Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Monday, September 13, 2004

Design Conventions: Why Standardizing Web Design Is Important

Web site designers build components of a whole.

This is really the essence of this valuable article by Jakob Nielsen preaching the relevance of more standardization in the design of Web sites, to facilitate the user in finding the information being seeked while not having to waste time in learning diverse content structures and navigation metaphors at each site.

"We must eliminate confusing design elements and move as far as possible into the realm of design conventions.

Even better, we should establish design standards for every important website task.

Standards ensure that users:

  • know what features to expect,

  • know how these features will look in the interface,

  • know where to find these features on the site and on the page,

  • know how to operate each feature to achieve their goal,

  • don't have to ponder the meaning of unknown design elements,

  • don't miss important features because they overlook a non-standard design element, and

  • don't get nasty surprises when something doesn't work as expected.

These benefits increase users' sense of mastery over the website, increase their ability to get things done, and increase their overall satisfaction with the experience.

Several design elements are common enough that users expect them to work in a certain way. These standard design elements include:

  • A logo in the upper left corner of the page
  • A search box on the homepage
  • An absence of splash pages
  • Breadcrumbs listed horizontally
  • Using the label "site map" for the site map (which is recommended from user research on site map usability)
  • Changing the color of visited links (recommended to help navigation)
  • Placing the shopping cart link in the upper right corner of page
  • Placing links to sibling areas (neighboring topics at the same information architecture level as the current location) in the left-hand column

According to Jakob Nielsen, one of the world's authority on corporate Web usability, design standards help users navigate and find information as they move rapidly across different Web sites, as they are relieved from having to learn anew each site communication paradigm as they jump from one to the next.

As people spend most of their time by navigating "other" people Web sites, it is just common sense to follow main trends and conventions.

It is a common fault to end up offering exclusively an aesthetic/artistic dimension while providing a highly frustrating experience for information seekers.

"In visiting all these other sites, people become accustomed to the prevailing design standards and conventions. Thus, when users arrive at your site, they assume it will work the same way as other sites.

In our Web 2004 project, users left websites after 1 minute and 49 seconds on average, concluding in that time that the website didn't fulfill their needs.

With so little time to convince prospects that you're worthy of their business, you shouldn't waste even a second making them struggle with a deviant user interface.

...It's of course important to differentiate your content, services, and products, but in the interface to this material, your best strategy is to follow everyone else.

..The entire concept of "Web design" is a misnomer.

Individual project teams are not designing the Web any more than individual ants are designing an anthill.

Site designers build components of a whole, especially now that users are viewing the entirety of the Web as a single, integrated resource."

Recommended reading.



Jaob Nielsen -
Reference: Alertbox [ Read more ]
Readers' Comments    
blog comments powered by Disqus
posted by Robin Good on Monday, September 13 2004, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.




Real Time Web Analytics