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How to build your own Online Tutoring Website

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Seven Website Design Tips

Article Summary: Before we go into the nuts and bolts of website design, we need to be aware of some common design pitfalls. These pitfalls can either make or break the design and usability of your own online tutoring service website.

Dr. Jakob Nielson, a website design and usability expert once remarked that: "roughly 80% of the things we found 10 years ago are still issues that we need to address today". The "issues" that Dr. Nielson was referring to were not technical or programming issues, but rather website design and usability issues that stemmed from poor planning. He said that poor website planning usually resulted in complex, unintuitive and disorganized designs. Most successful companies on the internet such as Google, Yahoo, E bay and Amazon.com didn't become successful over night, rather their websites became successful because they paid close attention to their user needs. The secret to designing an effective online tutoring service website, is to set clear goals and objectives - just as you would when you create a strategic business plan. In the same way, you need to set short term and long term goals for what you want your website to be, and to achieve. Only with a clear set of goals and expectations can you begin the process of bringing your design to life. Here are some things to consider when designing your online tutoring service:

1. Put Up Easy to Read Articles

The most common reason why people use the internet is either for emailing or for researching information. When researching on the internet, people look for websites that provide quality information. If a site is poorly written, hard to read or is purely theoretical, a visitor will not stay for long. Besides providing high quality and easy to read information, try to make your website design interesting and easy to read. Add a few personal photographs, artwork or illustrations - spread them out on your site and within your articles. Keep your color schemes and layout consistent and pleasing to the eye - they too will influence the way visitors read your articles.

2. Use A Simple Navigation Menu

The navigation menu is the only tool that your visitors have of navigating your site. It's therefore important that you design the navigation menu in such a way that it is both intuitive and easy-to-use. For example, many information portals and government run services offer a lot of valuable information. Unfortunately, many visitors leave these sites not completely getting what they want because the information is either too technical, not practical, or simply because of poor navigation designs. A good way to begin designing the navigation menu for your online tutoring service website is to use a simple storyboard or flowchart. These tools can provide you with a bird's eye view of how your pages link, they can also be a great aid for designing complex navigation links.

3. Optimize Your Pages For Quick Downloading

The recommended file size for any individual web page is between 30KB to 50KB. Statistics show that in 2001, 17 million people in the United States had high speed internet connection, however 64 million Americans were still using 56K modems, 15 million were using 28.8K to 33.6K modems, and a further 3 million were using 14.4K modems. What this means is that your website design should factor in people with slower connections so that they can easily download and view your web pages. Also, try to restrict the use of bandwidth-intensive media or digital video on your site as they can only be viewed by people with higher speed connections. Remember, that the smaller the file size the quicker your visitors can download and view your web pages.

4. Avoid Dead Links

Make sure that after you upload your site, that you go through and check your internal links. Check regularly afterwards for dead outbound links. Nothing is more frustrating to a visitor than to click on a reference link only to find out that the website doesn't exist. Dead links can give your visitors the impression that your tutoring service is sloppy and unprofessional.

5. Keep Site Contents Fresh and Relevant

Always try to keep the contents of your tutoring service website fresh, useful and interesting so that your visitors will have reasons to revisit. Write articles relating to your online tutoring service, articles that would benefit your visitors. Don't write lengthy thesis and difficult to read essays, keep your contents simple, practical and straight to the point. Write technology reviews, "how to" articles, and information for parents. Make your online tutoring service website not just a place to sign-up for a tutor, but a place for information sharing. Keep your pages between 200 to 500 words per page, get straight to the point, and keep it simple and free of jargon.

6. Browser Compatible Websites

It's hard to know the actual statistics for browser usage, but in general Microsoft Internet Explorer commands anywhere between 78% to 93% of the browser market, while Netscape shares about 4% to 12% of the market. During your website design and testing phase, test the contents of your website using other popular browsers such as Firefox, AOL, Mosaic and Opera. You will also find that earlier versions of the same browser will also display your pages differently. Mozilla Firefox is a good browser to test and view your web pages as it follows the web guidelines of the W3C.

7. Color Compatibility

Another important consideration about website design is the color scheme of your site. Begin with web-safe colors and stick with them where possible - there are 216 colors that is universally supported by most computer platforms and browsers.

Your visitors will return to your site, and even recommend your tutoring service to their friends if your website design is simple and the menus are intuitive. Keep your design simple and unobtrusive so that people can focus on understanding information about your tutoring service. Sit down for a few minutes and think about your website design. Is it easy to read and navigate? Are your pages optimized for quick downloading? Can it be viewed on most browsers and platforms? Once you can answer "yes" to these questions, you will have the perfect blueprint to base your website design on - a blueprint from which you can use with confidence to build your online tutoring service from the ground up.

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