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Your Front Door

You just had a rough day at the office. The drive home from work was nothing but bumper to bumper traffic. You park your car, walk up to your house and notice that somebody has done this to your front door.

Deciding it's just not worth dealing with at the moment, you decide a nice cool shower would be a great way to recover from your day. You open the bathroom door, and discover your new shower curtain...

No, you haven't fallen into an alternate universe. It is not the Twilight Zone, it is just a couple of the many background images I have run across. In fact, they are available in the collection of images at this site. Why? We will get to that in a bit.

Make your first impression count!
In designing your website, the most important impression you need to make is your first one. To be more specific, you must make this good impression in the top 400 or so pixels of your page. Your goal as webmaster is to make the person that came across your site want to stay and see more.

Real Estate agents have known a little secret for a long time. The most important part of any home being shown is the front door. No matter how beautiful or how great the price, people form an opinion at the front door. Since you typically cannot just barge into the house, you have to spend a little time there waiting for the owner to come to the door. There is not much else to look at...

What has been proven, is that homes with a warm, clean, welcoming front door sell the fastest. Not only that, but they tend to sell for more.

What's the point to this?
There is a point to this analogy. The top part of your main page is Your Front Door. It is the first thing people see when they come to your site, and they have to look at it while your page's contents download to their browser. This is the exact situation that you have with our home for sale.

For your pondering pleasure...
Ask yourself the following questions before choosing your background image for your main page:

  • If this were a shirt, would I wear it on a job interview?

  • Other than my lava lamp, is there anything I own that resembles this?

  • If I went to visit somebody I had never met and their front door looked like this, would I knock, or would I run away?

  • Can I stare at this for sixty seconds, and still hold my last meal down?
Okay, we're sorry. We are not trying to be cruel or anything, just planting some food for thought in your head. The real questions you should ask yourself are:
  • Is this the image I want to project to the world?

  • Does this image serve a purpose, either demonstrating something or aesthetic?

  • Is there a suitable font color to use in order that people can read the text?

  • If it is a 16.7 million color JPG image, how will it look when displayed at only 256 color resolution?

  • If I am using other graphics, especially transparent GIF files, how will they coordinate and appear against this background?
So why are these images here?
There is a time and place for everything. Keep in mind that in the middle of a dandelion farm, a rosebush would be a weed. Used in context, background images can be a potent device. However, most of the time they are not exactly achieving the desired effect.

There are some effective uses for these types of images. You might have some type of Splash Screen with large, bold writing expressing a thought for which the image supports the mood of your message.

Another device you might try is to use your background image as a border for your page with this little trick. After viewing this page, please use your back button to return to this page. This will work with most popular browsers, but try and be mindful of your text color for everyone else.

The idea is to do something a little different to spice up your page, not drown it in sauce. Experiment a little and be imaginative.

Let them know they are in the right place.
Now that we have the virtual equivalent of a bad hair day out of the way, let's talk about your message.

As mentioned earlier, we are working with a critical area about 400 pixels tall. This is not much space so we had better be sure to use it to our best advantage. Maybe we can think of this as our welcome mat. You might be asking yourself the following question:

If this guy knows what he's talking about, what on Earth is that bird doing on his welcome mat?
Well, the only defense is that you are here reading this page. Let's take a quick look at what any graphical browser at any resolution presents to the viewer when they reach our site.

BigNoseBird.Com- The Strangest Name in Web Authoring Resources

The Original. Saved for sentimental reasons.

Working from the assumption that you searched for something related to HTML, CGI, or some other web related issue, we very quickly and cleanly let you know you are where you want to be. If by chance you were not looking for anything having to do with webmastery you could decide to move on. Although we would love it if you had a look around anyway.

You have only a few seconds to pique this person's interest, do your best to make the most of it. This is not the place for fluff or filler. Let the person who found you want to have a reason to stay. The best way to accomplish this is with a clear, friendly, and attractive confirmation of their expectations.

Provide a clear hallway.
Once your viewer has made the decision to stay, draw their attention to what you feel they should see first. Here at BigNoseBird we structured the main page like this:

  • The Welcome Mat.

  • E-mail & Guestbook as ways to communicate with me.

  • My current features and new material. A constant reminder to check the Recent Additions page.

  • An option to search my site.

  • A guide that outlines the major pages in this site.

  • Some information about the site.
There is a lot of material on a wide variety of topics that we present. You may be here for one or more reasons, so we wanted to make it as easy as possible for you to find the information you need.

One method does not work in all situations. Visit other sites of all sorts and see what they do. It can be difficult, but try and remove yourself from the role of webmaster, and surf your site from the perspective of your anticipated audience.

Mark your front door clearly.
Make certain that every page on your site has a clear and prominant link back to your main page. The word HOME or the icon of a house seems to be an easy enough way to do it. This way if somebody gets lost wandering around, they can quickly find their way to where they started without trying to retrace their steps.

Where to from here?
If you have not read it yet, please take a look at the Design Guidelines page. Your focus right now should be to take another look at your Front Door with fresh eyes, and make sure it is in fact doing its job for you.

The background artwork shown on this page are the work of unknown, but very talented artists. It is not our intent to insult these works, but rather suggest more appropriate uses for them. So, whoever you may be, thank you for your contribution to the Web!

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