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Simplicity is the heart of effective web design

Keep it simple. Will ya?

HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED over the striking commonalities among some of the tremendously functional sites of our time? Just spare some thoughts on the features of sites like Cisco, Marshall, Dell, Amazon, etc., and the answer would not elude you. Yeah. You have got it. Plain and simple. Friendly and functional. No cosmetics. No facelifts. No fuss. Simplicity matters in web design as it does in other spheres of life.

Web design is not a medium to show off your technical prowess. Nor, you are supposed to demonstrate your superb graphic acumen. These are necessary but only in moderation; let them not dominate over your site friendliness and usability.

Here are some useful and rather important tips that will help you-- turn on the right track--to establishing a site professional in appearance, and high in quality and usability.

Formulate your mission statement and understand your target audience

A mission statement or statement of direction on where the company intends to go in the foreseeable future is critical. It will definitely provide some stability from which the website can springboard forward. You must pursue some explicit goals to excel on the web. You must be pretty clear on the counts like :
- What's the purpose of the site?
- Who is the site's audience?
- How will success be measured?
- How to gather feedback and involve your audience in your design?

Mere high intentions and a cool design aren't going to sustain your development and production processes if you are missing out a concrete statement of your goals and how to achieve them. In its sheer absence, a website cannot deliver a consistent, steady message to customers, can hardly be a platform for quality.

Ponder well on your layout and navigation

A clean layout and neat navigation that employs a lot of white space enhances your site's look and appeal. Be focused focus on your content. You can better use dreamweaver templates for your site - all pages or a group of pages have one basic design and only the content varies. And this will be taken note of´┐Żhopefully with an appreciative eye.
- Make it sure load time on the site is optimal
- For making load time low on your site, you can choose from the following options.
- Minimize graphics, flash and scripts: They occupy huge space, and thus need to be minimized.
- Optimize your HTML & script code: See to it that your site doesn't have any unwanted tags or unused scripts.
- Use server side include (SSI) files: SSI files once called from the web server remain in its cache, and on subsequent requests they load faster.
- While designing take into consideration all screen resolutions

A site that is easy-to-use always encourages visitors to stay on and read your content.

If your site doesn't seem to look good for a particular resolution it is likely that the visitor will close the browser window feeling that the web page is not for their viewing. Therefore, designing stretch layouts that fit any screen resolution will ensure a visually appealing and professional site.

Make your site interactive and rich in content

To make your website stickier you can add a few simple interactive applications like site polls, surveys, a guest book, an event calendar, newsletter sign-up, etc. There are many applications on the net but you need to choose them wisely.

Macromedia Flash is another way to add interactivity to your site. 95% of the world's browsers have the Flash Player plug-in, so you need to think about compatibility as long as your movie can be played by lower versions of the Flash Player. You may well try having a HTML and Flash Sections "Entry (Splash) Page" if you have a heavy movie to accommodate users on slow connections.

Make your site scalable and cross browser compatible

Making your code and design scalable pays you off well. This is crucial simply because as technology advances and configuration of computers and their monitors keep increasing and varying it becomes impossible to test your site in all screen sizes and platforms.

Also, check your site for Internet Explorer 5+, Mozilla Firefox 1.0, Opera 7.0 and Netscape Navigator 6+ as they constitute 95% of the world's browsers.

Incorporate consistency all over your website

Consistency is crucial as it could give your site a more professional look and feel, and also makes way for easy navigation. For consistency to pervade throughout your website, try using database templates to create a common look and feel for your site.

Although database template is not commonly the answer for all web sites, and may not be practical for smaller sites, it is a big help for all pages in your site to share common elements, and reflects a high degree of page-to-page consistency. The advantage arising from it is that it is all the more easier to create, and make your site consistent regardless of changes in personnel. Database templates also facilitates you to make changes to your site much more easily, and help you change certain elements without recreating the entire page from scratch

The dividends of simplicity can not be ignored

While designing a website it is important that the site is attractive, fast-loading, user friendly, focuses on your content and has a high stickiness factor to it. This is probably what it takes to be professional in appearance, high in quality, and value added in functionality. Any deviation from the cardinal principles of simplicity may well backfire, and energies so spent can go down the drain. So, miss out on the finer points of simplicity, and stay tuned to face the music.

Deepak Sharma

* title = Simplicity is the heart of effective web design
* author = Deepak Sharma
* url = www.blueappleonline.com
* dept = Graphics Web: gif/jpg, optimizers, hex color, etc.
* audience = Mac web designer or developer
* Deepak Sharma is a Web Designer at BlueApple, a Web Design and Development Company with a well connected development infrastructure in India having a strong portfolio with global clientele and offering superior web services and solutions at competitive costs.

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