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I picked up Steve Krug's book "Don't Make Me Think" to get some perspective on this issue. It's pretty good, and about 90% of what I wanted it to be. The only thing really missing from my perspective is any discussion of color schemes and font choices. I've got that information from other sources, but I think it should be in the book. In all other respects, its a terrific book and you'll see the impact of it's advice on this site in the future. The chapters are focused, concise, short, and well illustrated. They also cover some really solid thinking about how people use web sites and what you can do to make them more effective.
One of the most important pieces of advice I'm taking from Steve, is from page 34 where he discusses the use of 'conventions'. Krug makes the point that conventions may be tedious and boring to develop and not so exciting to look at -- but that's ok because they're helpful and make users more comfortable. As he says, "...praise from peers, awards, and high-profile job offers are rarely based on criteria like 'best use of conventions." I'm guilty as charged here, of reinventing the wheel rather than using a common convention or two.
Time to get busy.
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