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Web Site Usability-Spool, Scanlon, Schroeder, Snyder and
© April 1999 Tony Lawrence

See also Poor Richard's Web Site

Every book on web site design will tell you that you need to be concerned about such things as having a consistent navigational structure, good graphic design,proper page layout, etc.

Those books are all wrong.

This book presents the results of a study in which the authors observed people actually trying to use web sites. Not surfing, not looking for "cool" sites, but actually attempting to gather information. Amazingly, the supposed elements of "good" design turn out to be unnecessary and even hindrances.

If you have anything to do with designing web sites, even if it's just talking to the people actually doing the design, you'll want this book. It does not have all the answers, though: the authors found that none of the sites they studied did very well at being usable, and the authors aren't offering suggestions as to what consitutes usable design. Primarily, they are just reporting the facts, though of course those facts at least give us some hints as to what not to do.

They also suggest that there may be difficult problems: although the study found that the traditional "well-designed" sites were difficult and confusing for the testers to use, the same testers often reported that they "liked" those very sites! The authors also note that there may be a conflict in that sites that attract attention while surfing seem to have elements that detract from usability, and that sites that do better for usability aren't "interesting" to surfers. That poses a challenge for web designers, and it may not be easily resolved. Obviously more real studies like this are needed, and those of us hoping to provide useful and usable web content had better pay attention to the results.

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Take Control of Pages

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