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Thread: Top Usability?

  1. #1
    SitePoint Wizard Rick's Avatar
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    Top Usability?

    So come on then...

    What do we all think makes a website really useable?

    Heres what I reckon:
    - Easy access to core areas of the site (pref at top of page)
    - Main logo as a link to the homepage
    - Alt text for when I have graphics turned off, and for those who require it, i.e. blind persons
    - Local links to related pages
    - CONTACT infomation (I hate websites that don't make it easy for you to contact a real person somehow!)
    - Nothing to fancy, quick and easy to use
    - nice design, colours that don't hurt my eyes!

    Prolly a common question, but I am interested in what ya all think.

    BTW I ain't using your comments to design a site - I already have a layout done (after about 3 months!), just interested.
    Rick

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    SitePoint Wizard
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    1. Breadcrumb trail. While not always necessary, this is especially useful with websites that have many subcategories and thus require deep linking.
    2. Navigation at the top and the bottom. When you are finished reading a page, this means you don't have to scroll upwards.
    3. Readable fonts, no weird scripty or blocky fonts. Preferably sans-serif, and some spacing between the characters, so that it does not look all too packed.
    4. On the terms of colours, one or two main colours supported by at most three secondary colours.
    5. Most important areas at the top of the physical document, so that people with text-only browsers don't have to crawl through heaps of useless stuff before reaching the actual content. This means placing content before navigation, in your document, while it might be otherwise on the actual page.


    Those are all I could think of at the moment .

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    . gdape's Avatar
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    The more "conventions" a website adheres to the more usable the site is. If you want to know where to put something like a search box or My Cart look at the big boys like Amazon or Cnet; they don't spend millions on user testing for nothing.

    Of course, this applies most to ecommerce where your bottom line is sales, there are occasions when adhering to usablity conventions take second place to SEO or design. Don't listen to everything Jacob Neilson says! (useit.com) A good basic book is "Don't make me Think"

    A couple of handy tips: the bigger the search box the longer the search terms and the more often it is used. And don't be afraid to repeat important links. If you really want people to contact you because that's important put it everywhere; try it, the more contact us links you have the more responses you will get.

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    SitePoint Wizard samsm's Avatar
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    Good stuff above, here's what popped into my head:

    It's hard to read large blocks of text on screen. Good idea to separate paragraphs with a blank line.

    Like that. Also, in print journalism, it is suggested to never have a line continue longer than 52 characters as people have a hard time finding the next line and can lose their place easily. I think the same principal applies to Internet publishing.

    You know there's going to be a Jacob Neilson interview article on Sitepoint in awhile...
    Last edited by samsm; Oct 19, 2002 at 11:29.
    Using your unpaid time to add free content to SitePoint Pty Ltd's portfolio?

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    SitePoint Wizard Rick's Avatar
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    I've found Matts writing for the web article pretty useful for writing guidelines: http://www.ecommercebase.com/article/50

    Multi-Resolution pages.

    It really annoyes me when a design looks great at 1024 res, ok at 800*600 res and rubbish at 600*400 res.

    The design I am working on at the mo looks pretty good at all resolutions, but, like most things looks best at 1024 res. Although to be honest the page becomes a little short and streched out at resolutions above 1024.

    I like colum designs for content rich sites though. It leaves plenty of room for lines about 58 chars long, without horizontal scroll bars

    Massive hate of mine - horizontal scroll bars, my mouse only has an up and down scroll wheel on it!
    Rick

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    SitePoint Enthusiast Wicksie's Avatar
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    i reckon common sense on the design, the navigation and the content should be uniformly presented

    it all helps if it is designed well from the start - but not just alt="" lets see more use of title="" too

    wicksie

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    SitePoint Zealot Megs's Avatar
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    1. Clear and obvious labelling of navigation links and other identifiers; no mystery meat navigation or clever but cryptic labels.
    2. Minimal gimmicky junk that gets in the way (pop-ups, frames, uselss flash, animation, dhtml in general, and other useless junk)
    3. Fonts that are not only in a readable face, but also a readable size (I hate this current trend towards 10px body fonts - too small to read!)
    4. Clean and clear design that allows important page elements (logo, content, navigation) to stand out without clutter; the design should make it obvious to the user what the important information is; i.e. there shouldn't be too many items competing for my attention
    5. Browser Compatibility (especially for those of us who use uncommon browsers)
    6. This might be just me, but I'm less likely to get lost if there are only one or two (obvious) ways to get where I want to go. I tend to get confused when it seems like there are 10 options that might work.


    That's all I can think of right now...
    Megan Jack
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    Moderator at The Webmaster Forums and EDevCafe Forums

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    SitePoint Zealot slandry's Avatar
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    I actuall read the book "Don't Make Me Think"

    Very useful I reccomend it to anyone who is struggling with the idea of usability.

    The great analogy I'm going to steal from the book is "mind chatter" (or something like that, its been a while since I read it). The less internal conversation you have with yourself when you reach a new site is directly related to how usable it is.

    It goes something like this:

    "Okay, I'm looking to buy some shoes."

    "I believe I typed the URL correctly..."

    "Yup, shoes.com right there in the header with a picture of a shoe"

    "Now where are the men's shoes?....."

    "Let's look under 'men'"

    And so on and so forth...

    A quick usability test is to have someone new browse your site out loud. You may be suprised at what they click on.

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    SitePoint Enthusiast Wicksie's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Megs
    [*]Browser Compatibility (especially for those of us who use uncommon browsers)
    I have to agree with Megan on this one - something that i always strive for (even to the point of almost having an affair with Amaya at one point early this year!

    wicksie

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    SitePoint Zealot Megs's Avatar
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    Another thing - as an Opera user, don't put anything important in stuff I can turn off (flash, pop-ups). If you must, at least let me know before hand so I don't have to sit there trying to figure out where your site is.
    Megan Jack
    Proud to be Canadian
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    Moderator at The Webmaster Forums and EDevCafe Forums

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    SitePoint Wizard Rick's Avatar
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    I used opera for a while, but turned back to IE when IE6 came out.

    I found it was just as fast at loading most pages, and as alot of webmaters put key stuff (main links, key info, etc) in flash or other fancy little bits it makes looking around sites easier. One day perhaps either Opera will support gimmicks or people will realise that they don't need to use them perhaps where they could have put a graphic or a text box.
    Rick

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    SitePoint Enthusiast webinista's Avatar
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    markup markup markup

    in addition to all of the above, use proper css 2 and xhtml. that will provide an IMMEDIATE boost to both usability and accessibility.

    use the @import url(); construction to "hide" style sheets from browsers that can't handle them and your users will see a plain text version that should be accessible. don't forget to "linearize" your content. (in other words, organize the content on your page in order of importance WITHOUT style sheets first, then use style sheets to position each segment of the page).

    the benefit of using css and xhtml is that your site's content will be usable to a wider range of devices, and accessibility is less compromised.


    *going off on a tangent here*
    as designers/developers, we've got to loosen our grip on this "perfect visual layout on every browser" goal. how a site will ultimately look still depends on the *user*. using proper markup will help ensure that users aren't locked out from your site because of their device.


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    SitePoint Zealot Megs's Avatar
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    Originally posted by zoo
    I found it was just as fast at loading most pages, and as alot of webmaters put key stuff (main links, key info, etc) in flash or other fancy little bits it makes looking around sites easier. One day perhaps either Opera will support gimmicks or people will realise that they don't need to use them perhaps where they could have put a graphic or a text box.
    Opera does support most gimmicks (except coloured scrollbars and a other annoying stuff like those Geocities corner ads) but the beauty of it is you can turn them off in two clicks if you find them annoying. I personally find pop-up windows to be annoying 100% of the time, and that 95% of the time they contain ads I don't want to see. Same goes with animated gif's, embeded audio, and flash. Therefore, my browsing experience is much more enjoyable when I don't have to put up with them. If I happen across a page that has some of that 5% of non-annoying flash, I can always turn my flash back on (of course, it's nice if I'm aware that I need to do so).
    Megan Jack
    Proud to be Canadian
    http://www.meganjack.com
    Moderator at The Webmaster Forums and EDevCafe Forums

  14. #14
    SitePoint Enthusiast Wicksie's Avatar
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    Re: markup markup markup

    Originally posted by webinista
    as designers/developers, we've got to loosen our grip on this "perfect visual layout on every browser" goal. how a site will ultimately look still depends on the *user*. using proper markup will help ensure that users aren't locked out from your site because of their device.
    Interesting and thought provoking - and not too far away from the ideal Web in many peoples opinions

    however this grip should not be allowed to be too loose, lest we regress in standards and compromise to the mainstream

    Wicksie

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    SitePoint Enthusiast webinista's Avatar
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    Re: Re: markup markup markup

    Originally posted by Wicksie

    however this grip should not be allowed to be too loose, lest we regress in standards and compromise to the mainstream
    Wicksie
    so true. and that's really what the web standards movement is all about.
    Last edited by webinista; Oct 24, 2002 at 13:20.



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