designing web usability
Designing Web Usability:
The Practice of Simplicity,
By Sir Jakob Nielsen
The book “Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity” is the ultimate book on web design theory. This is very informative book and good reading for those currently involves in web design and who those are providing the contents of the web site should read this book, Designing Web Usability provides very deep and specific advices about the designing of the web-sites, much of them we can apply immediately. And also I have applied very good tips and instructions in my project 327 web site even after reading the some of the chapters from the book. I have gained very good concepts, tips and rules about web designing, so I think anyone who is involve in designing and building and providing contents of the web site must read this book. It is well-designed, easy to read and full with the colorful examples. In the mostly web site mentioned are well known, well illustrated and fit for the reference manual.
The term web-usability means at what level the web site is able to satisfy the user’s requirement and also is the web site easy to understand to the user/customer, or also we can say that the degree to which the web site has been designed with the user’s need point of view. Later on I will explain each and every change of my project 327 web site with pictures (it is also influenced by this book). This book is an excellent resource for professionals and for those who are creative and wants to perform as a skillful web-designer, or we can say it in another way this book is for those who are interested in serious design.
The author of the “Designing Web Usability”, the pundit (intellectual, thinker) of web usability, and a famous Sun Microsystems’s distinguished engineer is Sir Jakob Nielsen. He is the founder of the discount engineering and he has been writing the hypertext, navigation, and Internet engineering for the last decades. He has given his valuable views, reflections, principals, tips, and design theory. He has explained every possible aspects of the web-site design with a very plain-language. He has conducted extensive usability surveys and tests, I think that’s why the web-usability guru Jakob Nielsen’s advice on the web design is well researched, sensible and right on the target, and his common sense tips and techniques for the developers. In this book Nielsen gives up his theory with the results of usability testing and plenty of well-clustered closely analyzed real life examples.
This book is well organized and its topics are covered in the depth. Three major parts of the web site is page-design, control design, site design. These parts covers books two third part and the rest of the part shows screen shots of web sites and points out the strengths and weakness of mostly renowned web sites, although he has chapter on accessibility and global users. The first part page design covers cross platform design, he is focusing on the infrastructure of minimizing responses time, utilities of links and advantage, disadvantage of the style sheet and frames.
The idea which he has given in the Designing Web Usability are very mark able, every designer will keep these ideas in mind all the time and will apply in his works. About the page design he explained very well in a organized manner that page design contains material on optimal division of screen real estate between content and navigation, creating good link via the use of appropriate levels, titles and colors the use of frames and style sheets, software and hardware limitations and the implications of high response times.
Sir Jakob Nielsen’s main priority is the creation of fast downloading pages on the basis that the user simply will not wait to see the web site, which is taking very much time to load. And really it is very practical, I opened an e-mail account at sify.com but I don’t use it now, just because of its response time is very high it takes long time to load just because of animations etc. The second part of the Designing Web Usability focuses on the writing for web and describes the importance of the page titles, heading and writing for the web that tend to scan through pages of information. This part also covers the multimedia contents, the use of the images, animation, audio, and video. The third part the site design describes home pages, navigation, the advantages breadth focused, depth focused and combination models are presented in the context of three main goals of navigation, for help the user to find out the present position, where the user have been and the clear links where the user can go. About the search design he explains the search box, advanced search, search algorithms and result presentation and also URL design at the end of the book, he addresses the Internet it describes the primary difference between designing for the Internet and intranet. Also about the sub site, extranet really these were new concepts for me, now I know various facts about these. Designing for accessibility describes accessibility for users with disabilities, internationalization, and localization. The chapter on the internationalization and localization mainly describes mythologies for conducting international users tests. In the final chapter Jakob Nielsen take sudden sensation, he predicts the future of the web. After reading this book, I can write here it is uncanny about the Jakob Nielsen’s concepts, that most of concepts are simple but they make a perfect sense. I have seen the site but it has only text I don’t know why he didn’t apply his concepts to his web site www.useit.com, a column alter box published in this site, this book provides the material of these columns with an organizational structure, however he has given various screenshots in the book and his easily breakable commentary on what can be done to improve these sites. The content itself is augmented by many more illustrative images on the screen shots. Few of the guidelines are backed by data from usability tests and explained studies. He seems to take a radical scientific line when he argues that a page is inefficient because only sixty percent of the screen is denoted to product and navigation but in the next breadth he admits that good design might include ‘white-spacesw that is unused screen real estate. There is no any which will explain that where the one consideration starts and other begins.
He also makes the radical claim that HTML standard 1.0 should be the web author’s common denominator, but he discussed cascading style sheets (which is supported by only version 4.0 and above). A few of guidelines come from extending proven principals from GUI design. He has given the guidelines mainly for the contents on the web. He suggests that no more than 50% of text as in the print version. We should give text for scan ability, so we should use short paragraphs with heading and subheadings, marked list. He argues for well-annotated outbound links, on the basis of that each pointer towards useful information adds quality to the site.
When I choused this book I had started to work on my software engineering project web site “hotel inventory systemâ€, first I learnt how to make a web site after that I made it, but after reading this book really I found many faults and wrong approaches in my site, really I will keep this book always on my study table I am giving also my project’s sites pictures with indication of my faults, and also I am trying to change all the wrong approaches in my project 327 site. I am giving these pictures, where I mentioned my faults, these pictures are as an extra work papers (Iâ€™ll not count these in my assignments 12 pages!).
I think the e-business is increasing with very good speed and it has a very great importance in the industry because every company whether it is stable or unstable has a portal, if not then they are trying to set it, the companies does a big part of their works thru the internet, it will not be uncanny if I will say here that in these days internet is a essential part for any business and it is a best media of information, that’s why I am agree with Jakob Nielsen’s view that the number of sites will increase very fast. Now the point is that what type of contents the site should have, who will make the web site worthy and informative from the user point of view because user want something useful and required information with as soon as possible with exact results means the user don’t want to waste his time to see the unrelated information, So whenever we design a web site we should keep in mind the user’s requirements, Web site usability affects millions of users on daily basis most users have low tolerance for anything that either did not work, really the user don’t want to disappoint from the site, by the cause of this user would not want to visit the site again. Because there is many other sites out the user generally have very little patience. Therefore first impression is very important, especially for those who are selling products on the net. And also some times the designer wants to give something innovative, that’s why the site become cluttered with useless and confusing new features. Once the organization achieve the success to satisfy the customer then he will come again, customers usually buy the product before actually trying it out. The Web reverses this; users are allowed to experience the Web site before deciding on whether to spend their money on that site. This makes Web usability the single most important issue for a company that does business online.
I think whenever the designer starts designing than he thinks either in artistic or in engineering point of view, so we have only two approaches to design a web site. First we design the web site in a artistic manner means we give a lots of animations, pictures, and other stuffs and another approach is engineering point of view which points to solve the customer’s problem and fulfillment of the user requirements. In his book he describes many methods, tips, and techniques regarding these facts. I have applied some of his suggestions and rules in my software engineering web site and still I am trying to follow these. Now my cs327 project web site looks better then before and it is easy to understand. I understand same thing would happen to other designers that’s why most of the sites are not very informative we know that, the web is a very recent communication medium, and some designers have spent enough time understanding how exactly using the web is different from conventional interface design. Apart from that, many companies still insist on using the Web as a brochure, and not as a new business channel. But in this book Sir Jakob Nielsen tells many ways to avoid all the information that is not very much required by the customer.
This book has changed my point of, after reading it’s earlier chapters I started to edit my project site, now these days I am also creating a web site on my Robotics projects and before uploading these to the net I will edit it again. I think when a designer creates a web site then he/she shouldn’t see his interest or pleasure (what he likes) but should concentrate on user’s requirements.
I think we should display the maximum area of our actual content in the web page, but before reading this book I gave a large area to the navigation control in my software engineering project web site, because of it I couldn’t use the large part of the web page but now I have minimized the navigation control now I am using approximate 70% of the screen of my actual contents, rest are navigation controls and there is only one animation in the home page of the project327’s first home page then I have indicated my faults by the black circles and also indicated by black text. In this page I wasted very much the web space for navigation control but after understanding this book I have changed the site’s home page now there is 70% actual contents inspire of previous home page I will explain my each improvement in the project web site step by step I am also changing my another site contents which now I feel is not right. Screen sizes have grown very slowly when we talk about the evolution of web page width design from the beginning when web pages were designed to fit into 300 pixels and now the average is 775 pixels which will fit an 800 pixel screen resolution, I am agree with Jakob Nielsen that screens of 640×480 and 800×600 pixels will be still the normal at least for the next two years.
We know that in the any programming language the programmer gives the commands for achieving the particular results suppose programmer controls the navigation interface in the traditional GUI design. On the Web this is reversed, the user is in control and web designers need to accommodate in support user controlled navigation. In every web site there should be a logo on every linked page to the site’s home page, and also the path of the link should display to the user for knowing where is he right now. From it he can easily justify his position.
There are several versions available in the market of the browsers. And also because of these browsers upgrades occurred very quickly when the Web was still young .So the designer should always keep in mind that the site should work on all browsers, also the designer should check the with all browser versions.
In the most of the part of this book Jakob Nielsen says that designer should always try minimize the response time because the sites that take more than 10 seconds to load can’t leave good impression to the user so to the first fact that designer should keep in mind is that try to minimize the response time. In my software engineering project site I used animations and special effects that time web site home page’s response time was 17 seconds (too long!), but after reading this excellent approach (the book) I removed the unnecessary animations, right now there is only one animation. Now it’s response time is 8 seconds, and also I have applied this approach to another web site, which is a detail description of my Robotics projects. As we are following the XP process in our SE project and I have the three responsibilities web-maintenance, Tracker report, Developer and some of documentation part, so after knowing the response time fact I gave the tracker report in a simple table format, and in my site there is no any picture that’s all is just to save time. Because of it whenever the page start loading the heading of the pages come first.
As I explained above we shouldn’t use graphics for the decoration, images should be used for delivering information not just for pleasant look of eyes. Never leave out ALT tags. Images with no ALT tags should give the meaning of the picture, not just a description of it; we should not use them if we are using the images only for decoration.
The linking between two web pages is very important, sir Jakob Nielsen gives excellent the linking technique. But in this book Jakob Nielsen has given very good examples and tips and techniques that we can apply directly to our html sources. After reading these I have modified several links in my project327 web site, here is I have shown it by the black circle the link (“customer descriptionâ€) is very long, and also it takes a very big space and it is a wastage of space but I have modified it, now the name of this link is only “customerâ€. Also the color of the links in the home page is not right according to the book the color of the links should be same but I gave two colors in the project327 the red and blue. Now it has only one color. But from the default setting unvisited links should be blue and visited links should be red.the length of the heading should not be long. We should not open any new window without user desire.
If the site requires registrations or payments means it creates a URLs dynamically, either through search engines or through database access, and users would profit from accessing these links frequently, then we should give a static URL, which can be book marked or emailed by the user. Designer should not give the home page as a login page because whenever the user will come, he will disappoint to see the login page in spite of an informative home page. We should give another static URL for it as like www.yahoo.com gives www.mail.yahoo.com and www.usa.com gives www.netaddress.com a static URL for database accessing, but also they are giving extra information in their home pages. Banners should contain content that interests users, and not just a “visit our siteâ€ or “click on me” messages in the book he has given a very good example of www.convergencepoint.com, they mentioned a add in other side,â€click here for 10 reasons why you should DVD!â€ And when the user clicks on this hyperlink to see the 10 reasons, it opens the sites home page and user disappoint very much. There are many other sites which give their add in very artistic way, but they never fulfill the given specification and they give link directly to the site’s home page but the user who always wants to see the desired information generally press the back button. If we want to give long text, reports, interesting essays or news, in this case we should give a .pdf of .ps files for printing, because large web pages would take very much time to download. From these files the user can easily take out the print out. Style sheets can be used to customize the web site according to a site-wide standard. In the project327 web site I have mentioned my weekly reports previously by the date and day. Now I am planning to give the animation indication for the new report.
Now I will continue it to explain all about the contents of the web site, contents should be presented in a very easy to digest format. Content with no purpose should be removed. In my SE project web site project327, I have shown there wastage of space, because of the extra length of the hyperlink the contents of the home page goes in the horizontal region, and it takes the horizontal scroll bar. The user whenever sees the page he always want to see the horizontal scroll bar and he disappoint because there was nothing extra in the horizontal scroll bar. But now I have modified it after reading this book. In the web business the user will judge the utility of a site partly on whether it has the right amount of information or it has the required information .so we should concentrate on it very much because after the response time the second fact the user think is about the web-site contents. If the subject matter is too broad then the goal of the site may unclear. Links, archives or search engines can provide a balance between providing valuable content depth/breadth and providing so much information that any site is hard to use or understand. If we want to give a detail knowledge of a particular field then we should give another link for the detail description because content page should contain conceptual unit of content like an article, skit, or short story. Rather than click from page to page of an article if user do need to click to continue an article then we should mention a small right arrow or a word continue for the detail description of the topic, because it is not necessary that every user wants the detail knowledge on a particular subject. We should try to give high quality in the articles and topics. Also there should be an indication in the web page for the current information because timely information is more reliable and more interesting than describe the state information. We should include article or episode dates. Suppose we are giving something new in our web site then it should be high light, it shows that we always offer something. Whenever I visit to my database course311 web board, there I can easily see the new messages by the help of the new message indication, really it’s very helpful. We should use the simple language, and also we know that user does not have the time to read through a lot of material, so we should start each page with the conclusion, give the most informative material in the main page, because some time the user only scan the text so we should give the very effective topic name I have given in my site a book mark of “what’s newâ€, so if the user want to see the latest changes then he can easily see the latest uploading in the web site.
We should try to minimize the vertical scrolling and also eliminates the horizontal scrolling. There are also interesting tips on page titles the page titles should not be greater than 2 to 4 words. Because the user can scan short title very easily and after reading the title he may read the contents so the title should be attract. And also we should attract the user to the contents links but we should not try to link every contents links to the web site’s home pages because. There’s a strong temptation to do this – because designer would naturally prefer every visitor to explore your site in full. But there is no reason why the user will tolerate searching your site when they have been referred on the promise of something specific.
We should reduce the images size the images will take a lot of time to download so we should not use images only for decoration purpose, it is my opinion that if you want to give a number of images than we should give a thumbnail of that particular image, if the user wish o see the total picture than he just need to click on it. Instead of simply scaling or cutting images up, combining both techniques can reduce download times.
We should not use the animation, audio, and video just for decoration but we should give it to give the additional depth to the content we are showing. There are several ways in web page to show the various effects with contents of the page, I used one of them in my project327 web site. But after reading this book and after understand it I removed these effects from my web site. The new version of my web site is partial fulfill the techniques. I believe the videos are excellent for showing real world activity, I have a example for it, in previous months the Honda company tautened it’s third humanoid robot p3 and because of very interest, I went to Honda company site download the humanoid robot’s video really after reading it’s specification and technical details I saw, it’s video that was very much helpful to me to understand the working of the robot. So I think it is important to give real time information to the user, after this event and after reading in this book, now I have decided that I will also give my all robot’s video clips in my web site. Most probable I will launch my web site after my final exam of SE. We should reduce the images size the images will take a lot of time to download so we should not use images only for decoration purpose, it is my opinion that if you want to give a number of images than we should give a thumbnail of that particular image, if the user wish o see the total picture than he just need to click on it. Instead of simply scaling or cutting images up, combining both techniques can reduce download times.
We should not use the animation, audio, and video just for decoration but we should give it to give the additional depth to the content we are showing. There are several ways in web page to show the various effects with contents of the page, I used one of them in my project327 web site. But after reading this book and after understand it I removed these effects from my web site. The new version of my web site is partial fulfill the techniques. I believe the videos are excellent for showing real world activity, I have a example for it, in previous months the Honda company tautened it’s third humanoid robot p3 and because of very interest, I went to Honda company site download the humanoid robot’s video really after reading it’s specification and technical details I saw, it’s video that was very much helpful to me to understand the working of the robot. So I think it is important to give real time information to the user, after this event and after reading in this book, now I have decided that I will also give my all robot’s video clips in my web site. Most probable I will launch my web site after my final exam of SE. But there should be the duration of video clip and expected time to download and size of the file. From this the user can take decision to download a particular video clip.
I think audio is good for any web application but generally the user keep his system speakers off, and giving an audio clips also increase the response time of the web page, but on the other hand audio is good for music applications, and online language training and quality sound enhances the users.
We should not use the three dimension graphics in a normal web site application, but suppose our site’s concept is based on graphics such as online consultancy from the architecture to the customer about the structure of his building, description of mechanical machines, chemical reactions, projects etc.
For any site the home page works as a introduction for that site the user can know only through the home page, what is the web site have to offer to the user. I have a example for it from my previous works, I did a project in computer architecture in my bachelor degree of computer science but made their slides to explain it on the projector but I didn’t explain these in my project handouts so I was not able to explain very much because for others there was no any details in the handouts. Here to overcome my previous faults I suggest here that in the home page of the site every thing should be mention and for those who want some detail description should explain through a hyperlink. Also we should mention the location of the user where he is and also we should give every possibility to the user related to that page to keep in mind the user’s requirement. My site home page is short I gave there only links to latest reports of my project progress. Home page of less size will receive more users because the small size requires less response time. Every home page of the site should contain a search field because it will save the user’s time. We should not fix the size of the window means although now these days the most usable size is 600 pixels, designer should not give a fix size there should be a resizable option in the each page.
The home should contain a search field if the web site is too large to surf the user want to get the information as soon as possible so generally user go to the search option. So it should be in the home page. From the home the logo of the site should be in the every page of the site.
If I think about the site structure then, I feel the structure of the site has a very important role so the designer should give more time to the site structure. If the site has not good structure then the user can’t use the links properly. We can say that no purposeful hierarchical structure. Designer should give a sufficient time to the structure and navigation. The planning of the site structure should be done from the user point of view not the designer or the owner’s point of view. Suppose a customer wants to see the some specific information of a particular field, and after clicking on it the page comes has a login form, free registration form, or any other page than the user don’t feel comfortable to that site because he was not informed prior to the clicking on that particular link.
We should provide the user to know his exact location where he is and also we should give the every possible links to another pages related to that particular topic. The designer should show the current location in hierarchy. We should show the location by images or simple by path from it the user can go any of his desired previous sections. Now these days I am doing a project in database cs311, I have taken a library domain for my project for collecting the data of the books I went to www.firstandsecond.com and also in www.amazon.com there is path of every page suppose you have a subject name the you can go to subject, after topic, subtopics really it is very much helpful for the user so we should give the current location of the user and also allow to the user to access to the main section. We should never give the important buttons in a scroll window because user may not give the proper attention in a first to look of the page so we should give all-important navigation elements in a consistent and predictable location.
We should not use the splash screens because, it delays to access content, online users want the pages as soon as possible, I am doing my database project in java environment as a front hand, but I needed some programming help so I opened the sun site parallel and found my problems there. That was possible only because of sun’s web pages has a very less response time, they don’t use any graphics, animation or other special effects.
The home page should contain a search field section, the user want some specific knowledge from the site, so the user can jump from a search engine straight into the middle of a companies web site. If the web site is too large to surf the user want to get the information as soon as possible so generally user go to the search option. So it should be in the home page. Searching should therefore be easy to access and included on every page. Leaving advanced options and Boolean search to a separate. We should also give the search instruction in the search page, because generally user doesn’t know how to do precise search .so think there should be a help button to guide the user, how to do a right search.
We should choose the right domain name because from the name of the domain we can easily aware to the user about company name. It should be remember that we are leaving in which society means language has a very great impression. Suppose we are dealing with a businessman who does not know English so we have to give an option in his native language to do business with him. And also always have the domain name be the same name as your company.
We should give the URL name easily understandable because we can’t force the user to remember the name of the site so we should keep in mind this fact. And guessing to navigate, so using real words, with no mixed or uppercase and avoiding special characters will always be a good idea. A Indian entertainment site www.hungama.com is a right example of the domain name because in Hindi hungama means a making merry, entertainment so once the user will see it he remember it. But I want to explain here one technique that is suppose you have a domain than you should by two or more domain relating to the your site name means if the user will enter a wrong URL then the wrong domain will redirect the user request threw the server either automatically or there should be link in the page of the wrong site, above I have given a example of hungama.com but if the user will input the hangama.com then in this site a link appears which gives a message that you have entered a wrong site name right name is below ,ten the user just click to the site and reach to the desired place, suppose if site haven’t the link then he lose the users ,because I think there must be some percentage of users who enter not right domain name.
I think sub site is a much more important factor for any organization, it is just a collection of web pages within a large web site suppose you have a large web site or you do business with many countries so you need to give your pages in many languages rather than only in one language so we should make many sites within a major site these sites which are the hierarchical part of the site is called sub site, it has a same importance as the main site, because owner interact with the user only through the sub site so sub site should use the same features as the main site use. I am giving a example www.yahoo.com is a main and a large collection of pages but it has a sub sites for the particular country or the particular service suppose you want to send a mail threw yahoo then you need not go to yahoo home page just go to it’s static site www.mail.yahoo.com.
Intranet has a very important role in this information age means through the intranet you give the in formations to your companies employees. We can just justify our self the importance of the intranet is by the fact that some of the big companies has a more than 10 times pages in compare of internet site means a company keep records of every progress department wise and some specific persons can see only the information about that particular department. The employees of the company can use the intranet. Really before reading this book I didn’t know this fact that intranet has a so much importance. Also there was a new word for me that is extranet the extranet web pages only accessed by the customer means, extranet is a only for business purpose, before reading this book I didn’t know about the extranet so this book is really a big source for me to explore my knowledge in the field of web design. When a designer design the intranet the proposed intranet should closely involve to that particular department. Also the designer should link all the project pages to the should have a home page from where the user can go to the desired location, and also the home pages of the projects should link to the to the personal intranet home pages of each project on which the employees are working.
We should always use the relative font sizes to the other web pages because when a user start reading to the text and after that he goes to another link where he get another fonts the he does not feel comfortable so we should give same font to all web pages, we should use the appropriate heading styles, ALT entries, I used in my project327 a good combination of the heading numbers markup. Also I used in it a high contrast colors to provide a better understandability to the user and the user will feel comfortable with the color combinations. We should use the keyboard as much as possible, we should avoid the mouse use, suppose a site give a registration form fill and in a submit button there is no option of the keyboard then user have to enter his entries through a mouse, here disabilities comes, so we should avoid the use of actual mouse movement. I faced this problem in a www.hottelephone.com site before 10 days. I think the most of the web users who are actually utilizing the internet facilities and expand there businesses are, Americans but now these in Asia the number of sites are increasing multiplicatively mainly in china and India. If we analyze the server logs for checking the fact of proceeding time of the users, and after comparing them with the total global web users, we then find the indication for the future, which country will play a main part in the internet revolution and also we can know from it the about the popular language of the internet.
Suppose we are dealing an international business and for it we need to perform our extranet pages in that particular countries native language with other language option so the language option in any web site is as much important as the web site contents. So we should give the options in the web site’s main page to choose a language. So I feel for every web site the language option is must. And the language option should come in the home page, from where the user can select the language, in which he is feeling comfortable. And also we should give this option in every page of the site because suppose a description of a particular subject is not explained well in users native language then the user can see that particular topic in the main language of the site it may be English. And we should not give the language option as an indication, abbreviated name of the language or countries native sign, designer just need to give only the language name to the user. From it the user can easily understand the options.
In the most of the sites the search engines of the multi language facilities give the option to the user only in the home page means they provides this facilities only in the home page and they give the result only in the current selected language, but it will be appreciate able, if the search engine will show the contents of the other language means the user can get more knowledge on a particular topic and also if the search engine will change the required information which is not in the selected language then user can get full advantage of the internet search engine.
After reading this book, I am able to understand the various facts of the web sites and also I can justify the site’s usability, I appreciate sir Jakob Nielsen’s various techniques to find the usability of the site for example he explained in the page number 288 of this the technique to find the good search engine select any five search engines and give a them same query of 2 to 3 words and inspect the first 10 retrieved links, and after scaling the result and knowing some how much time the search engine take to complete the search ,after the comparing the results we can know which search engine is good by the scale of the search results.
In his book he has given many techniques, tips and some facts, which are very much useful for professionals and as well as amateur of the web design fields. I like to design a site and I will keep the concepts of this book always in mind and I will try to implement them in the next projects.