A client guide to understand the process of a top design

The web is no longer a new thing. It is an ingrained part of our lives.Studies show that users form their first impression about a website in 1/20th of a second. What are they going to think if that time is spent watching Flash animation load? Or watching a marquee slowly scroll through a list of headlines? Or searching for creatively placed navigation? They'll think it's time to visit another website.

As Internet users get more sophisticated and impatient, the need for designs that emphasize usability becomes paramount. Here are  ten technics or Guidlines that have been developed by top designers over the years. We try to have these principles guide all of our design work.

1. Understanding Your Website's Audience. Not only in the marketing sense. Know the technical boundaries you're working within. The user experience for a high school math student in Jersey and a journalist in Lebanon are very different.

2. Understanding the purpose of the site. The client can lose sight of this, but the designer must not. If the site's purpose is to raise funds, that component must be ever-present in the design....

3. Having No Surprises. Web sites are not meant to be mysterious. The web is not new. Certain standards of usability remain because they work. Users stampede away from sites that remain mysterious. Links should be written clearly, marked clearly as links, and users should be alerted to the mildest of surprises like opening a .pdf or Powerpoint.

4. Avoiding the Cool Websites Backlash. There seems to be a slight backlash, giving into website design that is cool for the sake of being cool. While the art created with programs like Flash is spectacular, most websites simply shouldn't use these technologies. Inevitably, they cause more problems than they solve and end up frustrating users. Animation has been eliminated on most business sites. Even the slightest motion is an irritation to the user. The eye still sees it as an animated gif from 1999 and will ignore it as surely as the client deems it "jazzy".

5. Sweating the Details. The nuances of the design are what will create a positive or negative user experience. The forms must be as simple to complete as possible, and work perfectly. The search must be useful. The FAQs and Help links must be worth the user's time. The contact us link/form/phone number being difficult to find is the easiest way to lose a user forever.

6. Helping you Pass by Column A, Column B Drama. Clients like the palette from the first design, and the layout of the second. Some clients will always want to mix and match. If we can't beat you, we help you. We will take your concerns seriously, but will try to move past the simple step of combining designs.

7. Considering Search Engiene Friendliness of the Website. (read this article to learn more about this) An effective Web site is user friendly, search friendly, and persuasive enough to make people buy your product. Search compatibility is an essential component of site design. Usability experts constantly stress the importance of creating clear categories and navigation hierarchies.

8. Knowing That the Content (basically text) is Key. While the design of a website is important, and often the quality of design validates the website content for a user, in most cases the design is not as important as the information on the website. It is more important that the information on a site is accessible for every user than it is that every user sees the exact same design in every browser. Redirecting a user to download other software should never be an option, there are plenty of ways to design and build sites so that they degrade gracefully for every user.

9. Considering Screen Resolution Compatibility. Monitor size ranges from 640×480 pixels to today's standard size of 1024×768 pixels to even bigger sizes. A design should try to look good in all of these sizes. Current practice accepts minimum size of 800×600. Design for that size and use the extra space most users will see for non-critical additional content.

10. Testing the Website on All Browsers and Platforms. Keeping in mind the numerous browsers available and platform loyalty of users, you need to make sure your site is designed for and tested on a variety of browsers and platforms to ensure compatibility. A personalized scrollbar may work with IE browser but won't work with Mozilla browsers.

11. Creating a Built-in Style Guide. The more content a site has, the more likely that multiple people are contributing to content editing. As the content is handed off from person to person, one finds that the design and the layout deviate from the original. One should create a style guide for the consistency in look and feel.

12. Keeping in Mind that Your Website's Brand is in the Visitor Experience. Yes, the site needs to be visually appealing. If a user can easily find your site, get what they need, and be on with her life that's what'll drive the memory - the site experience. And they'll tell others about it.

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