When I’m not writing about Dungeons & Dragons, I’m a website developer in my day job. I find myself habitually critiquing websites, and Wizards of the Coast’s official D&D homepage is no exception.
Here are my top five problems that you want to avoid to make your site better than WotC’s D&D website.
Keep page load times to a minimum
Opera web browser has a little-known feature that shows you how much data. WotC’s site takes a whopping 2MB to load. If you felt like their site was slow, it’s because it’s transferring five to ten times more data than a normal website.
Even in this age of broadband internet, keep your webpage below 500KB, and ideally below 200KB.
Keep design uncluttered
In the late 1990s, the trend in website design was to cram as much content into the top of your page, on the mistaken belief that users don’t scroll down. The result was cluttered websites that make it hard for the user to find what they’re looking for.
Modern “web 2.0” principles recommend a minimalist layout that helps the user find what he wants, rather than what the publisher wants the user to find. Nobody comes to a website to read advertising billboards.
Let your users stay logged in
When I visit the D&D Compendium to look up some monster stats, it logs me out after a day or two and I have to enter my username and password again. This is a very short time to keep a user logged in. Many popular websites allow you to stay logged in after a month or even more.
If your site has a login, let users stay logged in for at least a month, unless you’re running something high-security like a bank.
Readability is key
In 1999, the trend was to use small fonts, because they looked neat at low resolutions. Now, the average screen resolution has doubled and anti-aliasing makes bigger fonts look good. The average web user is older, and not all of us have perfect eyesight any more, but WotC’s using an even smaller font size than their own website 13 years ago.
Make sure your main article text is well-spaced, has good margins on either side and is an easy to read font size.