Fundamentals of Good Web Design
There are no objective standards for Web design, but that’s a shame. While novel and inventive interface designs are to be encouraged, the bottom line for most sites is usability. When the design starts to intrude on usefulness, the decision is easy – make it easy for the user. Without delving heavily into the programming nuts and bolts of design implementation, we offer the following modest proposals:
1. Use Consistent Navigation
Offer users consistent navigation throughout the site. The importance of this simple point cannot be overstated, as newbies are invariably lost. Also, you should try to host users with old systems and users with disabilities. Some users disable java and others use text-only browsers, so providing text-only navigation buttons to welcome all users (or provide an alternative site).
2. Provide a Site Map
Just general courtesy if you ask me. The last thing I want to do when I’m in a hurry is to search through a hierarchical site structure to find something that I know is on the site.
3. Provide a Contacts Page
You’d be surprised how many companies have ZERO contact information on their websites. Also, a generic email link is NOT sufficient; you need to give people addresses, phone numbers, etc. For the Web to deliver on its promise, it must be used to increase the transparency of organizations.
4. Listen to the Users
Give your users a method for providing feedback. That’s right, people rarely use the feedback option, but it’s also true that they hate it when not given the option. The usability of your feedback system is essential when problems arise; a good system eases tension, and a bad system greatly aggravates tension. (Do we need to stress that a quick response to feedback forms is also a necessity?)
5. Build an Intuitive Interface
The Ideal Interface must meet two criteria: (1) Newbies must be confronted with a consistent system that is easy to learn while (2) Experienced users should be able to quickly navigate the site - the design must not impede or interfere with navigation by an experienced user who is familiar with the site.
6. Provide FAQs
If your website generates a lot of questions and has complex content systems, consider adding an FAQ that provides answers to the most common problems. Trust us, this feature will save you AND your users time.
7. Insist on Quick Access
Creating a page that looks good and loads quickly is not the easiest job. Add to the equation the labyrinthine nature of some of the connections between you and the web page server, not surprisingly, page load times vary wildly. Still, there are things your designer can do. Try the 15-second rule: if the page doesn’t load in 15 seconds, it’s too big. Tell your web team to reduce the size of the files.
8. Strive for Simplicity
Make simple and common tasks easier. When lengthy procedures are required for new users, meaningful shortcuts should be provided for experienced users.
9. Provide Feedback
A well-designed site should provide users with feedback in response to user input, bugs, and changes in status. The information should be communicated simply, indicating the options available to the user.
10. Be Tolerant
The site should tolerate errors and unusual uses. Site beta testing should include anticipating a wide variety of erroneous or atypical user behaviors. While it is probably impossible to predict all possible misuses, the site should handle errors gracefully and, when possible, guide the user.
Feel free to reach out to me if you need help with what is right for you, using this link.