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By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2005-02-28 Print this article Print

When it comes to the design and layout of a Web site, the ultimate purpose of the site for your business plays a key role. If your site is mainly informational and is essentially a repository for press releases and basic company data, we highly recommend basing site design on the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle.

Stick with a standard left or top navigational bar and fairly sparse but clean content. This will make it easy for visitors to find information; keep it simple for almost anyone to add content to the site; and make it very adaptable to any future changes, either content- or structure-based.

The KISS philosophy is also a good way to go for sites that are selling products, be it software or physical wares. Every extra page, click, flashing ad or registration screen could be keeping a visitor from buying your products.

In these cases, you want to put as much information in the main product pages as possible. Every time you ask visitors to click deeper for extra information, youre increasing the chance that he or she will give up and go elsewhere.

The layout challenges are much greater for sites that generate revenue from Web-based ads. On these sites, page views and unique visitors rule, and theres a constant battle between the needs of advertisers and those of site visitors.

Typical mistakes on these sites include link overcrowding, where there are so many links on pages that a visitor can easily miss content theyre interested in; overzealous page breaking, where visitors are constantly viewing little snippets of content that should all be on a single page; and, of course, over-the-top advertising.

The first two problems can be fixed easily with good planning and research and a healthy dose of common sense. If a big advertiser wants to run an ad that crawls across the Web page or uses annoying pop-ups, it can be hard to say no. But the ramifications of such decisions can be very negative and long-lasting for both the advertiser and the Web site. Recent studies have shown that when visitors are annoyed by an intrusive advertisement, they have negative views of both the site and the advertiser and often stop going to that site.

We recommend working with advertisers to develop ads that are dynamic enough for their needs without intruding on the site real estate that visitors are viewing.

Today, there is almost no excuse for creating a site that is viewable only in Microsoft Corp.s Internet Explorer. Nearly all Web authoring tools are now heavily based on Web standards, making it much easier to build pages using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), XHTML (Extensible HTML) and other key Web standards that will be viewable in all Web browsers.

On the server side, most CMSes and portals are based on common technologies such as Java, PHP and .Net, making it easy to build custom templates and site layouts and to move between servers and systems.

In the end, common sense is the most effective tool in good site design. Trust your instincts and the comments of your associates and users. Unlike your physical offices, nothing is set in concrete. Dont be afraid to admit when mistakes are made and to quickly fix those mistakes.

Designing for accessibility

A core segment of visitors simply wants Web site content to be accessible to them. The World Wide Webs Web Accessibility Initiative ( has created standards and guidelines for creating accessible sites. The forthcoming Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 sets forth several guidelines for creating accessible Web content:

  • Providealternatives for all nontext content
  • Ensurethat information, functionality and structure are separable from presentation
  • Make it easyto distinguish foreground information from background images or sounds
  • Make all functionality operablevia a keyboard interface
  • For the full guidelines list, go to Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at

    Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in Web services.

Jim Rapoza, Chief Technology Analyst, eWEEK.For nearly fifteen years, Jim Rapoza has evaluated products and technologies in almost every technology category for eWEEK. Mr Rapoza's current technology focus is on all categories of emerging information technology though he continues to focus on core technology areas that include: content management systems, portal applications, Web publishing tools and security. Mr. Rapoza has coordinated several evaluations at enterprise organizations, including USA Today and The Prudential, to measure the capability of products and services under real-world conditions and against real-world criteria. Jim Rapoza's award-winning weekly column, Tech Directions, delves into all areas of technologies and the challenges of managing and deploying technology today.

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