As I mentioned in the last article, at their core, many problems with Web sites have to do with file management. When you surf the ‘net and see a "file not found" error, it means the link in the HTML code making up the page is incorrect or the file the link points to is missing. (These are called "broken" links.)
When it comes to Web sites, the word "design" doesn’t just mean how the site looks. Plenty of pretty web sites get no traffic because on the Web, design also incorporates how the site functions. File management is all about organization. When it comes to Web design, your overall design needs to be just as organized as the files that make up the site. Studies have shown that you get about 10 seconds for people to take in your design and figure out what they want to do. If they can’t figure it out, they leave. Your site is just one click away from the rest of the Internet. If you want people to actually stay and visit your site, you need to think about your design.
The home page is the first thing to consider. It must clearly and succinctly explain what your site is about and why anyone should care. We’ve all seen sites that are completely mystifying; don’t make yours one of them. Next, use clear, obvious navigation so that people can get where they want to go quickly. On a large site, that means you should group related information together. Don’t make people guess at what link might take them to the information they want. People don’t want to guess and they’ll just leave instead.
If you are having trouble figuring out how to organize your site, spend some time looking at other sites. If every other site in your industry has a link called Contact that links to a page with the corporate phone numbers, follow the trend and name your navigational elements similarly. Again, people are at your site to get information; don’t make them hunt for it.
Finally, you obviously want to make your site visually appealing, but use graphics judiciously. Irrelevant images are distracting; use meaningful images that enhance your message. Also never, ever sacrifice readability to accommodate some Web designer’s warped sense of cool. Far, far too many people have ended up with unusable sites that they hate because they were afraid to say "no" to their Web designer. Yes, design is subjective, but you’re a Web citizen too and if you hate using your Web site, I promise you, other people will too.