The 10 Commandments of Web Design
1. Thou shalt not abuse Flash.
Adobe's (ADBE) popular Web animation technology powers everything from the much-vaunted Nike (NKE) Plus Web site for running diehards to many humdrum banner advertisements. But the technology can easily be abused—excessive, extemporaneous animations confuse usability and bog down users' Web browsers.
2. Thou shalt not hide content.
Advertisements may be necessary for a site's continued existence, but usability researchers say pop-ups and full-page ads that obscure content hurt functionality—and test a reader's willingness to revisit. Elective banners—that expand or play audio when a user clicks on them—are much less intrusive.
3. Thou shalt not clutter.
The Web may be the greatest archive of all time, but sites that lack a coherent structure make it impossible to wade through information. Amazon.com (AMZN) and others put their sites' information hierarchy at the top of their list of design priorities.
4. Thou shalt not overuse glassy reflections.
Apple (AAPL) often sets the standard for slick and cool—in all forms of design. But some experts say the company's habit of creating glassy reflections under photos of its products has been far too commonly copied, turning the style element into a cliché.
5. Thou shalt not name your Web 2.0 company with an unnecessary surplus or dearth of vowels.
The Web has brought with it a strange nomenclature that's only got weirder over time. Hip, smart Web sites have been named either with a superfluous number of vowels or strategically deleted ones. Cases in point: Flickr, Smibs, and Meebo. These names are memorable but destined to sound dated.
6. Thou shalt worship at the altar of typography.
Designers say that despite the increase in broadband penetration, plain text has gotten a second wind in cutting-edge Web design. Mainstream sites such as Craigslist have led the way, while designer-oriented sites such as Coudal Partners and John Gruber's popular Daring Fireball blog represent the cutting edge.
7. Thou shalt create immersive experiences.
Merely looking good doesn't cut it anymore. Sites like Facebook and YouTube draw in users with compelling content and functionality. Creating Web sites that can capture and hold users' attention is what matters most.
8. Thou shalt be social.
Web 2.0 is everywhere. MySpace (NWS) and similar sites only launched the trend of having users communicate and interact—sometimes obsessively—on browser-based sites. Designers are now filtering those same elements into diverse sites, from smart advertising to online office productivity.
9. Thou shalt embrace proven technologies.
Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, and their cohorts have become a part of daily life. Sites that can incorporate these elements into their design will connect with users in a meaningful way by providing functionality and an interface with which they're already familiar.
10. Thou shalt make content king.
Though the slogan is old, it still stands. Aesthetic design can only go so far in making a site successful. Beautiful can't make up for empty.