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Simple seems best for website design

BUSINESSES should stick to the basics when designing their website and let others make the mistakes, according to the founder and director of a Melbourne-based online media firm.

Eager Beaver Media director Natasha Wood, in Perth last week to speak at the Public Relations Institute of Australia national conference, said businesses should favour text over flashy graphics and concentrate on the useability of the site.

“Users these days want sites that are easy, simple and fast,” she said. “Forget using flash animation and graphics, keep it simple.”

Ms Wood said useability should be one the most important aspects when designing or upgrading a website.

“If you look at Amazon.com, they have spent millions and millions looking after their users. They may not be perfect, but they do focus heavily on useability,” she said.

Ms Wood said dot.com websites had made the mistake of including flash animation and audio and video streaming.

However, recent research had showed visitors were not prepared to wait for the pages to load. The average user considered five seconds an acceptable download time, but thought eight seconds was too long.

Ms Wood suggested that text-based websites were the most effective in getting their public relations message across to visitors. The pages were quicker to download and users were more likely to find the information they were looking for.

“If I had my way about websites I’d just have text,” she said.

“If I wanted to see pictures I’d go to an art gallery.

“The only exception to this would be if you are selling products on the site, but even then you don’t have to show every product you’ve got.

“Perhaps just a taste of your product range.”

Ms Wood said navigation also was important and web designers should consider the ‘Dorothy factor’, that is, allowing visitors to get back to the home page no matter how deep into the site they may be.

“You need to have a link to home on every page so if the user thinks ‘I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore Toto’, they can go back to the beginning very quickly,” she said.

“You need to design the site for the user, not your organisation. It’s not good enough if the CEO is happy with the look and feel of the website.”

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