New Rules for Web Design

October 30, 2007 at 10:50 am

Jeff Wisniewski

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

Simplicity rules?

  • rich and interactive
  • RIAs
  • 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

Color:

  • 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?

  • Constantly
  • 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

Popups

  • will very likely be blocked – nothing mission critical
  • can be useful when linking to supporting information

Flash is evil?

Mouseover menus

  • 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;

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Entry filed under: cross-posted, internet librarian. Tags: , , , .

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