4 website design and usability rules

By | May 11, 2007

Do you come across websites that look like they could do much better if they switched their graphic designers? I do every so often come across sites like these, and sometimes I wonder if these websites ever realized how much their sites need a facelift or some reworking of sorts.

Website design and usability are important factors in determining if more of your visitors hang around after landing on your site, or disappear in an instant, never to return. I also think that the malady of poor web design must be some universal syndrome that affects government websites in particular; ever notice how shoddy government websites look, all over the world?

Without further ado, here are 4 points about web design that I filtered from the noise after a day of jumping from one site to another.

1) Splash pages are not really a good idea.

Splash pages are the first pages you see when you arrive at a website. There is usually an image with the word “Click here to enter” or something along these lines. I think a better way is just to give your visitors what they want up front; rather than have them wondering whether they should proceed or not by clicking on “Enter”.

What do you think of the splash pages here and here? Thanks to Web Pages that Suck, I got more laughs than I have had in recent times.

2) Excessive banner advertisements – Avoid

Now I know of more than one blog or site that is having just too many advertisements, and I will leave it to you to gauge when too much advertising is really exceeding the limits, but generally it means a site where every move of your mouse could lead to tripping on an ad (in a sea of ads), and you have trouble differentiating an ad from the real content. There is a clear distinction between blended and blatant.

3) Simplicity and good navigation are important.

The general rule of thumb is to always make sure your visitors can reach anywhere in your website within 3 clicks – The 3 Click Rule. Now there has to be reason for this – it avoids deep nested pages that even the SE spiders overlook. Also, avoid excessive use of Flash, as this can confuse your visitors or lead to slower load time of your site. Your visitors should always be able to know where they are on your site at any given time. So now, it should be clear why it’s so important to have search engine friendly URLs instead of dynamic page URLs with digits and questions marks at the end.

4) Try to avoid audio until you can afford a dedicated server.. 😉

Avoid sound effects that only serve to annoy your visitors, or at least give them a choice between choosing to listen or ignoring completely, as well as allowing them a chance to adjust the volume, if need be. Some websites still have these circa 2000 A.D audio sound effects that cannot be shut off. Instead of audio, lets have some video (fully controllable).

So there you have it, 4 essential rules for any webmaster that pertain to site design and usability. Of course, there being a lot more then these, it really boils down to placing yourself in your visitor’s shoes whenever you visit your site, and asking yourself this question, “What would a visitor think of my website?”

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