“Web Design” – what does that mean? Web design encompasses more than the artistic aspects of the subject. It’s important that students of Web Design and Development understand the starting point of creating an effective and meaningful web site is not aesthetics.

A good refresher course on this point can be found at Stefan Mischook’s blog “The Three Critical Aspects of a Website.” http://www.killersites.com/magazine/2008/the-three-critical-aspects-of-a-website/ Mischook reminds us that “Content is King,” followed by ease of use, and finally design aesthetics.

Putting priority on the content of a site may seem like a no-brainer. But, how many of us have found a web site that blows us away in its artistic quality only to find that we spent most of our time looking for the navigation? There is no use in a web site that buries its navigation and main content in pretty pictures and impressive Flash presentations. Users should be able to go to the home page of a site and never need to use the scroll bar.

Mischook expands on the “Content is King” concept by adding that the content of a site should be interesting and useful and it should drive the structure of the entire site. Content is also the main force behind the technology choices and overall layout of the site.

Ease of use might also seem like an obvious point. But, again, there are far too many sites on the web that completely abandon the user experience in their structure. The less time the user has to spend looking for what they need, the more time they are likely to spend on a particular site. The easiest to use websites draw the most hits because they implement the very concept behind why we have the web: Easy and readily available access to information and services. The worse thing a designer could do to the user is force him or her to waste their time while on a web site. It defeats the very purpose of having one.

Once these first two concepts are given priority, the designer can add the bells and whistles. Go to town with the “look” of your site. Get crazy and uber creative. But, never, ever lose sight of those first two points. Because, in the end, if your client has a stunning website that no one visits and thus never recommends, you might meet a similar fate.

Here are a couple of other sites I found helpful and interesting: