Too many businesses hire a web designer to create a masterpiece of wonder. The functionality is just okay, but the graphics are beautiful. Sure, that's great, but if you're interested in a web site that works hard for your business, here is a nice checklist of things to be aware of from usability specialist Steve Krug.
1. "Don't make me think." Krug says that "Most people are quite willing and able to think when it's necessary, but making them do it when there's nothing in it for them (other than compensating for your failure to sort things out properly) tends to be annoying."
2. "Keep me in mind at all times. Always make it easy for me to figure out where I am in your scheme of things. One of the best ways to do this is to give each page a name that tells me what's there, and display it prominently, near the top of the page."
3. "Keep the navigation in the same place on every page, so I don't have to go looking for it."
4. "Try not to overwhelm me with options. If you have a lot of content, organize the options into logical groups to make it seem like there are fewer of them."
5. "Organize the site according to what your users are going to be looking for, not according to your corporate org chart, or even according to your business priorities—unless they happen to coincide with your users' interests."
Krug's book Don't Make Me Think focuses on web usability and is a helpful print guide for anyone who updates web sites on a regular basis, whether for profit (if you're reading this for your business) and for information purposes only.
From Amazon.com "The title of the book is its chief personal design premise. All of the tips, techniques, and examples presented revolve around users being able to surf merrily through a well-designed site with minimal cognitive strain. Readers will quickly come to agree with many of the book's assumptions, such as ‘We don't read pages–we scan them' and ‘We don't figure out how things work–we muddle through.' Coming to grips with such hard facts sets the stage for Web design that then produces topnotch sites.
"Using an attractive mix of full-color screen shots, cute Cartoons and diagrams, and informative sidebars, the book keeps your attention and drives home some crucial points. Much of the content is devoted to proper use of conventions and content layout, and the ‘before and after' examples are superb. Topics such as the wise use of rollovers and usability testing are covered using a consistently practical approach.
"This is the type of book you can blow through in a couple of evenings. But despite its conciseness, it will give you an expert's ability to judge Web design. You'll never form a first impression of a site in the same way again."