Archive for the ‘Interface design’ Category

Why we should take care when using image icons for menu items

April 25, 2007

Streamline.net my web host provides a useful online ftp capability. However, their use of icons as… well I’m not sure exactly what their purpose is, which is exactly the problem.

Take a look at them below.
icons

It is not immediately obvious what each of them does. What does the heart mean? The use of alt tags told me it was to add the site in your favourites menu. Ok, now I get the connection, but why should I have to think about it I just want to use it. Furthermore, the use of alt tags is not sufficient to convey information as it took me a few attempts in rolling my mouse over the icon for it to appear.

The standby button at the end I assume is to log out, but I’m not completely sure. I don’t want to click on it just to find out where it takes me, in case it does log me out. I’ll then have to log back in gain which will be really frustrating, so instead I ignore it completely. How do I log out? When I’ve finished I’ll just close down my browser session, rendering the icon useless.

Ultimately, it is confusing to me and a waste of design and development time as they are not achieving their purpose.

against all logic

October 30, 2006

I consider myself to fairly IT literate; I do these things as a job, I have an MSc in a computing based subject, so I’d think that poor usability wouldn’t affect me as much. If something doesn’t work as it should I can usually find a way round things to get to where I want to go or get something to work as it should.  

Of course I am affected by poor usability because it is wasting my time, but I can usually achieve my goal. However, I was filling out an electronic form the other week and when I went to submit my form, I could not find the submit button, it just was not there. I spent a short while looking at this form, thinking its got to be here somewhere, may be they have done something stupid with the validation where I’ve not entered something and so the submit button has not been activated. But no everything was entered as it should be. 

I finally discovered that the submit button was there all the time, except it wasn’t at the end of the form where logic would suggest, but at the top of the page! What is the point of that? 

My advice is just don’t do it. There is no logic ever I have come across and would ever expect to come across that would suggest you put the final stage at the starting point. 

This has now been changed due to lots of questions and feedback. The point here is that poor usability has cost the company in support costs. Having to answer and deal with all those enquiries that really didn’t need to happen if they had just positioned the submit button at the end of the form.

wireframes

October 24, 2006

I’ve just read the article on boxes and arrows ‘Real Wireframes Get Real Results’. I have to agree with the point that all too often you show a wireframe to a group of people who will ask, “So, is the new website going to be black and white too?”. It is a fact that people are confused by wireframes, however the point about making it more real using a bit of colour and real form elements etc is not ideal either. In fact we used this approach, which started a huge argument about who has signed these colours off, why has it been done like this. In fact they misunderstood the point more by using this approach.

Consistency, ConSIStency, ConSisTENCY…

October 3, 2006

I have had a few debates lately with my colleagues about consistency. My view is that consistency is incredibly important in helping the user navigate around the website without getting lost, to which they all agree. 

However we have been debating to what extent consistency should be applied. Some have argued that all areas should be consistent throughout the site. However, I’m not convinced. If we look at the diagram, for me the logo and areas A, B and E should be consistent. Whereas, C could/should change to list the content in that section and area E should change to reflect the type of content. For example, if you have a website that has magazine type content it should be styled differently to that type of content that would suit a list if links.

layout
Too much consistency can make you feel lost as everything looks the same. Considering that users scan read web pages and don’t read everything, there should be something visually that will help the user identify one section from the next.

September 29, 2006

It’s the weekend and all I can think is at long last! So my apologies, no in depth posting today, but I will leave you with something to think about.

In terms of design and layout, how far should we go with consistency? Is it just the navigational elements and terminology or should we be looking at much more?

Have a good weekend!