Interface Design


The usability and function of your web site is very important. This page asks several questions that when answered will greatly impact your site's usability. Instructions on conducting usability are also included.

The concept of usability for interface design is focused on the purpose of the interface and user driven. It is therefore important to know your audience and understand the role the interface is intended to perform. If your users can answer "YES" to each of the usability questions below when assessing your interface then you are well on the way to successful interface design.

Can you get to the site easily?

  Navigation on the www can be challenging. The world's greatest interface is completely worthless if impossible to find. Provide your audience with links (via email) or make the site addresses short and easy to remember.

What is the site supposed to do?

  The purpose of your site should be clearly spelled out on the home page. Once declared, the remainder of the site should address the declared purpose. Unrelated content should not be placed on the interface.
Where am I?   It should be immediately obvious to any user exactly where they are when surfing your interface. For example, you are currently on the usability main theme page of my web site. This page has no sub pages.
Do Users Get Lost?   Navigation within your interface should be a prominent feature. It should not only provide a method to get the user where they need to go but also show page prominence and hierarchy. Examples of appropriate navigation aids would include tabs, nav bars, and columns of rollover links to name a few. Lengthy pages should use page anchors to spare users the chore of scrolling great distances to return to navigation aids. When a link takes a user to another web site, the user should be instantly aware of it.
Are click able objects easily identifiable?   The user should be able to immediately tell what items can be clicked and what clicking the items will accomplish. Underlining links and using unique colors to denote click able objects are the most common methods of setting these objects apart from other content. Use caution not to surround these objects with visual clutter that can distract and confuse the user.

Do the pages load quickly?

  There is nothing more frustrating than waiting a long period of time for a page to load. This is comparable to "dead air" on the radio. How long would you stay tuned to a station that had 60 seconds of silence between each song?
Usability Testing
  Several theories on usability testing are prevalent. For our purposes, three or four volunteers who are typical of your user are ideal for testing your site. During the testing, use a prepared script (link is to a sample script) and watch each volunteer navigate your site. As they work through the site, ask probing questions and encourage them to think out loud. At the end of the session, have them answer a questionnaire (the previous link will take you to a sample).
Am I done?   Once you have conducted usability testing, a list if the main problems found with the site should be compiled. After the list is made, review it and form a plan. Once you have made appropriate corrections and modifications to your site, Repeat the testing with new volunteers. Continue to repeat this process until your product works! Then... you are done... until the first revision!
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Rev 20-Sep-2004
John Rivoire .....