Seventeen thousand people a month check out the list of design don'ts posted on the Web site of usability guru Jakob Nielsen, PhD, author of "Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity" (New Riders, 1999).

To Nielsen, that's not enough. Designers are still making mistakes. And with so many sites to choose from, users won't stick around if a site's not easy to use. To ensure that doesn't happen, Nielsen recommends the following:

  • Don't ignore the design conventions the Web has developed to help users navigate. Sites should include logos linked to home pages in their upper-left corners, for instance. Pages should include information about how they fit into sections. Links should be blue, then change to red or purple to help users keep track of where they've been.

  • Remember that the latest bells and whistles--what Nielsen calls "bleeding edge technology"--can slow things down and even crash systems. What's more, users now associate movement with advertising and ignore it.

  • Keep text simple. Only 16 percent of users actually do word-by-word reading, Nielsen has found. Keywords, lists and an inverted style with conclusions on top all help.

--R. CLAY

Further Reading

For more information, visit Nielsen's Web site at www.useit.com.