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Thread: GDSD#2: Practical Ergonomics for Modern Web Design, ZuniWeb

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    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    The South Bay, CA

    GDSD#2: Practical Ergonomics for Modern Web Design, ZuniWeb

    I just finished this article. It is the second in a series I started. Hope this helps someone!

    Graphic Design Secrets Demystified
    By Michael Brown

    2nd installment:

    Practical Ergonomics for Modern Web Design

    Hi everyone and welcome back to this the second edition of GDSD or Graphic Design Secrets Demystified. This week I am going to cut straight to the chase and address something that I have really wanted to discuss since I first came up with the idea of starting this series of articles. Iíve been so excited that I could not wait passed the second installment!

    This time around we are going to talk about what it feels like to go to a page. Your page presumably, so we better think hard and clear about what someone encounters when they type in that URL and hit enter. In this modern day of high speed connections and shimmering salmon DNA OLED screens it is no wonder we all got lost. The beauty, the features, the possibilities, the headache! When an architect designs a hotel they donít want to have hotel patrons scrambling to find the lobby or the bathroom. When a designer designs a page they donít want someone to leave site disenchanted without understanding what they just saw, usually at least. If we donít think about how someone will feel when visiting a site then we might fail the first essential point of our mission as designers: To provide the information that their customers want to see and to do it fast!

    So why have I titled this article so? Ergonomics, though normally referring to things that exist physically such as industrial equipment, is the scientific study of design intended to maximize productivity by reducing fatigue and discomfort. I feel that it is very simple and practical to see how this applies to web design as well. Although more of a mental creation as far as the mind can be abstracted from the body, web design is the art of translating information while utilizing visual aspects to increase the communication of an idea over the World Wide Web. One has to keep their ideas clear in their mind while staying objective enough to see the faults of their design.

    Ergonomics is first off a scientific approach. Real knowledge is the key to properly utilize the concepts of what we may so lovingly refer to as human-factors engineering. You have to receive data by actually fishing for real opinions of your site. Listen to other people, but do not let them cloud your intentions. You want to know how they got through the information on your site, how long it took them, and how they felt after doing it. Having a working knowledge of ones customers is the only sure way to design properly for the needs of your audience.

    I have compiled a list of concepts and checkpoints to run through when thinking about the design of a website. These four points are not necessarily wholly applicable in every situation, but the will give the reader a clear understanding of basic concepts that we here at ZuniWeb use to test the quality of our work's communication skills:

    1. Ease of Navigation:

    Many a time I have visited a website and been completely overwhelmed with pages abound. Links and sections, sections and links it is hard to tell which way is up sometimes. This is a problem run rampant today and something must be done immediately. Though it is great to be able to have so much functionality, to encounter ten-hundred thousand menu options on anything is a daunting task take hold of. Suffice it to say that too much function can sometimes cloud what is really good about a site.

    That is why you should always keep certain things in mind:

    Obvious Navigational Features

    -Large, well defined or bright buttons and links

    *Being easy to see and identify makes things easier to use. This concept is similar to marking emergency exit doors with brightly lighted signs

    *Although we want things to be obvious, avoid always being excessive as it can destroy communication. Sometimes being a bit lavish in design can help to prepare visitors mentally to take in information, but proceed with caution

    Organizational Harmony

    -Consistent navigational features help to allow people to navigate your site quickly and effectively.

    -Clear section titles and paths allow people to keep track of where they are and what they are doing.

    Reduce Load Times

    *Load times can confuse and agitate visitors by adding distractions and wasting time.

    2. Visual Comfort

    The dreaded eye jitters. Those times when you have been wading through pages and pages of yellow text on a red background and you go temporarily blind with third degree burns on your retina. Twitching, gushing fluids and all you can do is to try soaking them in artificial tears and waiting. That is one thing that we should all work to eradicate, but the first thing we have to do is inform ourselves. Identify the problem and act accordingly.

    Appropriately Sized Text

    *Text should be large and clear enough to be easily read and understood without being so large as to hinder performance.

    Appropriate Color Schemes

    *Utilize easily distinguishable colors, but be weary of colors that are hard to read.

    Use appropriate images to draw eyes to important information

    3. Economics of Design:

    What do people want? Not every site has to be a one stop shop for everything on the planet. Some sites serve specific purposes and without that need being fulfilled; well the idea is lost in a sea of useless content. That is why we are now going to talk about the economics of design as it relates to the ergonomics of design as it were.

    Design to Inform Not Confuse

    -Designs should be created in order to display information economically and effectively.

    Design Site Around Most Important and Essential Content

    -Be concise and somewhat critical about what you put on your site.

    -Reduce the amount of pages to only those which are necessary for the service.

    -Do not make it any harder to find what needs to be found

    If you are still with me then you are well on your way to having lean mean advertising machine! Now with all the basics covered we move on to the last and most important aspect of ergonomic web design.

    4. Intuitive Design:

    This is kind of the Zen of what I am trying to describe today. It is sort of an abstract concept that canít really be summed up in words, but must come rather from practical understanding. Intuition is a direct perception of truth and should therefore be treated accordingly or directly. That is why it is always important to do your own research rather then to just rely on others. One must delve deeply and try to fully understand the impact of there site on the visitor and develop a keen and quick insight. One has to always:

    Keep in Mind the Needs of the Customer

    *What sections will be most often used? These are the most important and every effort should be made to accentuate them.

    Practical Testing

    -Walk through your site and see where and how it leads you. How did you feel about your walk through?

    -Let other people look at and review your site. Take note of what sections they view first and how they navigate and take to your site.

    *A lot of forums have review sections where you can have your sites looked at by a multitude of people.

    *Be sure to get reviews in person if possible as well.

    My thoughts may all seem relatively simple to understand, but this is really just a basis for understanding ergonomics for web design. In actuality it can become much more confusing depending on the nature of a website and its services. Letís all just take a lesson from the pre-world take over Google and keep it simple, shall we?

    I hope that you enjoyed this second installment and that youíll be back in the future for the next, GDSD Graphic Design Secrets Demystified. Until Next Time

    Keep on keepiní on,

    Michael Brown

    If you enjoyed this article please check out our website and forums:

    Here is a direct link to the article:

    Thank you!
    Last edited by WongFei; 17 Apr 2007 at 12:56 PM.

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