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10 Principles of Basic Web Design

Rules of Thumb for Every Association Website

Whether your local Association website is large or small, there are some basic rules of design you should follow.

1. Homepage should illustrate top priorities and variety. The primary goal of your homepage is to highlight new information and top priorities. Take care to ensure that your homepage has a clear hierarchy: visitors know what is most important but also have enough variety to find what they’re looking for.

2. Design for the reader. The vast majority of visitors to your website will want to find specific information quickly and easily. Organize and label sections of your site that facilitate their task-oriented needs.

3.  Provide consistent navigation. Once you have settled on the main sections and labels for you site, keep them consistent throughout the site: the colors, labels and location of the site’s navigation should remain exactly the same on each and every page of your site.

4. Orient visitors in the site. Visitors don’t want to feel lost. Let them know where they are, where they’ve been and where they should go next. Providing consistent navigation is a good start. Providing highly visible sub-navigation and page titles is also a must.

5. Site visitors don’t read; they scan. Make liberal use of sub-headings, bold text, and bullet items to facilitate scanning.

6. Page titles should be simple, descriptive and unique. Visitors don’t want to be surprised or confused about an article’s contents. A strong page title tells the exactly what they’re going to get – and will help them decide if they should read more or move on.

7. Follow web conventions. Over time, web users come to expect certain conventions – for example, that key navigation is either at the top of the page or on the left side. Do not avoid these conventions just to be different or unique. Instead, follow these conventions. Predictability will help ensure that your visitors find what they’re looking for quickly and easily.

8. Keep graphics simple. Great design doesn’t need fancy graphics. Visitors come to your site to find information, not to admire the design. Graphics should facilitate task completion, not obscure it or detract from it.

9. Use images of real members. Pictures – whether for you website or your e-newsletter – should illustrate and enhance the story or message. Real people, and not models in stock photos, will help readers understand and connect with your message.

10. Include a Contact Us page. Include a link (usually) in the site’s footer to a Contact Us page, which provides multiple ways for site users to contact you: via snail mail, email and phone.