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Whenever I design anything for use on the web, my first priority is clarity. I heard a statistic somewhere that if the person looking at your web page doesn't recognise the subject matter in the first five seconds after he or she has clicked the link, there is a very high chance that they will move on without reading. Second only to clarity, and closely linked is functionality. People look at your site because of what is on it - they want to be able to find what they are looking for quickly and easily, with as little faff as possible. Finally, elegance. I beleive that no site should be purely for informing the reader; every page should be a new experience, and the better the experience, the longer the memory.
Everything I design has these guidelines, and the more I do, the better I get at enforcing them.

a sunset, taken by me near to my home
© Phil Ewels, 2003