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Simplicity Rules

Bleeding-edge designers and simplicity gurus don't often see eye-to-eye when it comes to website design. A website may make perfect sense to the developer, but a design that is focused on bells and whistles can turn users away. How often have you stopped loading a page that requires plug-ins or were disappointed after waiting several minutes for an unnecessary image to finally appear? When people were more committed to learning software due to expense and limited choices, they were forced to adapt to poorly designed user-interfaces. But on the internet, choice is the users' ballot, and their votes can be costly.

While beautiful, impressive, and compelling design is important for a variety of reasons (including creating brand identity, entertaining and drawing people in, and establishing credibility) design choices need to be weighed against meeting the user's needs in order for a site to achieve its goal.

Follow established web conventions

It is useful to remember that graphics can often be only supplementary to a website and should never get in the way of users. And remember, at least a million people out there are browsing without any graphics at all.

The web is becoming a genre with its own established conventions. From a usability standpoint, it can be helpful to follow some of the design conventions that are being established by dominant websites as users are accustomed to seeing certain layouts and features on commerce sites, marketing sites, or informational sites.

For example, studies have shown that blue-underlined text is the most reliable indicator of links and provide the most click-throughs. Using another color drastically reduces click-throughs and using graphics reduces the number even further. Another advantage to text links is that browsers support differentiating visited and unvisited links, which cannot be supported with graphics.

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Last modified on 27 june 2004

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