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5 Fatal Flaws of Web Design

Helpful insight from interface guru Jakob Nielsen.

Jakob Nielsen predicts that the Web universe will expand to 100 million sites by 2001. Which means that lots of people will be designing pages. Nielsen's first rule of good design? Don't let the medium interfere with the message. Here, adapted from his Web site, are five pitfalls that aspiring Web designers should avoid.

1. The bleeding edge cuts both ways. Don't try to lure users to your site by bragging about your adoption of new Web technologies. Mainstream users care about useful content and good service. The latest technology usually invites crashes, slows navigation - and discourages users from returning to your site.

2. Don't turn pages into orphans. Users often access pages directly - without entering through your home page. So make sure that each page clearly indicates what site it belongs to. Every page should have a link back to the home page, as well as an indication of where the page fits within the structure of your information space.

3. Beware of blink. Never include page elements that move incessantly - scrolling text, running animation, messages and icons that blink. Moving images don't help visitors find what they're looking for - they attack the senses.

4. Break with frames. Frames violate the fundamental user model of the Web. With frames, you can't bookmark the current page and return to it, URLs stop working, and printing out becomes difficult. Even worse, predictability goes out the door: There's no telling what information will appear when you click on a link.

5. Shrink download times. This is Web Design 101, but it's more important now than ever: Because the Net is adding users faster than it is infrastructure, bandwidth is getting worse instead of better. Ten seconds is the maximum time that users will wait before losing interest.

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