The Pitfalls of Design

There are hazards on the information highway - many self-inflicted. Poorly designed Web sites can reflect negatively on your company and frustrate potential customers. When designing your Web site, consider:

* Stay away from frames. Splitting a page into frames is often confusing for users, especially when they attempt to bookmark or print off of your Web page.

* Overload on motion. Many Web experts advise against page elements that move incessantly. The images may throw off the users' peripheral vision, and could put an undue attack on their senses. The point of the site is to provide information, not to overstress the user.

* Easy on the motion. Ensure that your URL (the coded address used to access your Web site) is readable and defines your company or its core focus. Use short names with lowercase characters to minimize user mistakes.

* Orphan pages. All pages within the site should include a clear indication of the Web site they belong to, and a link back to your home page. Pages floating in virtual never-never land could send a potential customer into limbo.

* Critical content. Put the most important information at the top of the page, thus reducing the need for users to scroll farther down the page, which may result in their surfing to another site.

* Provide guides. Site maps are becoming more popular on Web sites for one simple reason: They help users who get lost. The Web site should provide some level of navigational support so users feel a strong sense of structure and place.

* Get with it. One of the more difficult parts of running a Web site is updating it regularly. Users may assume you're out of step if you have out-of-date information. Maintenance is an inexpensive way to keep data fresh and relevant.

* Shorten download times. Take steps that will allow users to access your Web site in under 10 seconds, the period of time considered critical to hold on to the user. Providing simple graphics and straightforward content can help speed the process.

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