Posts tagged ‘websites’
Why am I so much more motivated to complain about bad experiences than to praise good ones? It’s certainly not because it’s easier – it takes as much or more energy to complain because you usually get resistance in return. Anyway, I’d like to make more of an effort to point out great user/customer experiences when I have them, and to kick off I’m going to tell you about one of my current favorite websites.
Tor.com is a site geared towards science fiction and fantasy fans. Built by the good folks at Tor Books, it’s an intriguing enterprise in that it’s separate from their corporate site and practices something they call “publisher agnosticism,” which means that some content (actually, a lot of content) is contributed by people who don’t work for or publish with Tor Books. They also sell non-Tor books and merchandise in their store. Cool.
But beyond that, it’s just an excellent site. The blog is consistently interesting, even for a sf/fantasy dabbler like myself. The quality of writing is good, and the topics are varied enough to keep me reading without going so far afield that I lose interest. What hooked me initially were the “re-reads” – they take a popular series (Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time), and write about it in-depth, with plot summaries, commentary, and lots of reader discussion on each post. I totally want to steal this idea for my library – what a great way to run an online book club! And they don’t limit the discussion to books – they also talk about sf & fantasy film and tv, art, the creative process, and more. I also love the weekly “Saturday Morning Cartoons” post, which highlights wonderful animated shorts.
Another feature I love: they do periodic themes for the site. October was Steampunk month. In December they did 12 Days of Cthulhumas. The theme permeates the whole site – blog posts, giveaways, highlighted items in the store, even the logo gets transformed:
Even though I subscribe to the blog’s feed in Google Reader, I routinely click through to the site to make sure I’m not missing anything – I can’t say that about any other site I subscribe to. Details like this aren’t enough to create a great user experience, but when you have consistently good quality the details can push you into greatness. As I’m working on the redesign of our library website, this is the level of quality I aspire to.
I am not a fan of resolutions. I like to take the end of the year and the beginning of the next one as a time to evaluate and so on, but resolutions just seem like a set-up for failure so I avoid them. In fact, I studiously avoid starting anything new (exercise routines, organizing systems, what have you) on January 1st, even if it’s something I really want to do. I either start before January or later in the month just to avoid the psychological association with resolutions and failure. (I don’t know how much good that actually does, but…).
Having said that, I was totally inspired by Merlin Mann’s posts on clutter and feel like using the New Year to get control of this area of my life. Merlin posted links yesterday to a good Ask Metafilter discussion on literary clutter (Librarians, take note!) and his series on his own “War on Clutter.” The one that really kicked my butt: Never “organize” what you can discard – oh my gosh, how many dollars I have wasted at the Container Store doing exactly that!
Jeff looked at some of the old “rules” of web-design and discussed whether or not they are still relevant.
Design is an inexact science, but there are decades of research in usability, credibility, interface design, and hci; a lot of questions have been answered
- rich and interactive
- the user experience
depends on functions – google can be simple because they have essentially one function; we need to give our users a richer experience
Content is king
- But, design matters A LOT
- novice users judge superficially and quickly!
- Professional design = increased credibility
All content is created equal?
- Design for what your users are doing
- emphasize the highest priority tasks so that users have a clear starting point – Nielsen
By the numbers:
Rule of Seven (categories manageable by users):
- guideline, not a rule
- persuasive evidence both ways
- answer depends on context
- more than 9 – maybe your site lacks focus?
3 click rule:
- is dead
- design for SCENT
- users will happily click so long as they feel they are on the right path
Design for 800×600
- NO! optimize for 1024×768
- what of other platforms? (phones, handhelds, etc.) Use CSS media types
- flexible as opposed to fixed design
- majority users browse with 24-bit color rendering
- RIP websafe palette? Still consider:
- file size
- alternative platforms
For redesign inspiration:
- DON’T check other library websites!!
- Standards, conventions, and user expectations are established outside of library land…Jacob’s law (users spend most of time on sites other than your site)
How often to redesign?
- iterative, evolutionary change
- revolutionary change is disruptive
- a/b testing: post two versions of page with ONE difference (placement of item on page, e.g.);compare use
- sometimes a tear down is required
- think about major destinations on the web, amazon, ebay, yahoo, etc. – constant iterative change
Follow your own conventions
- is reference “reference” on your website (n.b. It shouldn’t be!)
- carry web conventions through physical space and other publications
- style guidelines across print & electronic media
But follow established web conventions
- home link upper left
- clickable banner
- contact us link
- placement of navigation
greater bandwidth= design freedom?
- Two trends: more high-speed access
- more non-traditional devices on relatively slower networks (apple iPhone)
I must support all browsers
- for basic content – yes!
- Accessibility is critical and the right thing to do
- for value-added content, style and interactivity?
- Graded support aka progressive enhancement
providing a text-only version of your homepage or site?
- Separate presentation and content with css and you won’t need a separate version
Avoid css for layout…it’s buggy
- yes, but no longer enough to justify not using it
- stop using tables for layout
top of page is prime real estate?
- Actually, it’s useless space…banner blindness
- Nielsen: people have a tendency to never look at a slim rectangular are that’s above the page’s main headline
- will very likely be blocked – nothing mission critical
- can be useful when linking to supporting information
Flash is evil?
- Flash introductions are evil
- Flash can be used for effective animation and interactivity
- Example: http://www.library.pitt.edu/etd_tutorials/
- raise usability considerations
- They’re slower, not scanable (preventing users from getting an overview)
Opening links in new browser window
- is sometimes okay: external links, non-web docs: PDFs, etc.
- help files
- TELL users
- tabbed browsers make this less of an issue
Never create an “auto forward” it breaks the back button
- server side redirects are best
- Set auto forward time high enough to allow users to use back button
Scrolling is bad
- users scroll if there is a clue that there is something below the fold
- use the fashionable “cut off” look – content doesn’t break evenly, so users have an indicator that more content exists
Keep it above the fold
- true for most important content
- 76% of users scrolled and a good portion scroll to the bottom, despite height of window
Images of people
- generally increase trust (unless they’re really good-looking people)
- naturally draw attention – this may not be a good thing…distraction
- people, labeled, increase credibility the most
RIA=rich internet application (ajax, flex technologies)
good sites & features;