Enhancing Usability

We are continuing to journey through Professional Web Design: Techniques and Templates.  This week we explore Chapter 4, Enhancing Usability.  According to the author, the average Web site visitor only views the home page for 10 to 20 seconds.  It is imperative that a home page be easy to navigate and read.  A convoluted home page almost always guarantees a user will not stay long as we are in a higher functioning time period.  It is important to keep the user in mind when we are designing Web pages.

When designing a Web page, it is important to user typical names for navigation.  Don’t try to get too fancy or creative with naming pages or it can end up causing confusion and/or frustration for a user trying to navigate a Web page.  Remember that not everyone shares the same mind set so it’s usually best to keep names simple and to the point.  Also, keep in mind that the more times a user to has to click through a Web site to get the information they are seeking, the longer they have to search and this can cause the user to want to seek the information elsewhere.  The author also explains how to avoid “linking out” a user of a certain section.  This can happen when a user clicks a link expecting to be navigated to one place and yet ends up in another.  This can happen when a designer has linked a page incorrectly or hasn’t created that particular page and in essence links another in its place.

Another idea the author explores in this chapter is the idea of Cascading Architecture versus Flat Architecture.  Flat Architecture has long since been the norm of Web pages.  This involves placing all pertinent information and links of a Web site on the main page.  This causes the user to click very little while visiting a site.  Unfortunately with Web pages growing as vast as they have become, the user ends up with an overloaded Web page full of links and finds it difficult to find the information they seek.  They have to resort to slowly scrolling and this can be irritating and time consuming.  This is where Cascading architecture comes in handy.  Instead of throwing all the information in the user’s face in one swoop, the user instead finds a navigation system that allows them to target the information they seek.  Scrolling is also more limited as the information is broken down into chunks instead of one long Web page.

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Things to Consider Before Beginning

I am continuing to read “Professional Web Design: Techniques and Templates.”  So far, it has been a very informative read and I definitely see myself applying the techniques and tips I have been acquiring once I begin professionally designing web sites.  I am enjoying the additional knowledge that I am gaining from the book and am glad to be able to share it for everyone in my Web design blog.

In Chapter 3, we begin to explore the items one should be consider when designing and planning a Web site.  One thing the author points out is that it is important to be “logical and practical” when planning a Web site.  One must consider the client’s needs as well as the practicality of implementation.  A client may have certain ideas and demands that may not fit the scope of the type of Web site that they may need.  Remember to keep the appeal fresh and professional.  A Web site should convey the company’s message in a proficient manner.  Also continue to remember the audience that will be visiting this Web site.  The longer a Web page takes to load, the less time the company may have before they lose a potential customer who grows impatient waiting. 

A larger Web site can benefit from the creation of a well designed flowchart.  If a Web page only has five or fewer pages, it may not be necessary to create a flowchart as it is easy to visualize the layout.  When creating a larger site consisting of 10 or more pages, it is absolutely essential to create a flowchart to keep the planning organized.  This way the designer has easy way to visualize the layout of the site.  Once the design is complete, the designer can also implement the flowchart on the Web site as a site map, which many users find beneficial.

Designing for Past, Present, and Future

Often designers can get caught up in trying to design a Web page that has a large audience and is pleasing to everyone.  There are so many different browsers used these days, that it can be difficult to keep Web pages compatible with all of them.  In all honesty, it is best to just keep up with the most popular browsers such as Internet Explorer and Firefox.  This is one of the many advantages with using a CSS designed site.  The Cascading Style Sheets allow multiple browser compatibility with more relative ease. 

Another problem that can inhibit a Web site is keeping in mind users who may not possess a newer faster processor.  A user who has an older computer may experience slow low loading times when trying to access a newer flashier Web site.  In order to keep a larger audience, it is important to remember that all users are not the same.  Also, remember that newer versions of JavaScript and other computer applications may not always be up to date.  While most users today have access to high speed internet, there are the occasional users who still use a dial up modem and this can cause slow loading times on image rich sites.  Large images will load in a lower quality in slower speed enviroments.  This is important to keep in mind when considering using large images on Web sites or for backgrounds.