Web site design is an exercise in compromise: Usability versus Pizazz. Of course we all want to have animated menus, video, and wide, rich designs that fill the highest-resolution monitors.
But you have to take three factors into account:
- Your users.The average Internet user is a novice. They may understand the basics of their web browser. But they work in a conventional web world: Web pages that scroll up-and-down, with mostly text. And they don’t typically have to download and install additional gadgets just to use a site. Keep it in mind.
- Their computers.Most Internet users have computers that are 2-4 years old, and weren’t top-of-the-line when they bought them. Things like complex HTML layouts, Flash animation, DHTML menus and complex graphics tax the processor, or CPU, on an older computer, no matter how fast or slow the Internet connection. Just as it takes more brainpower to interpret a complex image than a simple one, it takes more CPU cycles to render a complex HTML page than a simple one. So keep your pages, and code, as simple and clean as possible.
- Internet Bandwidth. Finally, over 80% of web users in the US are still using dial-up connections. Design your pages to download in 15 seconds or less, even on those connections.
Of course there are exceptions to these rules. But if you have a wide audience for your organization, keep it simple, and keep it usable. The payoffs will be huge.
If you want to learn how bad design can drive customers crazy, read a story about an e-commerce transaction gone wrong: Click here.