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Web Page Litmus Tests

By Stefene Russell
Posted Thursday, December 2, 2004

We all have myopia when it comes to our own projects, and web sites are no different. Why use rainbow fun fonts, neon wallpaper and spastic animated GIFs when you find them highly obnoxious on other sites? The cause may be the mystery of human nature, but the answer is pretty simple: take a fearless inventory.

The next time you get ambitious and decide to revamp your site, try this little exercise. Sit down and surfbut bring a notebook and a pen. Write down anything that elicits an emotional response, even if it’s just slight annoyance. For example: “Pixelated-looking unicorn image with rainbow mane, blinking title that I can’t read, and text pushed all the way down at the bottom of the page. Felt very grouchy… and left the site ASAP.” Chances are, the things that turn you off are things that turn everyone off. So make a nice long list. Okay? Now go back, and turn an objective eye to your own site. See what mistakes you’re making, and try to correct them. Some common problems include:

--Coding problems: your text is wrapping this way and that, or your images are stretched or distorted

--Copy problems: awkward, confusing sentences; spelling, grammar or punctuation errors

--Design problems: too many images, blinking fonts, too much text crammed on one page

--Organizational problems: users can’t figure out how to get to the relevant information, or even worse, can’t even figure out what the topic of the page is supposed to be

Another quick litmus test is to remember who your audience is. If this is a business web site, then treat it that way. You wouldn’t print your resume on shocking pink paper using some goofy font, and you wouldn’t show up to a job interview in acid green trousers and clown shoes. Though there’s a little more leeway in web site design, you still want to come across as competent and professional. That means purging your site of all copy errors, using clean, legible images and fixing any strange coding quirk as soon as you see it. After all, how is a customer supposed to trust you with a product if your website is a mess? As for acid green, well, I think the jury’s still out on that oneif you do decide to use it, use it wisely!

About the Author
WHAT MAKES USERS CLICK? Expert Stefene Russell will do a complete analysis of your site, including personalized tips on copy and design. Whether you're an e-business or a content provider, find out how to make your site professional and effective. Get Stefene's free web site tips newsletter at ( Reach her at or 801-328-9006


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