Saturday, February 08, 2003

Design issues

Readers will be familiar with the fact that I am studying right now. Part of my studies involves looking at web and multimedia design. As a developer, my knowledge and understanding of design issues is generally limited to what "feels right", what I see elsewhere and what "works" for me and my colleagues. Often this means I get involved in heated discussion with designers more interested in pretty stuff than they are in usability.

The University's tutors are keen to express upon us that Jakob Nielson is the usability guru. He has certainly published a lot of useful information, and his web site is a great resource.

Web page design

He has published a great book called Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed which I bought and have used as a reference not just for home page design, but also for other aspects of web and multimedia design. I'll be sure to buy more of his books soon!

The book lists a total of 113 recommendations for home pages, backed up by statistical studies. Many recommendations are based on the frequency with which something is encountered on the web (e.g. the left-hand navigation area) whereas others are based on studies of useability preferences and on legibility.

Whilst the recommendations are useful in isolation, the book really begins to shine with its critiques of 50 major home pages using Nielson's recommendations, therefore helping the reader to see where the recommendations are applied. It is interesting to note that the book also makes it easy for the reader to times where some of the recommendations may be set aside for other considerations.

Other usability resources

While discussing this with Amy Blankenship, Amy shared her favourite resource for web usability from the site. The Webreference Articles page lists loads of good resources. The whole site is also a valuable resource, and well worth exploring.


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