Homepage Usability Basics

Ok, so time has certainly moved on since 2001 when Jakob Nielsen published Homepage Usability [50 Websites Deconstructed]. We now have mobile devices, super fast broadband and the flash/html5 debate, but what of the statistics he gathered a decade ago, how relevant are they today?  I decided to dig out my dodgy photocopy of the middle dozen pages and decided to revisit the basics of a decade ago.

Question Answer Important
Download Time 10 Seconds Very
Page Width Average 770 but Liquid 620 to 1024 Pixels Yes
Liquid Vs Frozen Liquid Yes
Page Length 1 or 2, 3 max Yes
Frames NO Very
Logo Placement Upper Left Very
Logo Size 80 x 68 pixels Yes
Search Yes, on the homepage in a box Very
Search Placement Upper portion of the page preferably in either corner Very
Search Box COlour White Very
Search Button Call it Search or Go if you have to be different Yes
Width of Search Box 25 but 30 better Yes
Type of Search Basic but with advanced as an option Yes
Navigation Left Rail, Tabs, Top Links or Categories in the middle Yes
Footer Good for copyright and contact information Safe
Sitemap Now a fundemental for SEO. Yes
Routing Page NO Yes
Splash Page NO Very
Sign In If required call it either Your Account or Login. Safe
About the Company Essential Very
About Link Call the link About The Company Name Yes
Contact Information Provide a link and call it Contact Us Yes
Privacy Policy If you collect data then this is essential Very
Nam of Privacy Policy Link Privacy Policy Yes
Job Openings Depending on importance either Homepage or under ABout Us. Call it Jobs Yes
Help A Good site should not need Help! Safe
Help Placement Upper Right Yes
Auto Music NO Very
Animation NO Very
Graphics/Illustrations 5-15% of the homepage Safe
Advertising At most 3 Ads regardless of whether they are External or Internal Yes
Body Text Colour Black Yes
Body Text Size 12pt Yes
Body Text Size Frozen No, let people zoom Very
Body Text Typeface Sans Serif Safe
Background Color White Yes
Link Colour, unvisited Blue Yes
Link Colour, visited Purple Safe
Link Colour, different visited/unvisited Yes, with unvisited being more saturated. Very
Link Underlining Yes except in navigation bars Yes

And what’s my opinion? Well for what it’s worth I think some of these points are still relevent, we cannot forgo usability in preference of design. A site that looks good will not achieve its goals if visitors cannot get past the homepage. However, I think we must remember how far we have come in a decade and that visitor familarity with internet usage allows us as designers greater flexibity. Knowing your visitor demographic will also provide a valuable insight into what will work and what won’t. Happy Designing.