There are no amazing secrets to making a website look professional, you just need to look at the result and be certain that that you keep on track. Here are my favourite secret ideas to follow!

Do not make it too personal! – Unless you are selling yourself as a person, as for instance a children’s entertainer, then do not put plenty of personality into the website. Too often I hear from my sales team that a customer would like a bit of this in and a bit of that. Yes, they make the web sites look very personalised, but too often these take away from the professional look.

Reduce the design team – One of the biggest causes of a site going from a professional look to a amateur look is when too lots of people are involved in the design. If they all read and obeyed the rest of the tips, then this would not be a problem. But at every person’s review they each want to put their mark on a site and suddenly all manner of tweaks and extras are being added. Cramming all of these banners, dancing cows, splashes of colour and more onto the page that every single one of the committee have added soon destroys the look.

Watch the font size – The tiniest reduction of font sizes is sometimes all that is needed to take a website from looking home built to a professional looking site. Use relative font sizes (measured in em) rather than actual font sizes and if the reader needs larger text they might click a button in their browser to increase it. But large font sizes that shout out to the reader do not look professional. Sadly, quite often that means the default font size (especially in Arial font) does not look good.

Don’t get carried away with colours – It might be clever to add in lots of blocks of different colours, but it does not look amazing. Keep to some easy looking colour blocks nicely positioned around the page.

Use professional images – Sorry, but snaps taken on the camera of your phone mobile might look good, but buying a few images from a top quality stock photography directory (I use iStockPhoto) gives such an admirable finish to the web site that it is well worth the small amount that you pay.

Don’t think movement is a good thing – Stacks of movement is never good, not on a website. One or two small, smooth flash animations could add to the page, for example on the header, but placing masses of clever banners, snowflakes falling down the screen, light bulbs that glow and fade and so on will practically always look tacky.

In short, to make a site look professional try to not be too clever. Merely because you have learnt how to add a scrolling image does not mean you have to. Use clever tricks just when absolutely needed and do not try to show off with tricks. Your website design will do the showing off for you.

Written by Keith Lunt, who offers a Merseyside web design service. For more useful tips about good web design call into the blog.

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