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Table of Contents:


Introduction: Why Web Usability?

Page Design

Content Design

Site Design

Intranet Design

Accessibility for Users with Disabilities

International Use: Serving a Global Audience

Future Predictions: The Only Web Constant is Change

Conclusion: Simplicity in Web Design

Recommended Readings


analyticalQ book review by Anne Ku

Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity

by Jakob Nielsen, PhD

Copyright 2000, paperback 420 pages

5 August 2000

Anyone involved in designing, building, and providing content for websites MUST read this book. It is well-designed, easy to read, and full of wisdom and examples. The websites mentioned are usually well-known websites. Despite this, Nielsen has plenty of constructive criticism. No site is perfect. Indeed we can learn from each.

Unlike his website which is all text (even containing spelling mistakes and typos), this book is well-written and well-illustrated, fit for a reference manual. As he has conducted extensive usability surveys and tests, he is able to back his advice with statistical evidence. For example, more than half of web users are search dominant (use search engines as they know what they are looking for), about a fifth are link dominant, and the remaining are mixed.

The chapters most applicable to my current curiosity are page design, content design, and conclusion: simplicity in web design. Most of the messages are of the AH!!!! type. In other words, they seem like common sense, but how we get it wrong. It leads me to the conclusion that most web-designers and builders suffer from ethonocentricism. We fail to understand that we must design for the user NOT for our own ego. Many of his messages I've heard before, but packaged together, they make bullet sense. Nielsen's motto is HOME RUN, the goals of web design must be:

H igh quality content

O ften updated

M inimal download time

E ase of use

R elevant to user's needs

U nique to online medium

N etcentric corporate culture

Some other nibbles of wisdom:

Style sheets ensure visual continuity and brand cohesiveness. Use linked style sheet instead of embedded style sheet as it is faster to download and easier to maintain. This is something I must do for analyticalQ. So my next book is probably going to be "Cascading Style Sheets, 2nd Edition: Designing for the Web" by Hakon Lie and Ben Bos.

Have print versions of screen pages. With 1 inch margin, 6.25 inch wide (15.9 cm) by 9 inch long (22.9cm)

Three guidelines for content on web:

  1. be succint: no more than 50% of text as in the print version
  2. write for scannability: use short paragraphs, have subheadings, bulleted lists; inverted pyramid (conclusions first)
  3. use hypertext to split up long information into multiple pages

Users don't like to scroll, especially horizontally.

Goal of home page answers the questions: Where am I? What does this page do? It should have a directory of the site's main content areas (navigation), summary of the most important news or promotions, and a search feature.