Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Beginning of Progress: Common Sense and Consistency

The catalyst for change occurred when the project missed some deadlines which put its funding in jeopardy. At this stage one of the industrial sponsors, Telco, assigned a small team to work on Rural Net and helped to pull it around. This team provided project management and development skills. Their work involved liasing with all the project partners and making some common sense improvements to a site prototype.

Internet 2010

The Telco team (especially the project manager) understood that people expect Web conventions to be fairly standard and become resentful and confused when this is not the case. So actions (verbs) on the original button bar were replaced with categories (nouns) — education, tourism, business, community, transport, training.This meant that users could search for information using hypertext links in a way that was familiar to them from its use in other web-sites. More importantly for na├»ve users it provides an analogy that is similar to the categorisation used in printed material, such as magazines, books and newspapers.

This version of the interface made great improvements to the navigation of site, providing a use of language which was more in tune with prospective users. It illustrated that usable web-sites can be created by following some very basic rules. For example: making sure that users can access all the functions of the site all of the time. The layout of horizontal content topics button bar (underneath the header) and vertical functions button bar (to the left side of the screen) ensured that users could navigate their way around the site without needing to scroll and that the options available to them were always visible. These comments may seem obvious, but the briefest of excursions on to the web will show that too few designers show consistency in their use of navigational constructs. They do not consider the needs people have for visual metaphors, for example, the web page as an electronic version of the magazine or catalogue.

No comments:

Internet Blogosphere