One of the most important cardinal rules of functional, good web design, is if you have to explain how your navigation works… it’s a good sign you don’t have good navigation. Web site navigation should first above all, function, cause if it does not function it is useless and people will not stay on a web site for more than a few moments if they cant navigate easily. Make your navigation simple and elegant, don’t waste peoples time and patience with a bunch of useless Flash animation or disappearing links.
Have a clear naming or “branding” of each section of your web site. Don’t confuse your visitors. Let them know what section of the site they are in at all times because what is common sense to you, will certainly not be common sense to everyone else. All of us are, after all, individuals and we all think differently about each situation.
Audio, please oh please if you absolutely MUST insist on putting audio on your site, at the very least please provide a way to turn it off. There is nothing more annoying than audio on a page that you can’t stop. I just leave the website rather than sit through the interruption of some cheesy beat or one of those really annoying talking robot heads. When I am listing to satellite radio I don’t want some alien sound destroying my net surfing Zen.
Most people in Western culture read from left to right, which means the natural tendency when someone lands on your homepage is to scan from the top left and continue from there. This is also true with navigation, put your most important sections of your site on the left side of your horizontal nav-bar or on the top of your vertical nav-bars. People don’t want to see “Home” and “About Us” as the first links, no one cares…. at first. Give them the value, give them the bread and butter of your site… first. After they are satisfied with the meal, they will head on over to the “About” page for the desert, or the icing on the cake to seal the deal. Don’t spoil peoples’ appetites by putting something in their way that they didn’t come to your site looking for in the first place.
No one likes an ugly web site, but what people don’t like even more than an ugly web site, is a non-functioning web site. My final cardinal rule of good web design is the philosophy that every web site should look as good as it functions. Top shelf functionality will breed top shelf design, it’s the nature of good web design.