Usability for the Web: Designing Web Sites that Work - Book Review - 010813.html | WebReference

Usability for the Web: Designing Web Sites that Work - Book Review - 010813.html

((((((((((((((((( WEBREFERENCE UPDATE NEWSLETTER ))))))))))))))))) August 13, 2001

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This week we preview a new book on usability from Tom Brinck and company from Ann Arbor-based Diamond Bullet Design. Due in October "Usability for the Web: Designing Web Sites that Work" advocates "pervasive usability" where usability is factored into the entire Web site design process. The guys at Diamond Bullet reveal how they design highly usable sites, and distill their extensive real-world and academic know-how into this handbook for Web site design teams. It's the process that's important, not the technology.

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New this week on WebReference.com and the Web:

1. DHTML: Hierarchical Menus: Version 4.0.14 2. BOOK REVIEW: Usability for the Web 3. OTHER VOICES: * Style vs. Design * The World's Information Desk * Project Management Simplified * Visible Hand 4. NET NEWS: * Kodak Says Microsoft Will Alter Photo Features in XP * Collaboration Central * Judge knocks out wrestling domain

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1. DHTML Hierarchical Menus: Version 4.0.14

In this emergency update, we respond to DOM related changes in Netscape's recently released 6.1 browser. Find out how Netscape's latest is now more like IE, and how our new Hiermenus update accommodates the change. By Peter Belesis.

http://www.webreference.com/dhtml/column57/

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2. BOOK REVIEW: Usability for the Web: Designing Web Sites that Work

This is a serious book about a serious subject: usability. The authors practice what they call pervasive usability, where usability is factored into every stage of the Web site design process. This integrated approach to usability saves money by catching problems early in the design life cycle at a point where changes are much cheaper. This results in highly usable sites that are simple, consistent, aesthetically pleasing, and profitable.

This book is more than a usability guide. It is more a handbook for design teams. It has both great breadth and great depth, covering the gamut of usability-related topics like task analysis, information architecture, page layout, and web writing and gives useful details not found in similar books. That knowledge stems from the authors' extensive real world and academic experience as part of both Ann Arbor-based Diamond Bullet Design, and disciples of the University of Michigan's school of human- computer interaction. Throw in some cognitive psychology for good measure, and you've got a rare combination of skills.

The authors have done us a great favor. They've distilled their design process into this book, complete with checklists, optimal processes, and techniques that design teams can use to improve or rework their existing design processes. The authors say that only through a logical, reasoned, and structured process can truly excellent and usable sites be created.

The design process acts as the outline for their book:

Requirements Analysis Conceptual Design Mockups & Prototypes Production Launch

Each stage is iterative, where time and budget allows. The book expands on each stage of the design process. Actual production is only a small portion of the overall site design process. What follows is a summary/outline of the book:

Introduction Usable site characteristics: functionally correct, efficiency of use, easy to learn, easy to remember, error tolerant, subjectively pleasing. Pervasive Usability Formalize your design process Requirements Analysis Target Audience & Target Platforms Create user scenarios, allow for platform differences User Needs Analysis Objectives/Goals/Surveys/Sampling/Competitive Analysis/ Interviews/Focus Groups Conceptual Design Task Analysis - Optimal paths/Use Cases Brevity and Clarity Combine functionality to minimize server requests Human-error Tolerant Design Information Architecture How people navigate omniscience, optimal rationality, satisficing, mental maps, rote memorization, information foraging, information costs Breadth vs. Depth Breadcrumbs Navbar design Search Engine Design Tips Mockups & Prototypes Page Layout Simplicity, consistency, focus Use page templates for consistency Simplify and reduce Use contrast, repetition & asymmetrical design to grab attention Gestalt principles proximity, similarity, good continuation Constraints - scrolling, page resolution, variable vs. fixed width, 520 pixels wide max for printing, 595 pixels max for 640x480 users Envisioning Design - Mockups and Prototypes Types of Mockups The Mockup Process The Mockup Checklist Production Usability Issues in Production Production Process Writing for the Web Writing to Communicate How People Read What to Write About How Writing for the Web Differs from Writing for Paper Writing Guidelines Checklist Graphic Design Elements HTML Coding for Usability/Maintenance/speed/search engines Launching the Web Site Pre-Launch & Post-Launch Steps of Taking the Site Up Immediately After the Site is Up Field Testing Expansion and Continued Development of the Web Site Reviewing and Changing Your Development and QA Procedures Evaluation Usability of Web Technologies Evaluating New Technologies Evaluating Websites

The process of design is usually about choosing tradeoffs that yield the best solution. Since most site design projects have a limited budget it's better to leave off some nonessential features than omit usability from your projects. Sites with poor usability inevitably fare worse than sites with good usability. By following the authors' recommendations your site can be one of the few that is highly usable.

Usability for the Web: Designing Web Sites that Work By Tom Brinck, Darren Gergle, Scott D. Wood Morgan Kaufmann, Oct. 2001 $49.95 ISBN: 1-55860-658-0

http://www.diamondbullet.com/ http://www.mkp.com/

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 3. OTHER VOICES: Style vs. Design, The World's Information Desk, Project Management Simplified, Visible Hand

>Style vs. Design

Why understanding the difference is what it's all about. By Jeffery Zeldman. http://www.adobe.com/web/features/zeldman20000821/main.html Adobe.com, Aug. 12, 2001

>The World's Information Desk

A Discussion with Google's Craig Silverstein. http://www.webtechniques.com/archives/2001/09/access/ Web Techniques, Aug. 9, 2001

>Project Management Simplified

Project management tools and techniques were created to introduce order, but maintaining such systems often soaks up a lot of time. http://www.webtechniques.com/archives/2001/09/frye/ Web Techniques, Aug. 9, 2001

>Visible Hand

Internet taxes are about more than money. They're about who knows who buys what. By Lawrence Lessig. http://www.thestandard.com/article/0,1902,28556,00.html The Industry Standard, Aug. 13, 2001

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 4. NET NEWS: Kodak Says Microsoft Will Alter Photo Features in XP, Collaboration Central, Judge knocks out wrestling domain

>Kodak Says Microsoft Will Alter Photo Features in XP

Eastman Kodak Monday said Microsoft will change its Windows XP operating system to allow users to more easily see digital photo- finishing services from a number of providers, not just those affiliated with Microsoft. http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20010813/tc/tech_microsoft_kodak_dc_3.html Yahoo.com/Reuters, Aug. 13, 2001

>Collaboration Central

Will your future online work be driven by your company's Zaplet? http://www.techreview.com/web/mcdonald/mcdonald081301b.asp MIT's Tech Review, Aug. 13, 2001

>Judge knocks out wrestling domain

In the great WWF name battle, the panda body-slammed The Rock. http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-6860366.html News.com, Aug. 13, 2001

That's it for this week, see you next time.

Andrew King Newsletter Editor, WebReference.com aking@internet.com

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