Global Com – Research interface designers Part 1

The following are dots points taken from the books “Information architecture: blueprints for the web” by Christina Woodtke.

Information architecture: blueprints for the web”

Top five mistakes your website could be making (taken from the first chapter). These are are some rules found on the Internet which Woodtke has researched from various websites. However like all rules there can be exceptions as she explains :

1. User’s don’t read – use as little writing as possible.– This untrue. If it was true then books and newspapers wouldn’t exist. Content is considered king and most website wouldn’t exist without it. It is easier to say that users don’t like to read online. So a solution would not to force them to read online, however this is a sticky subject to tackle since every one’s needs is different. A better way of saying this rule is to consider the needs of your target audience and the nature of the content when writing on the web. Break it up by using chunking, alignment and five hat rack.

2. User’s don’t scroll. Don’t make your website scroll.– I’m not sure what to make of this one. Scrolling is normally unpleasant and repetitive, however would a user abandon a website because of scrolling? According to the book most users will abandon a website after the second page (75%) and another lot will abandon again (50%). Some people might scroll down to see what they are missing where as other will drop out completely. Again the understanding is based on the audience’s needs. To understand what is the nature of the site users, business and content.

3. Font size “1” should never be used. No one can read it– font size “1” is about 8 point font size so tiny that it can hardly be read. However in law there is a time for fine print. The same could be said for websites (the opening animation disclaimer comes to mind). There are dozens of websites where the tiny print can be found stating legalised text. However Woodtke explains the larger principal here is to use visual hierarchy to communicate the importance of each page element. (Gutenberg Diagram)

4. There should be a maximum of seven links on each pages; more than that and we lost the user. It’s just too many choices. –  This is actually based on a 1956 study where is was stated people could not remember more than 7 items in one minute. However it has since been proven that people’s short term memory depends on what they are asked to remember. The real problem that should be asked: do people feel overwhelmed when presented multiple choices? It really depends on the tolerance of the user. Some principals that could be remembered in this case could be:

  • Use the end users vocabulary for labelling information and links.
  • Design a clear hierarchy
  • Prioritize your page elements.

5. The user doesn’t do the thinking, you do. – This again could be considered untrue. the end user isn’t an idiot and is at that site for a reason. A solution would be to make the site self evident and to seek better tools for better solutions.

Woodtke basically explains it’s all about the end user’s needs. So finding the target audience in this project is important to gain a successful resolution.

 In the second chapter she goes on about the importance of principles in web design. That it’s better to learn from those before you which makes it easier for you the designer to make an interface. People have been designing for years before I came along and it would be silly for me to ignore their advice. Some of the principals I felt that were relevant are:

1. Design for Way finding – So the first question would be what is way finding?  Way finding is a way people navigate from place to place. The goal of way finding is to let the user know:

  • where they are
  • where the things they’re looking for are located
  • how to get things they seek

So a solution to this would be to provide some sort of feedback to the end user. On the navigation bar place the “You are here sign” i.e home. Highlighted in some way. This way the user recognizes what page they are on. When users are looking for something ask what are they coming to the website for and what are they trying to find? Keep the main items in front for the user to go back to. Clear labels are needed when a user seeks something.

2. Set expectations and provide feedback– I felt this was pretty self explanatory. Make sure the user knows what they are clicking on and expect that site to appear to them. It’s no use having a link saying “mongoose” and taking you to a site selling water beds. Feedback is a form of confirmation letting the user know the site is active, been clicked on and is active.

3. Be consistent and consider standards –This is also a fairly simple principle. The site I am designing would not be the first site the end user is looking at. I believe the end user would have gone to many other sites to look for that certain product. It’s better to look at competitors sites and patterns they have used in their navigation system and apply that to my own site. However I don’t have to outright copy some one’s ideas I should apply my own thoughts to the site as well.

 I found these principals quite useful when developing my own site. I believe with the end users needs included I could create a good resolution.

In the third chapter she goes on about the user, technology and business. When designing a website for a business it’s important to understand your designing a website to make money. However this does not mean you can ignore the end user and what technology they have available to them. So a few questions I have to ask myself before even starting to design the website are:

  • Who am I designing this for?
  • Why does the business need me to make this?
  • What are my materials?

A good way to find some information is to interview subject matters, read books and magazine about the subject.

In the fourth chapter she goes on about the end user and how to find them. This is were some clever researching and lifestyle board can be handy.  A few important points woodtke has are:

  • figure out who the site is for
  • what other sites do they visit
  • do they use competitors products
  • Don’t reveal you bias to the final audience if interviewing them
  • Design the site towards the end user
  • Don’t ask design questions to the end user