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Contest - Usability Best Practices

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147 replies to this topic

#16 burgeltz


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Posted 24 July 2003 - 06:18 PM

How about this one? Use colors carefully - especially the color red. Red is an eye magnet for a lot of people.

#17 Haystack


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Posted 24 July 2003 - 06:20 PM

Make content printable. People often print things once they find something interesting.

#18 Scottie


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Posted 24 July 2003 - 06:32 PM

Plan before you Build
Many usability issues can be cut off at the beginning by planning for the future. A good architecture will take future plans/expansion into account before ever looking at design. You must have a good foundation before you start painting the walls and picking out carpet...

Be careful of low contrast color schemes
You can't go wrong with black on white. Sometimes, you just need more drama but remember to use a light font on a dark background or a dark font on a light background. Browsers are different, monitors are different, you never exactly know how the colors will render.

Write for the Web
You need text- but remember to break it up into easily skimmed topics. People will read a newspaper from front-to-back but tend to skim and jump around on a website. Make it easy for them to find what they want and get more info. (Refer to Bob's post- use document headings properly!)

Beware of Background Images
Background images are dramatic and eye-catching but unless you really know what you are doing, stick to a plain background, especially behind text.

Catch your errors
We all make mistakes. Create a custom 404 error page that includes your main navigation elements to help users find their way back to your site.

Don't mess with Scroll Bars!
Yes, you can make a scroll bar blend in with the rest of your page beautifully. So much so, that people don't see it. First preference- leave it alone. If you MUST change the scroll bar, give it some contrast so that it doesn't disappear.

Nothing says "amateur" like grammatical/spelling errrors. Have someone else read over your work to catch things you might have missed.

Build a Site Map
Yes, people do use them! The bigger your site, the more you need one.

Test? Who tests? EVERYONE SHOULD! It's not hard or expensive. Find 3-10 people in your target audience and ask them to go through the site and tell you what they think. Observe only- don't explain why you did what. Compare notes between subjects to see where difficulties lie. If they never found your newsletter signup or get confused when they go to buy, you've got an improvement plan.

Just a few off the top of my head... :nerd:

#19 Scottie


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Posted 24 July 2003 - 06:33 PM

Welcome burgeltz and qwerty! :bye:

#20 burgeltz


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Posted 24 July 2003 - 06:45 PM

I like Scottie's testing tip. Most important thing you can do, period.

#21 Matt B

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 07:03 PM

I'll have to give Sophie co-credit on this one, as really she helped me out with this:

Remember your international users!
When asking for address remember that it is not always in the same format as you may be used to: states are pretty unique to the US (town or county otherwise), country (list all or allow customer to enter), Zip (postal) code (don't force 5 characters). Phone numbers, if you do international business, should have the country code listed as well!

And especially, on an ecommerce site, let your users know your international shipping limitations or requirements before the sale!
Don't our friends "down under" go through the entire purchasing process and then find out that there is no int'l shipping or that the shipping costs more than the product because the only option is Next Day Air! :o

Thanks to that bit of advice, international shipping orders on one of our client's websites rose by 200%!

#22 Bernard


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Posted 24 July 2003 - 08:42 PM

Good point about color Tom. Remember that many people are color blind as well.

Test for different screen resolutions and browsers. Not everyone is viewing the web at 1280 x 800 or whatever on IE.

Test for test only browsers. Paranoids and dial-ups on slow connections often browse with images, flash, javascript, etc. turned off.

#23 HorseCove


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Posted 24 July 2003 - 11:11 PM

Okay gang, I count 24 tips so far.

Here's my quick count:

1. Use consistent intuitive navigation
2. Keep everything close
3.Keep a consistent look and feel throughout
4. Keep the page simple.
5. Be careful with animations & marquees
6. Make links obvious
7. Make it easy to buy
8. Use proper document structure
9. Have user friendly forms that retain your data.
10. Use colors carefully - especially the color red.
11. Make content printable
12. Plan before you build
13. Be careful of low contrast color schemes
14. Write for the Web
15. Beware of Background Images
16. Catch your errors with custom 404.
17. Don't mess with Scroll Bars!
18. Proofread
19. Build a Site Map
20. TEST
21. Remember your international users!
22. Know your international shipping limitations or requirements before the sale!
23. Test for different screen resolutions and browsers.
24. Test for text only browsers

I'd say that's pretty good for a couple of hours, but let's keep going. I know there are lots more.

Right now Scottie, the Usability Goddess, is in the lead for the most. We can add categories for the Most Original, Most Forgotten, etc. We have lots of categories to win in!

#24 Bill Slawski

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Posted 25 July 2003 - 06:10 AM


I'm not sure that I agree about the three-click rule. It's pretty much been uncovered as a myth. The original rule had a grounding of truth based upon usabilty testing of software applications. Dr. Nielsen and a few others didn't anticipate the hypertext medium when writing about navigating between screens of an application.

Of course, you should develop clear and easy-to-follow click paths through a web site, which allow visitors to complete their tasks within the pages.

The amount of clicks from start to finish can be more than three, as long as there is a confidence on the part of the visitor that they are following the correct path.

How do you instill confidence in the people traveling about your site? Use well written links that can use more than a couple of words, and make sure the words used have meaning to the people visiting the site. Work from the general to the specific.

There are plenty of sites thatuse more than three clicks to get from one area to another. It's the good sites, the usable sites, that make it easy to do.

#25 markymark


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Posted 25 July 2003 - 07:05 AM

Here's one that follows on from what bragadocchio is saying: Remember that the homepage is not the only entry page to the site and make it clear to users which page they've landed on and where it exists in relation to the architecture of the site.

IE: Someone clicks a link in the SERPs and lands on the bass fishing boats page of your fabulous new boat review site. It needs to be clear to the user that THIS IS the bass fishing boats page, not the home page and that this page actually resides in the general fishing boats section.

There's two ways of doing this. Change the colour of the nav buttons for the page so that they contrast with clickable navigation buttons. That will help visitors know they've arrived at the correct page. Secondly, add a Yahoo-style breadcrumb trail so that users can see they are here:

home>fishing boats>bass fishing boats .

#26 Jill


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Posted 25 July 2003 - 08:08 AM

Great stuff, guys!

And welcome, bragadocchio! :bye: Great to see you here.


#27 schecky


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Posted 25 July 2003 - 01:00 PM

Navigation is fundamental to website development so redundancy assures users will find what they are looking for. Some may be attracted to images, some may wish a descriptive text link and some may wish to see an embedded link which assures them that what they are clicking is what they want. It never hurts to make it easy for the user to find their way around even if that means pointing them directly to what you think they may want.

#28 Scottie


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Posted 25 July 2003 - 02:06 PM

Nice post schecky! Welcome to you and Bragadaccio! :bye:

#29 Bill Slawski

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Posted 25 July 2003 - 06:48 PM

Hi Jill and Scottie! Thanks for the welcomes.

A little bit on readibility...

You can ignore these suggestions, and a visitor to your page will probably survive the visit. But using them may make your pages easier to read.

1. Use resizable fonts - using controls to change the size on the page, or through the browser's controls.

2. Use a san serif font for when people are viewing body text on a monitor, and a serif font for when they get a printable version of the page.

3. If you decide to ignore #1 above and use pixels to define the sizes of your text, use points for your printable version.

4. Make sure that you name similar alternative system fonts for different operating systems.

5. A screen full of side-to-side text is difficult to read. Shortening the width of text upon a screen can make it easier to read.

6. Don't mix serif and san serif fonts in body text

7. Use mixed case, especially in body text. Avoid the use of all caps there.

8. Use bold for emphasis -- but not too much. If everything is important enough to be bolded, then nothing is.

9. See 8 above, but subsitute the word italics where it uses bold.

10 See 8 above, but substitute the phrase colored text where you see bold.

11. Don't use underlines. (except on links)

12. Avoid full justification. Left justification, with different stopping points on the right make text easier to read.

13. Text should be easy to scan, and adjusting line-height may help.

14. Someone has mentioned this already, but make sure that there is enough contrast between text and background. Dark text with a light background works very well.

15. Use whitespace on a page in margins, to keep text from getting too close to edges and borders.

16. Using short paragraphs, bulleted lists, and headings and subheadings can make a page much easier to read than a presentation of the material in a large block of text.

#30 market seeker

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Posted 26 July 2003 - 08:04 PM

Make sure your forms have cookies or whatever it is you need to do to keep your data intact if you have to click away for a minute while you're filling it out.

The new google tool bar has form fill that works very nicely. Much better than gator was.
Just in case the web master doesn't read this forum.

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