Scrolling news ticker…Spinning logos…Frames…Beveled Buttons…Pictures…Splash page…Music…Banner ads…3D elements. None of these things is inherently bad. The problem arises when they are used just because they can be, rather than because they should be. Part of the Web developer’s job is to make users’ lives easier, not harder. So, here are some guidelines for using visual elements to make a site more usable
Principles for Web Design
1. Graphics. Graphic images on a Web site are sometimes used for decoration, other times as action-objects or for navigation. But it’s usually impossible to tell the function of a graphic just by looking at the screen. And most users still don’t sweep the screen to see what’s clickable. Users must be able to determine at a glance what they can and cannot do. Navigation buttons should look clickable and non-navigation objects should not. Similarly, text should not be underlined unless it is a hyperlink or it will create expectations Principles for Web Design that won’t be met. Also, because the Internet crosses cultural and national boundaries, be careful with the use of icons, which can be misunderstood or easily misinterpreted.
2. Text. It’s not true that people don’t read online; if the content is compelling, they’ll read it. Make it even easier to read by organizing text into small, digestible pieces using a hierarchy that is meaningful to the user. Provide clues to help users find the information they want by scanning rather than reading.
3. Layout. Nobody deliberately creates a cluttered page – it just happens when the focus is on all the different goals a particular page is meant to achieve. A well-organized interface that supports the user’s tasks becomes transparent and allows the user to work efficiently. But what does it take to create a simple and uncluttered page? The first step is to understand the importance of the users’ tasks, establish a visual hierarchy of these tasks and make the most important elements the most visually prominent. Basic functions should be immediately apparent, while advanced functions may be less obvious to new users, all the while keeping the number of Principles for Web Design objects and actions to a minimum. (Simplicity is not so simple.) Reduce clutter by eliminating any visual element that doesn’t contribute directly to visual communication, such as decorative graphics. Graphics should be used instead to illustrate, inform, and aid in navigation. Use white space to provide visual “breathing room, ” to visually organize the page, to emphasize important elements, and to give users’ eyes a rest. Also, easier on the eyes are invisible table lines (also white space) instead of visible lines. And if you must use lines, use light, thin or dotted ones.