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The 10 Commandments of Web Design.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on June 27, 2008

Matt Vella over at the Innovation & Design site interviewed RISD’s John Meada, Don Norman,’s Khoi Vinh and other smart folks on web usability and came up with The 10 Commandments of Web Design. See if you agree with the list and what you would add—or subtract. With the spread of the iPhone and the mobile web, web design is super hot once again.

Here is Matt’s list:
1. Thou shalt not abuse Flash. Don’t overwhelm the viewer.
2. Thou shalt not hide content. With advertising.
3. Thou shalt not clutter.
4. Thou shalt not overuse glassy reflections. Apple.
5. Thou shalt not name your Web 2.0 company with an unnecessary surplus or dearth of vowels. Meebo?
6. Thou shalt worship at the altar of typography. Check out Daring Fireball.
7. Thou shalt create immersive experiences. Perhaps the most important.
8. Thou shalt be social. Hmmm. Maybe this is the most important.
9. Thou shalt embrace proven technologies.
10. Thou shalt make content king. Content trumps pretty.

What else are we missing? How would you prioritize the list?

Reader Comments


June 28, 2008 2:05 AM

All these make sense. However, the angle companies need to keep in mind is what the customers need and what they would experience when visiting the website. How fast the pages would load, are all links live and valid, is the content relevant to customers (not just what the company wants to share but what customers want to see), would the website survive the expected daily traffic, can it scale if the traffic increases. A pretty but slow loading website or if it goes down when people flock to it is wasted effort! I would add "Customer Experience" is bottomline.

Bruce Temkin

June 30, 2008 2:00 PM

While this is not the list that I would have come up with, 8 of the 10 items are reasonable. I don't think #7 (immersive) and #8 (social) are appropriate as "commandments." While they are very good things to do in some cases, it would be wrong to suggest that they are a requirement for every Web design. Some experiences are better served with a simple design, devoid of any social or immersive aspects. I wrote a post about this in my blog "Customer Experience Matters" (


July 4, 2008 5:36 PM

Content IS NOT king. For without design, content is nothing. Lifeless. Dead. It's like jazz. there can be stellar solos but they're more powerful in the context of the song.

steve cunningham

July 8, 2008 3:41 AM

To CR's point - design AND content are certainly the Batman and Robin of creating an impact. But if forced to choose between design and content, content would have to win. Great design and no substance would kind of, like, be hanging out with Paris Hilton. Totally.


July 16, 2008 5:52 PM

I agree with most of the list and what a few of the comments. Dont' over flash (or glass) and too much ad is bad. Names should be catchy and easy to remember, but too many vowels is not the right way to say it. Social is way overweight today, and not necessary to all (yes, what your end user needs, not what you like to offer). These are, however, all forms of design, so it is the largest category, but not the most important. Content, content, content, way ahead of anything else. Even as a designer/developer, I side with my own "customer" experiences when I am viewing a site. I am looking for information, and don't care if the background is pretty, if the content is specific to my needs. I can't tell you the number of times that I have been to homegrown websites with little or no design concepts and too many gifs, which contain better information and experiences than the Fortune 500 could provide.


September 5, 2008 3:36 AM

This is a cute and cynical approach at simplifying the rules of design. Im not sure I would add anything, I like that this aritcle keeps in my of tradition and what has always worked while comparing it to the future and what is to come.

website design

March 14, 2009 3:21 PM

I thought the 10 commandments of web design were very useful steps. If everyone followed them there'd be a lot more quality website on the internet thats for sure! Also, i dont think that making content king neccessarily means sacrificing design

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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