TECHNIQUES - Archives Nov. 99


Techniques Online | About STC | About Techniques | Archives | Links


Designing User-Friendly Websites
by Mary Donnelly

A user-friendly Website is one that visitors can easily access. It is very important for users to be able to easily access and navigate a site. Usability measures the quality of the experience the user has while interacting with a piece of documentation. When testing a Website for usability, one vital question must be raised: Can people use the site effectively? There are many characteristics of user-friendly Websites. A few are listed below:

Typography

Typography is one of the most important ingredients for a user-friendly Website. The size and style of the font should be easy to read. Pay special attention to line lengths to ensure that they do not get too long. If a line is too long, the document will be hard to read which will make it very easy for readers to skip over information. Fonts placed in italics should be avoided because again, this style is very difficult to read. There are many effective and appropriate font styles already set up by default on most computers. Several would work nicely when creating a site.

The format and layout of a Website should be simple. Use upper and lower case letters, avoid blinking and underlined text, and avoid words that are in all capital letters. Nothing will turn readers off more than text that is placed strictly in capital letters, words that are in all caps symbolize yelling on the online medium. How many users are going to want to explore a site that is yelling at them? Finally, maintain a consistent look and feel throughout every link or page in the document. Consistency is very important when designing a page. If the same colors, fonts and styles are used throughout the page, the designer's credibility will rank high.

Graphics

Graphics play a vital role in emphasizing Websites. They are fun to look at and give readers a break from reading text. However, it is important to not overuse graphics. Be aware of the time that it takes for graphics to load. A rule of thumb is graphics should take less than 10 seconds to load. If they take longer, it is certain that people will lose interest and move on to another site. Keep the number of graphics to a minimum. It cannot be said enough that the more graphics a page has, the longer it takes for the page to load. Use graphics that are relevant to the theme of the Website and help emphasize the main points.

Colors

As with graphics and fonts on Websites, color must also be pleasing to view. It is very important not to splatter Websites with color. Use color sparingly and accordingly. Not all users have high-end monitors that support every color combination. Keep this in mind and use basic colors that convert from machine to machine. There are endless color combinations that can be used. Do some research and user-testing to find out which colors work best together.

Search Engines

Search engines are a great way to ensure usability. They dramatically cut down the time it takes users to find information. Visitors will not be forced to search the site blindly because the engine allows them to type in what they are searching and displays the results or takes them directly to the information. Websites should be easy to use. The most successful Websites on the Internet ingeniously combine typography, graphics, color, and search engines.

Research and testing is also a key to success. Spend some time analyzing users to find out what they need to know and then put energy into designing the best possible way to deliver that information to them.

For more information on Website design issues, check out:


Features | Meet | Reviews | Current Issue | Bulletin Board

Copyright 1999 - Minnesota State University, Mankato
Last updated: April 2000
Please read our disclaimer