The difference between the study of Fine Arts and the study of Design is that design is functional. It serves a purpose.Web design with it's roots in programming, is more like architecture than graphics. This differentiation is a key aspect that is missing from web design as a budding design field. Many designers are artists, and still focus on 'cool looking', totally ignoring function, interactivity and technology architecture. RULE 1:Understand your target market then focus design and layout around their needs and interestsToo many sites today are designed to impress the boss, or to show off the skills of the graphics department rather than to convey interesting and timely information to a potential customer.This seemingly simple idea has far-reaching consequences for web page design and layout. For example, of the perhaps two million people who have some level of access to the World Wide Web, it's apparent from analysis that the majority are on slow connections, and indeed a surprisingly sizable majority (perhaps as much as 25%) of Web browsers view only the textual portion of Web pages, opting not to load the graphics.This suggests...RULE 2: Be sparing with graphic elementsThink carefully about how graphics are used on your site. Use the least graphics you can to accomplish your design and appearance goals. Ensure that viewers who opt not to load the graphics still have a meaningful and enjoyable visit to your site, and can still find the content that is at the heart of every good Web page.Yet graphics are part of what makes the Web fun and compelling as a new publishing medium. The trick, then, is to use graphics appropriately. Monolithic screens that offer all navigational elements buried within are a disservice to the majority of the Web user community and can alienate users quickly.Hence ...RULE 3:Pages should load within no more than thirty seconds, including all graphical elements.Test your page size against a 14kb modem, the horrifyingly low speed at which at least 25% of South Africa's Web users are constrained to use. Your average web user is impatient and easily distracted.If you're designing for an internal corporate network and are assured the vast majority of users are directly on the local area network, then 56Kbytes or faster is a safe assumption, and the thirty-second rule lets you include 235Kbytes of information, quite enough to send very long documents and complex layouts.RULE 4:Web sites should always be content-centricUnless you're a graphic arts firm, people aren't likely to find value in your online presence because of virtuoso displays of Web page design or a crack team of graphic artists. Instead, what appeals to most users is information.Most organizations have a surprising amount of information that would be of interest to potential visitors. It is this compelling content that lures people to your site not just once, but many times. And even better, those are just the people you want to have visit.Hence...Rule 5:One qualified visitor is worth a dozen anonymous browsers.Sites shouldn't live or die by their hit count, or by demonstrating that they gather more visitors than competing sites. A blind obsession traffic for its own sake is a misguided driving force in the business today. Competitions and link-exchanges abound: if the freebie is relevant to your business and helps draw in qualified, relevant visitors, then they're a boon. If they just bog down your server with thousands of visitors who couldn't care less about becoming a customer, then your site marketing is a failure.Magazines, for example, can reach a point where the cost to garner new subscribers is higher than the advantages of a higher circulation base. It's a number that most publishers recompute each month to ensure a maximal match of reader needs, advertiser needs, and the requirements of the publishing firm.One more guideline ...Rule 6:Ensure your site stays fresh and your information is up-to-date. If the Web site focuses on your firm, press releases and product information, particularly pricing, should always be current. Even if you're just creating a home page for yourself, keep it reasonably current.
Author: Dianne B Volek, InterComm SA / Posted: 06-01-2011