Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Web Design Matters

Some bread and butter basics on web design/usability...

"The first ten years of the Internet are over. The web is no longer a new thing. It is an ingrained part of our lives.Studies show that users form their first impression about a website in 1/20th of a second. What are they going to think if that time is spent watching Flash animation load? Or watching a marquee slowly scroll through a list of headlines? Or searching for creatively placed navigation? They’ll think it’s time to visit another website.

As Internet users get more sophisticated and impatient, the need for designs that emphasize usability becomes paramount. Here are a dozen guidelines for web designers that we’ve developed over the years. We try to have these principles guide all of our design work.

1. Know your audience. Not only in the marketing sense. Know the technical boundaries you’re working within. The user experience for a high school math student in Jersey and a journalist in Zimbabwe are very different. Bear this in mind when making initial decisions.

2. Understand the purpose of the site. The client can lose sight of this, but the designer must not. If the site’s purpose is to raise funds, that component must be ever-present in the design. If the client decides to punch the site up for the sake of visual impact, this must be addressed immediately, before the project loses its focus.

3. No Surprises. Web sites are not meant to be mysterious. The web is not new. Certain standards of usability remain because they work. Users stampede away from sites that remain mysterious. Links should be written clearly, marked clearly as links, and users should be alerted to the mildest of surprises like opening a .pdf or Powerpoint.

4. The Cool Backlash. Usability has been talked to death, and thanks to Jacob Nielsen (and his useit.com site) there seems to be a slight backlash against website design that is cool for the sake of being cool. While the art created with programs like Flash is spectacular, most websites simply shouldn’t use these technologies. Inevitably, they cause more problems than they solve and end up frustrating users. Animation has been eliminated on most business sites. Even the slightest motion is an irritation to the user. The eye still sees it as an animated gif from 1999 and will ignore it as surely as the client deems it “jazzy”."   continued ...   (Via The Bivings Report)

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