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Professional Communication Skills (HS 601)

Handout - Web Page Design

  1. Remember User Goals
    • Users typically come to a site with a goal in mind. Each link and click should meet their expectations and lead them toward their goal. When streaming your site, have key navigation links appear first, in case the user wants to get to another area in the site. Emulating common GUI elements will increase usability.
  2. Remember Site Goals
    • Site design should reflect business or client needs, effectively communicating the main message and promoting the brand. Yet site goals are best achieved by respecting the user experience, so site structure should reflect user needs, quickly leading the user to their goal and avoiding company or regional jargon.
  3. Avoid Unnecessary Intros
    • While intro animations are exciting, they often delay the user's access to the information they seek. Always offer users either a Skip Intro command or alternative access to your home page. On their second visit to your home page, skip the intro animation altogether (use a client-side JavaScript cookie to accomplish this) then on the destination page give the option of returning to the animation.
  4. Provide Logical Navigation and Interactivity
    • Keep the user oriented: Refer them to their previous location and guide them to their next one, and remind them of where they've been by programming links to change color after being visited. Give them an easy exit from each major section of the site, and an easy return to their starting point. Clearly indicate each link's destination and keep navigation links visible, (rather than being hidden until the user has triggered an event). Display primary site navigation first as Macromedia Flash streams. Make sure your buttons have well-defined hit areas&emdash;and remember that the browser's Back button is not a substitute for clear navigation within your site.
  5. Design for Consistency
    • Consistency in user interface is the best way to improve your site's performance. Reusing architecture elements, design elements, and naming conventions frees the user's attention for your message while they navigate to their goal, and it also aids site maintenance. You can use Smart Clips to reuse interactive elements throughout the site, and have words and images from initial navigation links reappear on destination pages.
  6. Don't Overuse Animation
    • Avoid unnecessary animations. The best animations reinforce the site's goals, tell a story, or aid in navigation. Repeated animations on text-heavy pages distract the eye from the message of the page.
  7. Use Sound Sparingly
    • Sound should enhance your site but not be indispensable. For example, use sound to indicate that the user has just triggered an event. Always provide on, off, and volume control on screen, and remember that sound significantly increases file size. When you do use sound, Macromedia Flash will compress music into small MP3 files and even stream it.
  8. Target Low-Bandwidth Users
    • The smaller the download, the better. The initial screen download should be no more than 40k, including all Macromedia Flash files, HTML, and images. To reduce download time, use smaller vector-based images (unless the image is a complex bitmap, in which case it's better left as a bitmap file), and use the Load Movie action only when the user specifically requests a file. If a wait is unavoidable, provide a load time sequence with a progress indicator, and have navigation load in the first 5 seconds whenever possible.
  9. Design for Accessibility
    • Make your content available to all users, including those with disabilities. Highly descriptive Alternate Tags allow your content to be interpreted by assistive technology. The magnifying Smart Clip for zoom is another easy-to-use Macromedia Flash feature that allows more users to see your content. For an in-depth discussion about making Macromedia Flash content accessible.
  10. Test for Usability
    • Have someone with fresh eyes test drive your site to make sure it accomplishes both user goals and site goals. Even compact Macromedia Flash animations can delay users from reaching their goal, so use Macromedia Flash's built-in Bandwidth Profiler (located in the View menu in Test Movie mode)to analyze how well your site will perform over various bandwidths. Re-test the site each time you make even small changes. Make sure your site testers match the demographic of your site's anticipated audience&emdash;especially if the anticipated audience includes users at various levels of comfort with site navigation.
    • "We often overlook what's right in front of us. So, I have found that reminding even the most talented design teams of basic usability guidelines can result in substantially more usable sites and often time better looking sites."

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Created by T.C. Wehner and C. Barrett 5 September, 1996; design by C.T. Glenn;
maintained by T.C. Wehner; last revised on 20 June, 2010