Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The 10 Commandments of Web Design

UI experts develop basic rules of website design ...

"Since the Internet emerged as a major force, altering everything from the way people work to the way they date, it has been a roller-coaster ride that made the world giddy. Microsoft (MSFT), Netscape, et al. fought the browser wars, Web standards were championed, and the Web became community-minded and social, ushering in the reign of Facebook, Flickr (YHOO), and YouTube. From boom to bust and back again, with staggering amounts of money changing hands at every point, the online industry rides on with no end in sight.

The Net has also attracted prophets, gurus, theorists, and evangelists of every stripe. Many of their promised game-changing technologies—Jini, DHTML, and countless others—never panned out, while seemingly simple innovations—metadata, XML, and CSS—have led to major breakthroughs. Meanwhile, Web design vogues from the effervescent jumble of HotWired to the stark utility of Google (GOOG) have continued to evolve and become more contradictory—and entrenched.

To try and make sense of it all, BusinessWeek.com canvassed a broad range of Internet luminaries to discover the design rules they live by right now. Contributors ranged from the guru of Web usability, Don Norman, co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, to the design director of NYTimes.com, Khoi Vinh, and John Maeda, president-elect of the Rhode Island School of Design. These 10 commandments of Web design for 2008 are the combined results of our survey. For the full list of contributors, see the end of the story.

1. Thou shalt not abuse Flash.

Adobe's (ADBE) popular Web animation technology powers everything from the much-vaunted Nike (NKE) Plus Web site for running diehards to many humdrum banner advertisements. But the technology can easily be abused—excessive, extemporaneous animations confuse usability and bog down users' Web browsers.

2. Thou shalt not hide content.

Advertisements may be necessary for a site's continued existence, but usability researchers say pop-ups and full-page ads that obscure content hurt functionality—and test a reader's willingness to revisit. Elective banners—that expand or play audio when a user clicks on them—are much less intrusive.

3. Thou shalt not clutter.

The Web may be the greatest archive of all time, but sites that lack a coherent structure make it impossible to wade through information. Amazon.com (AMZN) and others put their sites' information hierarchy at the top of their list of design priorities."    (Continued via BusinessWeek)    [Usability Resources]

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