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Eight Simple, Yet Essential, Web Design Principles
by: Alan Richardson
As the internet evolves from its infancy into maturity, website development, design and marketing becomes more and more sophisticated – and more and more complex. Content manipulation, various scripting methods, fancy graphics and effects… and on and on… allow us to create some impressive web sites.
A good gauge of this complexity is the a slew of new internet-related acronyms which popup on a consistent basis. Heck, I don’t know what half of them mean. But one acronym I do know – and it’s not an internet creation – is nevertheless key to the development and design of any successful business website. Perhaps you’ve heard of it – K.I.S.S. As you probably know, it stands for ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid!’. And it’s a methodology widely employed by the best web developers, designers and marketers in the business. A philosophy that provides the foundation for all successful revenue-generating web sites.
From the largest, multi-product online business conglomerate to the one-page one-product mini-site, the purpose is the same. Provide visitors, whether internet savvy or first time surfers, with an online experience that’s fast, efficient, easy to understand – and dare I say it… yes, enjoyable.
Whether your an entrepreneur building your own web site, or reviewing one built for you by a web development and design expert, it is important your web site, your online business, adheres to these eight simple, yet essential, design principles. Heed them, and online success is sure to follow. Ignore them, at your peril. Here they are.
Each web page must have a purpose – and that purpose must be clearly stated. While a consistent design ‘look and feel’ is vital across all pages of your web site, each page has a specific function to perform. And that function should be clearly understood by all visitors to your web site. Whether it’s to elicit feedback, provide feedback, promote your company, present product information, etc., all play a role in your ultimate goal of growing your business.
Navigation around and through your business web site must be clearly visible and easy to use. See my article on web site navigation for more details.
Avoid distraction and clutter by minimizing usage of fancy flashing and moving objects, which provide more sizzle than steak, and make your essential products or services harder to find.
All business websites should have contact information clearly visible. A ‘Contact’ page is minimum. It’s also advisable to include contact information on every page of your web site. You never know when the urge to turn from prospect to customer will strike your visitor.
Not everyone has broadband. Yes, there are still a fair number of users surfing the internet with slower, less efficient, dial-up access. That may change in the future, but it’s a reality today. Ignore this substantial customer base and you’re business will surely suffer. To avoid this pitfall, pay careful attention to eliminate internet-clogging elements on your web site. When possible, use text instead of graphics, static graphics instead of animation, several smaller pages instead of one large page. Do this and you can feed quite well on the desertions from your flashier competitors.
For those who are broadband users, who are not negatively effected by all those ‘bells and whistles’, who may actually enjoy such an impressive display, remember, ‘form follows function’. This is especially important on a business web site, where functionality is key. All else is fluff and distraction.
For those of us who may be ‘visually challenged, make sure your web site is easy to see. Avoid fancy fonts and use the more legible standard-bearers, such as Times New Roman, Courier New, Arial and Verdana. For standard text, use font sizes of at least 10 pt… 12 pt is better. On many a web site, font sizes of 8 pt or less are used, perhaps in an effort to avoid the need to scroll. Let me tell you… it’s much better to scroll than to squint. For when I squint, I usually stroll… right out of the site. It’s also a good practice to limit the use of italics as they too are harder to read. Lastly, pay attention to text and background color. Although white text on a black background looks cool at first glance, it can quickly strain the eyes. You don’t want to do anything that will cut your visitor’s journey through your business web site..
Whenever possible, limit page lengths to no more than two page-downs. It is better for performance (page loading) and visitor attention when pages are short, quick reads. If necessary, breakup your text into multiple pages, with a ‘continued’ designation at the bottom of each page.
There you go. Eight simple, yet essential, web site design principles that can spell the difference between online business success or failure. Always remember, you’re never more than one-click away from visitor abandonment. K.I.S.S. your website and it will reward you abundantly.
Alan Richardson is a well-known internet consultant and publisher with http://www.optimalwebservices.com – a Web resource firm in North Easton, Massachusetts, offering free advice and information for web-based small businesses and entrpreneurs.
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