Above all else, a Web site should make easily accessible the information and other resources that users want. Jakob Nielsen, who has been called one of the Web's 10 most influential people,
believes that users are
extremely goal-driven on the Web and return to Web sites which allow them to do what they want to do as quickly as possible. According to Nielsen, users return to Web sites that have the following four characteristics:
- They offer high quality content.
- They are updated frequently.
- They require minimal download time.
- They are easy to use.
The quality of the content and how often this content is updated is usually the responsibility of the business or organization with which the site is associated. The Web team is responsible for ensuring that download time is kept to a
minimum and that the site is easy to use.
Download time will depend on the number of images and the size of the Web pages, as well as on the technology running the site. Although ease of use is affected in part by the technology,
the degree to which the site is easy to use will be based on the navigational and architectural structure of the site and on the appropriateness of the signs and metaphors used.
If the visual elements are confusing, users will misuse them and feel frustrated, or even decide to stop coming to the site.
In the next lesson you will learn how to evaluate the signs and metaphors of a Web site.
The homepage must communicate in one short glance where users are, what your company does, and what users can do at your site. If your site misses the mark here, it's nearly impossible to recover.
Why should users do anything at a site if they are unable to determine what they can do there? Users must be able to satisfactorily answer the question
"What is the purpose of this site?"
In order to communicate well, homepages must give appropriate emphasis to both branding and high-priority tasks. The homepage must also have a memorable and distinct look,
so that users can recognize it as their starting place when coming from any other part of the site.