It is important to design your site from a user-centered perspective, not an institutionally-centered or departmentally-centered perspective. Some rules of web design courtesy:
- Assume that your users do not know who you are, how your department or area functions, and what your organizational structure is. Do not assume any institutional knowledge. Constantly consider what the users of your site will want and expect. Conduct basic usability testing on your site by working with people from your expected audience (people who do not know what you know about your area or department).
- Make sure your users know what to expect. If your site has links, clearly indicate that they are links (the best way to do this in text is to retain the underlining convention). If a link on your site will cause the user to download a PDF file or Word document or other file, tell the user that the link leads to a download. If the user will need certain technologies to view or navigation particular components of your site (make careful decisions about this), indicate this information clearly.
- While navigation is critical, you should not force users to accommodate your navigational structure. A good navigational structure will be the basis by which many users obtain what they want from your site. Still, some users will encounter your site through entrances other than your home page (such as by using a search engine), and some users have navigational habits (such as the back button) that are part of common expectations. Give your users navigational choices. Do not require them to use a specific browser or any non-standard technology. Let them know where they are. Make information and resources easy to find.
- Do not force your visitors to accommodate both horizontal and vertical scrolling. In general, horizontal scrolling is denigrated. Try to design your pages to fit the general screen width that monitors and browsers accommodate.
- Follow established guidelines for professional presentation--no flashing .gifs, no blinking text, no super-saturated colors, no huge or tiny text sizes, no looped sound files, etc. Do not use automated popup windows (link-based popup windows are fine).