This month, I'm focusing on the nuts and bolts of Web design -- at least the graphic design portion.
Here's my Top 10 list of suggestions to make your Web site more attractive, more likely to achieve your objectives and easier to navigate and download.
1. Minimize graphics. Download speeds are crucial -- design for the least-common denominator for data transmission. typically, a 28.8 mb modem. That way, you assure that all users can load your site quickly. This is critical until the broad bandwidth infrastructure is in place for the Web and all users. All sites are quick and great-looking on a 21-inch monitor and DSL-line connection, but design for everyone who may visit your site.
2. Minimize clutter. Incorporate lots of graphic interfaces to help aid navigation. Simplify content by better organizing information into usable chunks. Take a "less is more" approach. Ask if the graphics add or distract from the overall usability of your site.
3. Avoid scrolling. The average user will scroll 2.5 times before losing track or tiring of the information. Streamline content to minimize the need for scrolling.
4. Avoid overusing bells and whistles. Don't be tempted to use all the latest technology if it serves no purpose. Ask whether it adds value to your site. And remember that users who have to go to another site to download a plug-in usually will not come back.
5. Write in inverted pyramid style. The Web is not the same medium as print. Studies show that readers on the Web scan text, much like newsprint. By writing in the inverted pyramid style, you give readers the most useful information up front, and they can find additional information through further reading if they choose to do so.
6. Ensure high visibility of your corporate identity. Your logo should be visible on every screen, ensuring that users who bookmark any page will easily see whose site they are viewing. The brand stays intact.
7. Don't use frames. Frames, though very useful for some design applications, sometimes will not print and are difficult to bookmark.
8. Keep content fresh. Instead of constantly changing the layout or navigation of a site, simply change the information to attract new users. Web surfers can be annoyed when they become comfortable with the navigation of a site, only to see it overhauled and changed.
9. Allow for useful feedback within your site. Provide users an incentive for completing a simple survey of five to 10 quick questions. If something on your site doesn't work, fix it -- but only after you have received a clear indication of a problem from end-users. Your site should offer users an experience -- a pleasant experience. Why do so many people return to Disneyland? The experience warrants a return trip. We live in an experience-driven economy.
10. Test. Evaluate. Test again. Before you officially open the site for public viewing, make sure you test and work out all the bugs.
Jeff Krakoff is president of Krakoff Communications Inc., a Pittsburgh-based marketing communications and public relations agency. Reach him at (412) 434-7718 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.