1. Homepage Substance
Your homepage must explain who you are, what you do, and why you are better than your competitors. Then, give people leads to other pages for more details.
2. Obvious Organization
Establish a clear navigation scheme and stick to it. Make sure that links are recognizable as links and that visited links change color. Always provide an easy way for people to return to your homepage in case they get lost.
3. Purposeful Pictures
Show photos of your products or services. Use graphs to clarify detailed information. Associate related information with basic shapes, lines, and arrows.
4. Robust Links
Provide enough context around links so people will feel confident of where they are going before they click. Explain any potential surprises like large downloads and links that don't go to another of your pages.
5. Tight Edits
Text online should be about 50% of the size of the same text on paper. Remove extraneous words and phrases. Then, go over it again and cut some more. People skim sites instead of reading them.
6. Human Help
Provide multiple ways for people to reach you if they need help. You may be able to turn an unhappy visitor into a paying customer, but only if they can contact you easily.
7. User Focus
Explain the benefits of your products/services/organization to your visitors. Make sure the features you describe are clearly tied to real needs. People expect free content on websites. Use yours to provide extra information, compare products, and make choices.
8. Splash Pages
Don't make people wait to enter your site. Even if you think your intro is unbelievably cool, most people have a life and want to get on with it.
You can't avoid this edict by having a "click here to skip the intro" link. You are still annoying people by making them wait and work harder to do what they came for.
9. Sound Surprises
Unless the purpose of your site is entertainment, don't even think about having sounds jump out at your users. It's always startling and can be embarrassing for those who don't want to be overheard surfing--like office workers.
10. Cartoon Mania
Moving objects attract attention. People frequently cannot read what is on the screen while something jumps around. Unless you are the Cartoon Network or are actually trying to demonstrate how to do something useful, don't make anything move. Not even for the first 10 seconds. Not even once.
11. Busy Backgrounds
Graphics in the background are inherently distracting and make it difficult for people to comprehend your site. Repurpose a graphical background as a header or border instead.
12. Gratuitous Graphics
If you think your site needs lots of pictures, think again. The most popular sites on the web have lots of text and minimal graphics. If a picture doesn't serve a purpose, take it out.
13. Content Jungles
Don't make people feel like they need a machete to hack through your site. Follow these principles:
a) Organize your content into categories that are clearly labeled and distinct from each other.
b) Remove elements that don't clearly relate to your site. For example, if you are not a weather or travel-related site, don't show the current temperature.
c) Edit all text into bite-sized chunks, add subheadings, and convert text to bullets wherever feasible.
14. Nosy Questions
People will leave a site when asked for too much personal information. If you ask for information and the reason isn't obvious, explain the benefit to the user on the page. If there is no benefit to the user, watch them click away to another site.
15. Homepages don't have to attract attention
Homepages are not TV advertisements or magazine covers. To see your homepage, a visitor has already selected your site to accomplish a goal. Design elements that help them achieve their goals succeed. Others are simply distractions.
16. All pages on a website don't have to be accessible within three clicks
The so-called "3 clicks" rule does not hold up under testing. On the contrary, as long as visitors feel that they are getting closer to their goal, they don't mind clicking long paths through websites. It's much more important to have navigation that makes sense to people than a shallow site structure.
17. Focus groups don't choose good web designs
Showing your design around for opinions doesn't work. Inevitably, the "coolest" design wins. These designs are frequently unusable. Have people do real tasks with several designs before selecting one.
18. A website is not a brochure put online
Typical marketing materials are not directly transferable to the web. People expect a more informative tone and less marketing hype. All copy should be edited before posting.
19. White space does not improve page readability
White space is used in paper documents to surround large chunks of text and provide rest for readers' eyes. Since people skim websites rather than read them, white space is much less necessary.
20. Website visitors scroll
People will scroll when it's clear that there is value in doing so. Provide good content and people will scroll down to get it--case in point, this paragraph. However, no one likes to scroll horizontally--the page size width should fit typical window sizes.
21. There are standards on the web
Standards are solidifying and users expect them. For example, people look for the company logo and name on the top left of the screen and contact information at the bottom. Ignoring conventions jeopardizes visitor success.