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Web design that works
Many online users belong to a time-starved generation that has learned to scan through information quickly to find what they are interested in. Any web site that wants to capture this audience must include a web design that is optimized for the way these users process and navigate through information or run the risk of losing them. So what trade offs and hard decisions do designers have to make to create an effective web design that is optimized for the way we read and navigate through information online.
Home page design
First and foremost, the home page must download fast.
Eight to ten seconds is ideal. If it takes longer than that your visitors start to bail from impatience. Beyond 20 seconds and you can kiss most of your marketing budget and your potential impulse buyer’s goodbye.
Many web designers, as talented as they are, live in a world of broadband connections. What they may not know is that only seven percent of the Internet access market has broadband, and that the growth of broadband penetration is leveling off. The hard reality of the online business-to-consumer sales is that most consumers by far connect at 56K or lower. So when we’re talking 8-10 seconds down load time, we mean at 28.8K. Impossible? Amazon and Yahoo! do it, as do many others.
In concrete terms, 8 to10 seconds download time means that the entire home page file should be around 35K to 40K in size. So if your objective is to maximize sales, as opposed to having a beautiful web design showcase that actually discourages sales, then the designer’s challenge is to develop a great look-and-feel within the constraints of the 35 to 40K total file size. Equally important is what visitors see once the page has loaded.
There are some other critical elements that need to be taken into consideration:
Is the look-and-feel professional?
Does the layout reflect knowledge of eye scanning patterns?
Does the page make use of knowledge about online buying behavior?
Does the page inspire trust and build rapport?
Is contact info easy to find?
Is help available? Is it user-centered versus tech-centered?
Are sufficient support channels available? For instance, email, FAQ, phone and live chat.
Is your unique selling proposition clearly stated and strong?
Are the typographical details, such as fonts and colors, chosen with an understanding of all of the above and knowledge of what maximizes sales?
One of the most difficult aspects of web design is navigation. When you say web design, a lot of people immediately think of graphics or visual design. The core design challenges for a web design revolve around information, not visuals. The purpose of navigation in web design is to present visitors with the most user-friendly path through the classification so that they can find the content they want quickly.
Here are the critical elements that need to be taken into consideration:
Can the visitors move quickly and logically through the web site?
Do visitors always know where they are on the web site?
Is the classification that the organization wants to promote clearly highlighted?
Often web designers must choose between two principal navigation design approaches: flat versus deep. Do we puts lots of links on the page so that the reader can get to his or her chosen area on the web site with the minimum number of clicks? Or do we place a small number of links on the page, which direct the reader to the key sections within the web site? The problem with the lots-of-links approach is that the abundance of choice will confuse the reader. The problem with the key-links approach is that the reader will get frustrated by having to click several times to get to the information required.
Laying out web content
Whether laying out content on a newspaper page or on a web page, there are two, sometimes conflicting basic guidelines to follow: 1. provide the most readable environment for the content possible; 2. present the content with style, so that it is pleasing to the eye, and, thus, the reader will enjoy reading it.
Here are some basic rules for laying out web content:
Never underline body text, as a reader will think it’s a link.
Avoid using bold within the body of the text for the same reason.
Avoid using italics because it is difficult to read on a screen.
With copy that is more than a few paragraphs long, use a 10-point font, as anything less will make the text difficult to read.
If the body text is in a 10-point font, then the sub-headings should be 14 point.
The font style that works best on the web is sans serif; it looks sharper on the screen and is therefore easier to read.
When presenting an article or other document, the number of words per line of text should not exceed 12 to 16 words per line.
If documents are longer than 10 paragraphs, a table of contents should be placed below the heading. The table should be generated from subheadings found in the main body of the document.
Reading on a screen is still more difficult than reading on paper. Flashy web design may look well on the surface; however, when your readers get down to the job of reading on such a site, they will not thank you for it.