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Billboard Design 101

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Break up pages into clearly defined areas

Ideally, users should be able to play a version of Dick Clark's old game show $25,000 Pyramid with any well-designed Web page.2 Glancing around, they should be able to point at the different areas of the page and say, "Things I can do on this site!" "Links to today's top stories!" "Products this company sells!" "Things they're eager to sell me!" "Navigation to get to the rest of the site!"

Dividing the page into clearly defined areas is important because it allows users to decide quickly which areas of the page to focus on and which areas they can safely ignore. Several of the initial eye-tracking studies of Web page scanning suggest that users decide very quickly which parts of the page are likely to have useful information and then almost never look at the other parts—almost as though they weren't there.

  1. Given a category like "Things a plumber uses," contestants would have to get their partners to guess the category by giving examples ("a wrench, a pipe cutter, pants that won't stay up...").
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