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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