Some personal thoughts about Web Design
The two main considerations in the design of a web site are really the same as with any other craft, form and function. The form is the computer screen and the limits of HTML and your viewers web browser. The function is what you are trying to say or do with your web site. Because the form is technological and ever changing it becomes all too easy to get caught up in what *can* be done in terms of design, even to the detriment of the function of the web site.
In my opinion the greatest example of this factor on the web right now is the over use of Frames. (Scrolling windows within windows.) Although they can be useful to keep a navagational window on the screen for a very large and complex web site, I find them most often to be more a hindrance than a help. The only place in the Crafts Fair Online that I found a legitimate use for them is on the "Crafts site of the moment" page where I needed to keep the random link there for people to move from site to site without having to hit the "back" button each time.
I am amazed to see the number of web sites where the use of frames is not only unnecessary, but gets in the way of the function of the site. Where the viewer is forced to scroll left and right through multiple windows in order to get the information they came there for.
So, my number one web design recommendation is don't do something just because you can. Think first about what the purpose of your site is and only use the technology where it can enhance that purpose. Sounds, animated gifs, java bells and whistles can all be fun, but they can also distract people from the very thing you wanted them to come to your site in the first place for, to see your product or service.
2. Design for your viewers computer screen. For some reason this seems to be a big problem with some of the most expensive corporate web designers. They seem to forget that most people browsing the Web don't have the huge monitors and top of the line modems that they do. Design with an average screen and moderate modem speed in mind.
3. Get to the point and don't clutter. If the purpose of your site is to sell your works of craft, try to give people a chance to see an indication your work right away. If they have to click through several layers before they ever get to see what your site is all about they may not bother. Again, keep the focus on the function of your site. If you want to offer lots of related links and information, keep them in perspective. It's easy to offer so much "stuff" that the site becomes cluttered and confusing.
4. Try to keep the design consistent and cohesive. Ideally, you should design titles and buttons and such your self, but if you are gathering them from one of the "Free Web Graphics" sites listed later on this page, try to get graphics that match in color and style. The first impression of your craft that your visitors will have is the craftsmanship of your page design, if it looks unoriginal and poorly constructed they may think the same of the craft you are selling.
5. Keep graphic file sizes as small as you can. This doesn't mean the size of the pictures but the size of the file in kilobytes. To reduce the file size of graphic images try Gif Wizard. Smaller files take less time to load and viewers are more likely to hang around and see your page.
The following are a few great resources for free web graphic and graphic applications.
Windy's Fashionable Page Designs
Randy's Icon and Image Bazaar
Terry Gould's Home Page Graphics
Gif Animation Gallery
Classical MIDI Music Archives