CMC Magazine: January 1999

Root Page of Article: Usable?...Or Not?...Factors Affecting the Usability of Web Sites, by Rakhi Rajani and Dr Duska Rosenberg

Issues Affecting the Design of Web Sites

Consideration Description
Maintenance Once posted, a page has to be frequently maintained to incorporate the ever-changing web technology. Also, if the developer does not maintain the links, then these too have to be checked to ensure that the owner has not withdrawn the page.
Speed Of Access This is perhaps one of the most contentious issues in Web design and often involves conflict. To aid the speed of retrieval it is essential that only necessary information be displayed. Graphic images that aid usability may cause sites to download slower. It may thus be necessary to reduce the image content of a page and substitute it with text. An apt balance between speed and design for usability should be established.
WYSIWYG With the Web, it IS true to say that what YOU see is what YOU get. However, what YOU see is not always what everyone else gets. Every Web user will have different browsers, different screen settings, different graphics cards and different computers. Designing for the average majority is the key, but still difficult.
Navigational Aid Navigational aids such as navigational bars at the top of a page, a content index, or site map on every page of the site will aid usability. As many Web sites are non-linear, the use of tools to aid navigation around a complex site that spans over many pages is essential in helping a user find their way. Link colours should be consistent. The destination of links should be obvious.
Anonymity It is possible to predict a 'possible' user base, but web designers are essentially designing for an 'unknown' audience.
Design Traits These include Clarity, Accessibility, Consistency, Simplicity, Navigability, Integratability, Feedback, Informativeness of Displays and Speed.
Limitations Of HTML HTML structures a web page, but it is not a layout tool. The use of tables, frames and tags etc allows for some layout procedures, but these are not ideal. However, as technology is constantly changing, new versions of HTML (v4.0) and DHTML (that some browsers support) are evolving, as are other techniques such as the use of Java and XML etc. Also, certain typefaces are not supported, and designers use graphics instead, but these slow down the access speed. Thus, certain conventional design traits are unattainable.

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