Is Commonplace Right?

Below is a list from Non Profit Times newsletter that I get that discusses some commonplace practices for organizations site rated in the Top 10 by either
Forbes or The NonProfit Times.
Among the common characteristics:

  • Nine out of 10 positioned their logo in the upper
    left-hand corner. It is the expected location. Further, logo
    placement should be consistent and link back to the homepage.
  • Seven out of 10 use mastheads at the top of their
    homepage. This separates the core components to a site (Who,
    What, Where, Why).
  • 80 percent positioned their search in the upper
    right-hand corner.
  • 60 percent of the sites used a three-column grid format.
  • 70 percent of the sites used a sidebar for simple
    navigation.
  • 33 percent of the sites utilized Macromedia Flash.
  • 30 percent of the sites incorporated streaming video.
  • 40 percent of the sites used dropdown menus.
  • 10 percent of the sites used pop-ups.
  • 50 percent of the sites had a graph image that made eye
    contact with the viewer.
  • Almost all built their text from html rather than a
    graphic.
  • The best performers used multiple areas on the page for Donate or Sponsor.

By definition, usability is a term used to denote the ease with which people can employ a particular tool… Put simply, this means that if things are where designers most commonly place them, it will make it easier for users to access them because that is where they expect them to be. A very common example is a logo in the upper left hand corner. This is something that I, and probably most others, have come to expect. So if I go to a site that doesn’t have this it makes navigation more difficult for me. Simply because I have taken the time to locate the logo (if not its common position, the upper left), then I take the time to move my mouse to that logo, then the time to click my mouse and finally the time to realize that this is not how I go back to the home of the site. All those steps (the underlying elements of the Keystroke-Level Model (KLM) the simplest variant of Goals, Operators, Methods and Selection rules (GOMS)) cost me a lot of time just to find out that the site doesn’t function the way I would expect it. This doesn’t even factor in the time to go and find the proper way to locate how to jump to the home page.

So is commonplace good usability practice? I would have to argue in most instances on the web, yes. What do you think?