The Sizzle and The Steak

10 Simple Rules of web design:

  1. Quick to load: Pages (especially the home page) should load in 5 seconds or less, even on a dial-up modem.
  2. Quick to understand: The user should understand what a company does -- and whether its something he needs -- within 5 seconds
  3. Easy to navigate: Logical structure, and clear labeling.
  4. Useful Content: The user is looking for answers. Give them.
  5. Compatibility: Pages should adhere to standards and work on all browsers, including older versions on slower computers.
  6. Multimedia with a purpose: Use of audio, video, and interactive multimedia should be used only when it serves a purpose, never just for the sake of design.
  7. Flash and Frames: Use of Flash™ and the use of frames prevent can search engines from being able to find the content of your page. Fewer people find you. Also, people can't bookmark specific content within your page. Use them only when they serve a purpose.
  8. Universal accessibility: Design sites to be used by all people. Text-based content, use of ALT tags, and well thought-out layout all support compatibility with speech programs for the blind.
  9. Search Engine Optimization: The days are gone when piling keywords in META tags would help you rank on search engines. Today the rules are much more complicated. There are ever-changing ways to boost your placement in search engines, but the best method remains the same: have lots of relevant, well-written content on your site.
  10. Make it look good: Sure, usability comes first. But its gotta look professional!

The old maxim from the world of advertising tells us “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.” But on the web, users are hungry for steak

People go to the web looking for answers. They go to the web looking for information. And they want to be able to find it. They have specific questions. If the answers aren’t there, if the answers aren’t fast, and if the answers aren’t easy to find, they’re going to go to someone else’s site for the answers. And someone else is going to get their business.

A truly useful site will be remembered, will be bookmarked, and will be visited again. People will tell other people, and add links from their own sites. More people will use the site. And users will become customers.

But sizzle is important too. The best sites are an effective mix of steak and sizzle. Attractive, innovative design helps communicate a level of professionalism. But sizzle should never get in the way of making the site useful, easy to use, and quick to view.