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Break the Rules

I'm tempted to write, "Welcome to 2004. Forget everything I told you in 2003."

I reviewed last year's columns and realized that I focused almost exclusively on following basic rules. They're important, of course, especially in site navigation. But when it comes to the creative elements of your site, you probably don't want them to look like everyone else's.

There are tried-and-true recommendations that remind you to feature products in large, complete, clear images; orient your pages from upper-left to lower-right to take advantage of natural reading tendencies; and make your type as simple and crisp as possible, avoiding italics and intricate fonts where possible. Following these guidelines will help you create a solid, readable site. But breaking them can help you create a unique, distinct user experience.

Sometimes it's okay to throw out the rules, go crazy, force users to think a little, and express your creative side. Some of your ideas will bomb; some will soar. Keep trying new things--you're not like everyone else, so why try to emulate them? Be different, be creative, and make your own rules.

Jennifer Frost is Art Director at Register.com.

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