"There are a lot of details to consider when designing and developing a web site. In reality, it can seem like an endless list - but if you look carefully you’ll see that there are certain elements that are more important than others, elements that are used consistently among the most successful sites.
Once you’ve completed the Planning Stage of your website, the rest of the elements fall into broad categories ranging from User Interface Design to Content Creation to actual Development. Of course, there are also the issues surrounding Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - but we’ll save that for another day…
With that in mind, here are the 15 elements that should always be included on any top web site.
1. Good Visual Design
First things first… Visual design. I don’t know about you, but if I go to a web site that is not visually pleasing, it is a quick turn off.
That’s not to say that every top website needs an incredible visual design - but if a site looks like it hasn’t been updated since 1994, it’s just not going to be associated with other great websites.
A clean and simple design is usually all you need. Bells and whistles are nice, but I’m one who tends to go with the “less is more” theory. You don’t want your design to be over crowded. You just want it to look good so it can stand out from your competitor(s) in the minds of your potential clients.
First impressions are key. Although good design alone will not keep someone on your site - an eye-catching design will, at the very least, grab their attention long enough to take a look around.
2. Thoughtful User Interface
User Interface / NavigationAlong with good design comes a good user interface. The user interface is the foundation of any good functional web site. When designing a site, you’ll need to take into consideration your average user. Who is going to be visiting your web site - who is your ideal customer? Are they tech-savy? Are they computer illiterate?
It’s helpful to create an image of your ideal visitor and have them in mind when planning out the design for your site. Be sure you offer everything on your site that they would want to find before buying from you or becoming a subscriber.
You’ll want to be sure that your navigation is easy to spot and consistent throughout the entire web site. Make it obvious where the user should click both in terms of your primary navigation, as well as for links within your content areas.
3. Primary Navigation Above The Fold
Part of having an easy to navigate web site is ensuring that the primary means of navigation - links to the key areas of your site - are kept above the fold. With today’s large computer monitors and growing screen resolutions “above the fold” is generally considered to be within the top 500-600 pixels of your site design.
Elements to include here are your logo (which should link back to your home page), as well as links to the main sections of your site. If you can link to sub-pages here that is great, but in most cases that will over-clutter your design.
For example put “Home | About | Services | FAQ | Contact” in a very easy to find location at the top of your site. You can place sub-links such as About-Bio / About-Resume somewhere else, such as in your sidebar or as sub-links under the main page title of that section, etc.
Consistency is key here - be sure to place both your primary and sub-navigational links in the same spot throughout the various pages of your web site." (Continued via The Best Article Every day, Selene M. Bowlby) [Usability Resources]