Quick and easy

Sometimes the Web is about entertainment. But more often, it's about finding what you want and moving on. Many sites would do well to keep that in mind. Almost 70 percent of consumers recently polled by Jupiter Research said they leave Web sites when they can't quickly find what they're looking for; likewise, they don't have patience for disorganization or unnecessary bells and whistles.

In fact, most consumers can't take advantage of enhanced Web site designs. According to Nielsen NetRatings, little more than 1 in 10 US households online access the Web through a high-speed connection - a necessity for viewing streaming files and other graphically intensive features. And 84 percent of users say that slow download times, which are magnified by graphics and animation files, send them away. That's more than the percent of Net users who bail because they can't find what they're looking for.

What's more, use of high screen resolution and color settings has declined in the past year. Only about 32 percent of Net users configure their monitors to take advantage of the 16 million colors potentially available, according to MyComputer.com. Last year, 35 percent of users set their monitors to display that number of colors. Where resolution is concerned, most Net users keep their settings in the midrange level of 800 by 600 pixels.

"A user needs from a Web site only what that site does best and most often," says Edward Guttman, lead designer at Web development company Viant. "Only if you can prove that users will get added value through enhanced site features are they worthwhile."

Keeping design simple trims building and managing costs. And that may be good news for businesses looking to pinch a few pennies as they build or redesign their sites. Last year 61 percent of Net businesses spent less than US$10,000 on site-related costs, according to ActivMedia Research.

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