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Design Process - Part 3
Defining Good Design

There are two main standpoints from which most people determine whether a web site design is “good” or “bad.” There’s a strict usability standpoint, which focuses on functionality, the effective presentation of information, and efficiency.

Then there’s the purely aesthetic perspective, which is all about presentation, hot animations, and sexy graphics. Some designers get caught up in the aesthetics and graphics and forget about the user, and some usability gurus get lost in their user testing and forget about visual appeal. In order to reach people and retain their interest, it’s essential to maximize both.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that design is about communication. If you create a web site that works and presents information well, but looks ugly or doesn’t fit with the client’s brand, no one will want to use it. Similarly, if you make a beautiful web site that isn’t usable and accessible, people may not be able to use it. Indeed, the elements and functionality of a finished web site design should work as a single cohesive unit, so that:
Users are pleased by the design but drawn to the content

One of the biggest concerns among usability professionals is the time it takes users to scan the page for the information they want, be it a piece of content, a link to another page, or a form field. The design should not be a hindrance; it should act as a conduit between the user and the information.

Users can move about easily via intuitive navigation

We’ll talk more about the placement of navigation later, but the main navigation block itself should be clearly visible on the page, and each link should have a descriptive title. A navigation structure that not only changes appearance on mouse hover, but also indicates the active page or section, as does the menu shown, helps users recognise where they are, and how to get where they want to go.

Secondary navigation, search fields, and outgoing links should not be dominant features of the page. If we make these items easy to find, and separate them visually from the content, we allow users to focus on the information, though they’ll know where to look when they’re ready to move on to other content.

Users recognise each page as belonging to the site

Even if there’s a dramatic difference between the layout of the homepage and the rest of the site, a cohesive theme or style should exist across all the pages of a site to help hold the design together.
Webnetics UK Ltd.

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