Web design trends change so quickly it can be hard to keep track of what is hot and what is not. Here is a summary of the latest best practices in web design.

1. Remember - content is king
When creating a website, most of the attention focuses on the design and layout. However, it is equally important to make sure you have quality content as well as quality design. According to recent research by web content expert, Jakob Nielsen, one of the most common problems reported was that many websites do not contain the information users need.

2. Keep the design simple
The days of all singing, all dancing websites crammed full of animations and gimmicks are firmly in the past. The current trend is for clean, unfussy websites which are simple to use and contain relevant, up-to-date content.

3 . Keep your content up-to-date
Once your website is up and running, it's tempting to leave it as it is. But you should plan to review your website, at least every month or two, and check that the information is still current. Out-of-date information and broken links do not give a good impression. Keep customers coming back to your site by regularly updating your web content.

4. Have good internal navigation
Users want to be able to find what they are looking for on your site without having to click through too many pages. Plan your site so that each page is accessible within two or three clicks from the home page. It sounds obvious, but make sure you help visitors find their way around your site by using the same navigation menu on each new page.

5. Website usability
The latest buzzword for websites is "usability". It is used to describe the ease with which visitors can use a website. Jakob Nielsen, web usability guru, says that the most important factor in ensuring your site has good "usability" is to get it tested by real customers. He suggests giving them a list of the main reasons for a customer to visit your site, and then asking them to complete a few relevant tasks, whether it be to make a purchase, subscribe to a newsletter, or learn about a topic. Get them to report back afterwards, and note down any problems they encounter.

6. Choose colours with care
All websites need to use colour, but the best advice is to pick a trio of colours which complement your business message, and stick to them. Use these same colours for the different elements on each page of your site. Do not introduce new colour schemes on each new page.

The same goes for background colours, choose wisely as patterned backgrounds can make your text very difficult to read. Users report particular problems with coloured text on a patterned background - best avoided at all costs.

7. Check for cross-browser compatibility
Just because you use Internet Explorer, it does not mean that everyone else does. Make sure you check your site in other browsers, as they can render pages in different ways. Internet Explorer is losing market share as Firefox and Opera become increasingly popular.

8. Quality check your content
Well-edited content passes unnoticed, but grammatical errors and spelling mistakes stick out like a sore thumb. Don't allow your web copy to let you down. Use Amberweb UK's copy-editing and proof-reading services to make sure your content is up to scratch.

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This site is copyright E J Cooper t/a Amberweb UK, Surrey. Last updated 2 February 2010.
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