considered standard practice and should be avoided. Having different colours and sizes can start to make a website look inconsistent due to the number of different text stylings.

Do: With the mainstream adoption of content management systems, we now have much more improved ways of formatting text. If you want to give importance to text, stick to either bold or italic text formatting. It’s also recommended to use heading tags – or h tags as they are often referred to. This will give a piece of text some predefined styling to make it look like a header, such as the ones you can see throughout the Cosmic blog. These are all controlled by the website’s stylesheet which means that the headings have predefined fonts colours and sizes so that they stay the same throughout your website and you won’t have the chance of inconsistency. Search engines also like you to use heading tags, and they are also great at breaking up lots of content.

Text alignment

Don’t: Don’t use multiple different alignment styles throughout a page, and preferably not even throughout your website. This creates an inconsistency in your layout and can be difficult to read.

Do: Try to stick to just one style of alignment, preferably left aligned or justified. This will create a common theme throughout the website and when tied in with the other points will start to create a professional look for a small amount of work.

Auto-playing sound and video

Don’t: These are another element of websites that were popular in the past, however these are not deemed a positive anymore. Not only do they increase loading times, they generally tend to irritate the website visitor who may not want sound playing from their computer or device.

Do: Instead of these, use call to action boxes to le­­­ad people to specific video, sound or text content. Guide them to where you want them to be (and where you think they want to be) rather than forcing it in front of their faces.