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Authoring and Design for the WWW
DESIGN INTO PRODUCTION
The following are example rules from a standard text on
interface design (Brown 1988), showing how they can be applied to the Web.
- Use invariant fields on each screen
If similar items of information are to be shown to the
user or the user is expected to enter such information then similar locations
on screen should be used throughout. For example, a Help button should not
appear in different locations on various pages. Type size, style and colour
should be similarly consistent: this is a case where the Web used to impose its
own rules, but now using the COLOR and SIZE attributes we have the freedom
to make mistakes.
- Define and use terms consistently
One word such as Home Page must not be used to mean
different things. In fact the whole idea of Home in Web pages is best avoided in
a user-centred design a page may be home to the publisher, but not to the user.
- Present lists in useful orders
Lists, for example of linked pages, should be arranged in a
way suited to the use and user, not the publisher. Depending on the purpose,
this may be alphabetical, classified, logically grouped, hierarchical and so
- Present similar information in similar formats
Variety which has no meaning is counter-productive.
Differentiation should only be used where it signals an important difference to
- Make instructions distinct from data
Items which are part of the furniture of the system, or
which are rubric telling the user what to do, should not look like content
material, nor vice versa.
- Present information in the form it is used
This is the essence of successful design for users.
Designers must put themselves in the user's shoes when deciding how to give or
request information. For example, the questions posed in a Web-based form
should be posed in terms which make sense to the intended user, avoiding Web
jargon and omitting anything which would only be comprehensible to the
- Minimise cursor/pointer movement
If there are two hypertext or other controls which are
frequently needed one after the other, they should be placed together on the
screen (as are the go-forward and go-back buttons in the Netscape interface).
- Use of icons
Icons can be used for compactness and memorableness.
However they are frequently no improvement on text, sometimes worse.
Users will make errors, especially as systems become more
complex. User-centred designers work with error in mind, trying to prevent
misunderstandings and slips by the user, but not supposing that such errors will
When finally users do make mistakes, error messages
should be instructive, polite, brief, appropriate to users, consistent, specific and
Virtual Environments Visualisation