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Web Design Reference Guide

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Last updated Oct 17, 2003.

As discussed in the "Web Design Process and Workflow" section, you need to know your audience. That's the best way to ensure that a Web site is user-focused and not created for the Web designer. If the Web designer wants to get creative and build works of art, a client's Web site is not the place to do it. Instead, build a sandbox and play there.

The best way to learn how a user (we won't argue the semantics of user vs. visitor and whatnot) uses a Web site is to watch her use it. Web design shops may not have the budget to do it, but they can always go ask colleagues who are not working on the site or specific areas of the site, family, and friends to try things out to understand how well the basics of a Web site work or don't work.

When users arrive at the Web site, there is a small window of opportunity to grab their attention and keep them long enough to accomplish what the goals of the Web site are for the organization. The organization has its goals for the Web site and in using those goals, the Web design team works to explore how to get the user to get what he wants while meeting the goals. Find out what tasks the users want to complete on the Web site and focus on those activities.

The home page isn't a book. Instead, it's a summary or table of contents of the good things behind the site. When attempting to put everything about the product or service on the home page, the user gets overwhelmed with all the information and abandons the site instead of trying to explore further. Just offer a taste or a sample and let the user want to dig deeper.