Friday, March 07, 2008

.gov Web design and Usability Guidelines

New guidelines pubished - mostly good, some bad ...

"The US Dept. of Health and Human Services have a ‘Research-Based Web Design and Usability Guidelines’ publication available on their web site. It’s a 161mb PDF file. That is ironic, isn’t it?

I’m skimming through this as a prerequisite for a project. Some of it is good common sense. But there’s also some scary specifics in it. Some examples:

Guideline: Have several developers independently propose designs and use the best elements from
each design.

Ouch. Has that EVER worked? I’ve been in design firms that utilize that method, and have been in firms that use the broader ‘extreme design’ type of concept where a team work cooperatively. I always find the latter to provide a much more well-rounded, cohesive solution. To be fair, they seem to argue that this is a better method than one sole designer, which I’d agree with. But piecemeal group design is less effective than group design, IMHO. (And note that by group design I’m referring to a small team of design professionals…not design by committee, which is an entirely different beast).

Guideline: Design the Web site so it will work well with the most popular operating systems.

A bit misguided in that they already state one should design for the most popular browsers. This guidline should be wrapped into one statement: Design for browser and operating system agnosticism.

Guideline: Design for monitors with the screen resolution set at 1024×768 pixels.

Lots of problems with this, the two big ones being 1) Screen size does not equate to browser viewport size and 2) screens are getting bigger on the desk, and smaller in the hand.

Guideline: Present all major options on the homepage.

I think their intent was noble with this one, but ultimately, one needs to realize that a path of a few clicks is fine, provided that the path is obvious. And a clearly defined path can often be more valid than information overload on one screen."    (Continued via MNteractive)    [Usability Resources]

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