In 1999, a professor with the University of Saskatchewan conducted a survey to see which web design elements were the most important to viewers. The four elements that topped the list were site navigation, page layout, content and loading speed. While the internet has evolved beyond our wildest dreams at that time, these four web design elements have remained just as critical to a good design today as they were a decade ago.
Site organization was the most critical, according to the original survey, and this is still the most important factor in modern web design. To keep readers on your website for more than a few seconds you must offer a clear and consistent structure to your site. This includes a navigation system that is logically sequenced, with the same icons used throughout the site. You want to make it easy for the reader to find the information that they are looking for.
Page layout not only helps keep the site organization consistent, it is also the design element that makes the page pleasing to the eye. There are many parts to consider in good page layout. Things like color, location of graphics or images and white space composition are a large factor in whether a web design is visually appealing. Your page layout should be similar throughout the site to give your web design a cohesive, professional feel.
Content is king in the internet world – if anything, this is more important today then it was then as there are so many more sites competing for an audience. The content on your page is what keeps the reader on site longer and returning more often. A good web design includes solid, up-to-date information that is presented in a way that will engage the reader. Fresh content is also very important to keep readers coming back to your site. If the content has not changed in years, why would anyone want to return?
The final element that people said was very important to them was in page loading speed. While more people do have high speed connections now compared to ten years ago, there is still a large number of internet surfers who are stuck in dial-up. The more graphics you add to your web design or other bandwidth-hogging elements, the slower the page will load. Most internet surfers do not have the patience to wait for all those flash intros and java applets so guess what happens? They click the little "x" up in the corner of the page and they're gone.
Some things never change and these four elements of web design are just as crucible today as they were years ago. A good web design allows the reader to find what they want quickly and easily. The page layout is pleasant to look at and has the same feel to it through the site. The content is engaging, informational and updated on a regular basis. All pages load quickly even if the viewer is not using broadband. All of these elements work together in giving the viewer the best experience possible. Is not that what good web design is all about?