Activity 3: Research-Based Guidelines

Look up the ‘Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines'

A)  Examine the Table of Contents and select 10 of the guidelines that you think are essential to follow for most website development (make sure they are from a range of chapters). List them and give your reason(s) why you think they are important guidelines.

B)  Select 5 of the guidelines that wouldn't concern you too much while designing or evaluating a website. List them and give your reason(s) for giving them a low priority.

C)  Describe a guideline of your own that you don't think is covered in this resource.

A) Essential Guidelines

1)    Minimise Page Download Time – Not all users have a fast broadband connection and as such it is important to limit content/images/scripts etc so that those people with slow connections do no get frustrated or even worse leave your site due to slow page load times.
2)    Comply with Section 508 – While compliance with Section 508 Rehabilitation Act. is only a requirement of US Federal Institutions, I believe it is important that all sites try to comply with this requirement. With nearly 10% of the population suffering some form of disability, making pages accessible to everyone is very important.
3)    Provide Text Equivalents for Non-Text Elements – A simple way to help improve the experience for those users using screen readers or other assistive technologies is to ensure that all non text objects such as images, graphic buttons etc use alternate text descriptions otherwise they would have no way to recognize much of the content or navigate a site efficiently.
4)    Account for Browser Differences – Not all web browsers display content the same way. In fact many browsers are not standards compliant. As such it is important to test all pages made in a variety of browsers and if necessary add CSS code, limit use of proprietary features or create different versions of pages so that all users have as similar experience and be able to access all important elements on a page. Designing web sites that conform to WC3 standards is a good starting point
5)    Use Fluid Layouts – Over the last few years more and more users have migrated to using large widescreen LED screens rather than small CRT monitors as was used in earlier days. As a result using fixed width designs can result in much of a users screen real estate being wasted. The use of fluid layouts is the most practical way to account for these differences. This solution ensures content will be displayed cleanly on either small or large screens. That said when it comes to mobile devices the use of CSS and customized style sheets are the best solution.
6)    Provide Feedback on User’s Location – Providing breadcrumbs, highlighted menu items etc are important features so that users can get an understanding on where they are on the web site. This makes it much easier for users to navigate a web site.
7)    Use Site Maps – The use of a site maps is an important tool to use on most sites, especially on larger sites where standard navigation can become unwieldy. They enable users to at least find the general area where content could be found. Additionally they help search engines find content much easier, which will increase your chances of having a higher search engine ranking. Google especially takes notice of site maps when ranking pages.
8)    Headings in the Appropriate HTML Order - Using the appropriate HTML heading order helps users get a sense of the hierarchy of information on the page. The appropriate use of H1-H3 heading tags also allows users of assistive technologies to understand the hierarchy of information. Additionally many search engines now give precedence to information contained in appropriate headings so as to better evaluate their relevance and importance.
9)    Ensure Visual Consistency – Visual consistency is an important aid in helping users to know what to expect from various elements within a site. Additionally it is much more visually pleasing and easier to use if all items are displayed consistently. The use of CSS style sheets is the easiest way to ensure consistency.
10)     Minimise the Number of Clicks or Pages – Most content should be accessible with a minimum of clicks. If the hierarchy goes to deep it can become unwieldy to find relevant information and frustrate users.

B) Non-Essential Guidelines

1)    Provide Client-Side Image Maps – The use of client side image maps should only be used when there is a close correlation between the image and the information it is linked to. The use of client side image maps as a main navigation method is very old fashion and has been discouraged since the late 1990s.
2)    Design for Commonly Used Screen Resolutions – Designing to a fixed resolution is also an outdated method that does not take into account the vast variety of sizes available in monitors today. A fluid layout is a much better idea. If there is a need to use a fixed size layout for a particular device then browser detection or similar methods should be used along with specialized style sheets to format content in a suitable manner.
3)    Announce Changes to a Web Site – Site announcements are mainly only used on government or corporate sited. Now days there are many alternatives to providing information regarding changes to web sites if required. Some alternate methods of communication include email, mailing lists, forums, blogs, RSS feeds or even content pulled into modules from other content using javascript, XML etc.
4)    Use a Clickable ‘List of Contents’ on Long Pages – Rather than creating a long page it is better to break up the information into smaller chunks. With the advent of Ajax and a variety of other javascript libraries it is much better to use collapsible modules, tabbed content etc which will easily fit in a much smaller screen area.
5)    Place Primary Navigation Menus in the Left Panel – With the advent of Web 2.0 sites the use of left hand menus is diminishing. There is nothing wrong with placing navigation at the top of a page, which results in much more usable screen space for other content. Basically it is a design choice not a rule when it comes to menu placement.

C) Additional Guideline Information

SEO – Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is very important when it comes to users finding out about your site. There are a number of techniques used to increase rankings, which include structured layout that separates content from design, use of Keywords and Description Meta Tags, hierarchical content structure, correct use of Heading tags, use of sitemaps, cross linking with other sites etc

Good and Bad Design | Your Own Site | Research-Based Guidelines | Assignment