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Introduction

What are the essential traits of great Web sites? After you visit a site and find yourself staying awhile, what makes you stay? A sense of humor helps. Flashy graphics are nice. But the fundamental traits that make a site work are more elusive. This article will break down the essential characteristics of great Web sites into some easily followed rules of thumb.

Most of these guidelines are just plain common sense, which seems to be a scarce commodity on the Web. The sexy proprietary page-layout and text markup features provided by Netscape and Explorer as they leapfrog each other have seduced many a webmaster into jazzing up their pages, only to be forced to put “you must use Netscape/Explorer to view these pages” at the bottom. This could be rephrased to say “these pages look awful without Netscape or Explorer.” Stick with standard HTML (currently HTML 4) and your pages will look good on all browsers that support it.

Overall, we’ve found that companies either get the Web or they don’t. Your Web site should reflect the culture of the Web, which we call the “Gift Economy.” (Witness Netscape and Microsoft.) Very few sites (5%) can charge for admission or require membership, and many people avoid sites with these barriers. Give away something valuable: information, software, advice, humor, and people will flock to your site.

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