Get the fundermentals right

Paul Boag

Sometimes we get so carried away with the latest technology or the new approach to marketing online that we can forget the fundermentals. Here are just ten of the basic principles that should underpin every site.

Who you are

Place your name and logo on every page and make the logo a link to the home page.

Provide search if the site has more than 100 pages.

Facilitate scanning

Structure the page to facilitate scanning and help users ignore large chunks of the page in a single glance: for example, use grouping and subheadings to break a long list into several smaller units.

Use linking

Instead of cramming everything about a product or topic into a single, infinite page, use hypertext to structure the content space into a starting page that provides an overview and several secondary pages that each focus on a specific topic. The goal is to allow users to avoid wasting time on those subtopics that don’t concern them.

Images and thumbnails

Use product photos , but avoid cluttered and bloated product family pages with lots of photos. Instead have a small photo on each of the individual product pages and link the photo to one or more bigger ones that show as much detail as users need. This varies depending on type of product. Some products may even need zoomable or rotatable photos, but reserve all such advanced features for the secondary pages. The primary product page must be fast and should be limited to a thumbnail shot.

Compress images

Use relevance-enhanced image reduction when preparing small photos and images: instead of simply resizing the original image to a tiny and unreadable thumbnail, zoom in on the most relevant detail and use a combination of cropping and resizing.

Use link titles to provide users with a preview of where each link will take them, before they have clicked on it.


Ensure that all pages are accessible for users with disabilities and those using older technology. Disabled users in the UK alone have a spending power of £50 billion.

Don’t be too original

Do the same as everybody else : if most big websites do something in a certain way, then follow along since users will expect things to work the same on your site. Remember Jakob’s Law of the Web User Experience : users spend most of their time on other sites, so that’s where they form their expectations for how the Web works.

Usability testing

Finally, always test your design with real users as a reality check. People do things in odd and unexpected ways, so even the most carefully planned project will learn from usability testing.