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Web site usability

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  #1  
Old 08-25-2002, 02:36 PM
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winwintoo winwintoo is offline
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Web site usability

Maybe it's just the heat and humidity that's making me cranky today, but I've been looking over some of the members' web sites and I have a bit of advice to offer. Remember who your potential customers are.

As graphics professionals, you probably have at least a 17" monitor - probably larger. Most people don't.

It's bad enough to have to scroll sideways to look at graphics, but when you have to scroll sideways to read each line of text, it gets really annoying and most people quit reading very soon - and they could be missing important information about your business and you could be losing customers.

It is good web design practice to create your pages so they can be viewed to best advantage by the majority of people - and believe it or not, the majority of people still have 15" or smaller monitors. Maybe all the people in your acquaintance have larger monitors, but remember your friends are probably as keen as you are.

If people viewing your web site have a big honkin monitor, they probably have PhotoShop too and can do their own restorations.

Just a thought
Margaret
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  #2  
Old 08-25-2002, 03:09 PM
Vikki Vikki is offline
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Margaret,
Good advice - especially regarding text. I find that very annoying myself.

I imagine that, in many cases, the problem lies with the web page design. Many of us are not very good at website design - perhaps you could email an "FYI" to the owner and let them know.

Personally, although I try to limit my image sizes to approx. 800 x 600, I've never thought about monitor size! I've always thought that if the screen resolution was higher, one could view the page, without much scrolling.

I just checked my site webstats: 49% (out of 9984 viewers), have their screen resolution set to 1024 x 768. 29% have their screen resolution set to 800 x 600.

Oh, and one other interesting note. The majority of visitors to my site come from Katrin Eisman's site - so they are doing their own restorations!!
Vikki
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  #3  
Old 08-25-2002, 03:37 PM
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winwintoo winwintoo is offline
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Hi Vicki - I looked at your site and liked what I saw. Scrolling to see the images wasn't a problem because it wasn't "read a bit, scroll, read a bit, scroll back"

Before I go any further, I really liked all the sites I visited - some amazing and creative work. If and when I get around to posting a web site, I'll be hard pressed to do as well.

You mention the 800x600 standard and that will include most people. Unfortunately, the older, smaller monitors don't do well at higher resolutions. For example, all iMacs (except for the most recent ones with the flat screen) have 15" monitors that are capable of displaying up to 1024x768, but at that resolution you need a magnifying glass to read it. As someone mentioned the other day, most of their customers are in the "bifocal" generation and we generally don't like higher resolution/smaller print.

Even at 800x600, by the time you allow for scroll bars and all the junk that the browser puts along the sides and top, the viewing area of the browser window is more like 750x500 (maybe even less).

I guess the design of a web site depends on who the owner wants to attract. If the aim is to attract other like-minded (and similarly equipped) professionals go for the larger size. If on the other hand the aim is to attract paying customers, it might be wise to keep in mind their limited screen size.

"So," you're probably asking, "where is winwintoo's web site?" Well, I'm having enough trouble keeping up with the few customers that I attract through word of mouth - a web site is in my future, but not for a while yet.

Have a good day,
Margaret
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  #4  
Old 08-25-2002, 05:40 PM
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Ed_L Ed_L is offline
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That's something to think about. We have a second computer with a 15" monitor. Display is set at 600 X 800. Anything smaller is very hard to read. Wouldn't the display resolution have more to do with the problem mentioned than the size of the monitor?

Ed
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  #5  
Old 08-25-2002, 06:20 PM
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winwintoo winwintoo is offline
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Doesn't much matter whether it's the display resolution or the size of the monitor, my point is that there are many people who can't view a wide page without scrolling from side to side - and creating pages that require people to scroll side to side is bad design.

Margaret
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  #6  
Old 08-25-2002, 06:26 PM
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Sanda Sanda is offline
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I agree sideways scrolling is bad. The usual way of correcting this is using a width tag, if set for 90-100% it should stop the user having to sideways scroll.But I'm not sure if it's only for tables. Ill have to check that out. Now I'm off to check my pages, I'm not sure if I've followed my own advice on the recent updates.

Last edited by Sanda; 08-25-2002 at 09:29 PM.
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  #7  
Old 08-26-2002, 09:48 AM
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Mike Needham Mike Needham is offline
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http://hotwired.lycos.com/webmonkey/...html?tw=design this is a link to the browser sizes and chrome measurements.

I have little sympathy to those who choose obscure non compliant browsers or with outmoded equipment, but if it is a business site, it is a sad fact that web designers will have to cater for them.

My other huge bugbear is people having their screen resolution set to low. A prime example is my business partner has no visual impairments and a 19" monitor and has his resolution set to 1024x768 - this is ideally the resolution for a 15" monitor. The only exception other than personal preference is visual impairment. I mean no offence to those who have outmoded equipment (in part I am one of them) but the times march on and we must move with them. Noone really wants Nielson like usability and the web is nothing if not a visual repository as well as an information database.

On my personal (not business) site I design at 1024 resolution and pretty much only cater for IE5 and above and Netcape 6 and above , I expect users to either embrace the reasons for my descision or go elsewhere - Sadly not a choice I can afford to make for my business.
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  #8  
Old 08-26-2002, 10:53 AM
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winwintoo winwintoo is offline
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Mike, Ouch!!
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  #9  
Old 08-26-2002, 01:11 PM
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G. Couch G. Couch is offline
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Mike - I have to disagree with a couple of your points. I have my 19" monitor set to 1024x768 for one very good reason...no flicker! My video card supports up to 1600x1200, but at that resolution the 60hz refresh rate causes a headache within seconds! Even 85hz causes my eyes to strain over time. At 1024x768 I have a rock solid 100hz and can stare at the screen for hours with no eye strain. It's basically a trade off between seeing more or seeing longer and has nothing to do with outmoded equipment.

I do agree that you should design for newer browsers but it also does not take that much effort to insure backwards compatibility. For example, placing alt tags in image map links insures anyone browsing with graphics off will be able to navigate your site. Granted, only 5-10% of your viewers might be using out dated browsers or 15" monitors, but it does not really take that much time or effort to insure they can view your site. Of course, I have only designed a grand total of two websites! One is an online poetry e-zine my brother publishes and the other is a personal art gallery. Both are rather graphics heavy but I tried to keep the 800x600 resolution in mind and tested both sites in several browsers. On the poetry site we have had large variety of browsers (even text only due to slow connections in some countries) and have had no bad comments about the site..so far!
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  #10  
Old 08-26-2002, 03:11 PM
Vikki Vikki is offline
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Greg - you brought up another good point for designers to remember - image size.
In my opinion, that is at the top of the list of things to consider. Although I want the best possible image to be displayed, it is of no use if the viewer has a slow connection and won't wait for the image to appear. I refuse to stay at any site that doesn't make the effort to resize images for ease of viewing.
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  #11  
Old 08-26-2002, 04:37 PM
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Mike Needham Mike Needham is offline
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I too realise the importance of optimising graphics and providing rudimentry tools to accomodate a broad spectrum of users, yes alt tags are vital, but do you use them properly? are you aware that they now want you to provide a detailed description of the picture? that they are thinking of trying to enforce these new procedures? Am I going to comply?.......hmmmm.... are you?

If I designed every site to W3C standards then not only would I die a lonely and bitter old man, but I would also be 3 months down the line trying to iron out ridiculous flaws that only a handful of people will ever experience - with business sites this is as I stated still partly neccesary, but for personal sites, It is my right to exclude or include who I want to my website, I would dearly love Netscape 4 and Opera users to enter my Portfolio site and when they see sense and upgrade to a Compliant Browser they will be welcomed with open arms

Lets be honest, how many of the usablity rules do any of us cater for? Is your information as accessable to the blind as it is to the sighted? Do you use an alternative navigation in html for users who have no graphics? the list is endless. I refuse to be lambasted for using div tags if thats my choice, I want to use CSS and Java and xhmtl if people dont then there are sites that cater for that type of thing, but they are few and far between.

However when all is said and done, I dont want to shoot my mouth or my foot off too much the best sites are arguably the ones that do cater for the widest audience, A-list Apart and BBC Online are just two that spring to mind, they are a triumph of design and usability.

I am not trying to advocate lazy or uninviting websites, rather a 'designers' choice to implement the style they desire. I know my choices exclude some from my content, but its a tradeoff that I am willing to make in some part. If I created a site in Flash or Shockwave then I should be under no obligation to create an alternative in html for those who dont wish to install the 3rd party plugin.

I wish no offence to anyone out there and whilst my views are strident I hope that I have not upset anyone (not my wish) I look forward to being flooded with tuts and tssks


Oh and thanks for the points you all raise, ironically I dont really disagree
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  #12  
Old 08-27-2002, 12:15 AM
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BigAl BigAl is offline
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Quote:
If I created a site in Flash or Shockwave then I should be under no obligation to create an alternative in html for those who dont wish to install the 3rd party plugin.
Ah, but then what's the purpose of your site?

You would have lost one potential customer (me!! )
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  #13  
Old 08-27-2002, 12:46 AM
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I think it is kind of simple. If you don't like it, don't go there.

I had someone complain recently that something wasn't displaying properly where he was using Linux/Opera or some combination like that with the JavaScript turned off. Well, when I look at my logs, he was among the LESS THAN 1% of Linux visitors to the site. People are always going to have their weird computer configurations, (i.e. adjusting the browser font size in Netscape) but that doesn't mean I have to design for that less than one percent. Maybe one day they will wake up and realize that they aren't seeing half of what the internet has to offer because they refuse to, or don't care to operate the same as the rest of us.

It is the same as a couple of people coming into the United States who speak some obscure ancient language, and insisting that we all learn to speak that language just so it would be more convenient for them. Absurd.
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  #14  
Old 08-27-2002, 01:56 AM
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G. Couch G. Couch is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by chiquitita

It is the same as a couple of people coming into the United States who speak some obscure ancient language, and insisting that we all learn to speak that language just so it would be more convenient for them. Absurd.
Latine loqui coactus sum!

All kidding aside...it sounds like the real issue should be to design for your audience. If the visitors to your site are a diverse group then you should design with that in mind.

It's easy to say that someone who, for example, uses a text only browser or a strange OS is "behind the times" and needs to catch up...but that is not always the case. I think that's more the attitude of somewhat spoiled Americans...I don't intend that to be derogatory, as I am one of those who is spoiled! We are used to 56k and faster connections along with "unlimited access". However, in many countries internet access is still charged by the minute or hour and in order to facilitate faster browsing, people will often turn off graphics or features like Flash or JavaScript.
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  #15  
Old 08-27-2002, 05:05 AM
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Thanks for moral support, Greg

You're right though, even with the fat pipe that this university uses to connect to the world at large, it is sometimes very frustrating having to wait for unnecessary rubbish to download.
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  #16  
Old 08-27-2002, 05:38 AM
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I have a friend that had her jewelry web-site done by a professional. Nicely done but NONE of the images were optimized. My friend has a DSL line so everything looked fine to her. I'm on 56K dialup and I noticed right away that pages were taking a long time to load.

This is a good way to loose customers.

I'm now optimizing her images.
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  #17  
Old 08-27-2002, 07:51 PM
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chiquitita chiquitita is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by G. Couch


However, in many countries internet access is still charged by the minute or hour and in order to facilitate faster browsing, people will often turn off graphics or features like Flash or JavaScript.

The original post was speaking of member's sites, most of whom I think are in the US and Canada. I think most who have businesses are catering to people in these two countries and that is what I was referring to.
----

gland - If your friend's images weren't optimized, then it wasn't a professional who did the work. The word "professional" is thrown around alot these days by everyone when it comes to web design. Unfortunately, when you look at the pages, they are clearly not professional.
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  #18  
Old 08-28-2002, 05:09 AM
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Mike Needham Mike Needham is offline
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Its a difficult point and in some ways a fine line, between accessibility and usability. Graphics that havent been compressed, text that is given a fixed pixel size, these are examples of bad usability, sometimes these same things can also have an impact of accessibility.

One of the main reasons that I refuse to support older browsers is that they are not Standards compliant, they have no support for DOM or CSS, they are generally bereft of any redeeming features. Web designers have a torrid enough time testing in the compliant browsers (which still have a huge variation between what they will recognize), If I ignore the old browsers and concentrate on CSS and DHTML etc... I can ensure that disabled viewers can access my content, change it to suit their needs, I can also ensure that hand held palm tops and other devices (yes including text only browsers) can also access all my content.

If I dare make a corny analogy (of course I dare) Surfing the web without a compliant browser and standard equipment is like expecting shops to stock the latest Hollywood blockbuster on beta-max so that you can experience the movie too and then being mad when all you get is grey fuzz.

Laziness and bad design go hand in hand, not optimizing everything is just plain lazy, but do you also remember to optimize your code? I refute that it is laziness on my part not to provide a sub standard page for non compliant browsers.
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Old 08-28-2002, 06:24 AM
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Chiquitita I guess I did use the word "professional" rather loosely. The HTML was done well. Nice use of CSS-etc.

I just can't figure out why they didn't take a little time to optimize the images.

Gary
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  #20  
Old 08-28-2002, 02:59 PM
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Quote:
Surfing the web without a compliant browser and standard equipment is like expecting shops to stock the latest Hollywood blockbuster on beta-max
It all comes back to keeping your audience in mind.

A few years ago, BMW (the car folks) created a very pretty site that made very heavy use of QuickTime movies (QTVR, I believe). Since their market was high-end car buyers, they knew their potential customers could afford new computers.

What they neglected to consider was that just because their customers COULD spend a few thousand dollars every year or two didn't mean that they chose to do so. And, at that time, many executives weren't using the net at work--they might not have a computer on their desk.

So they got a lot of people going TO the site, and a lot of people who couldn't SEE the cars. Sales had a [very] minor dip in the subsequent months, and the site was updated. Whether the sales dip was related or simply coincidental, I don't know, but...

Net-geeks often forget that most people aren't on broadband--just because it's relatively cheap doesn't make it a useful expense for many people. The same goes for 17" or larger screens, or high-resolution displays of any size, or multiple monitors, or...

Just because a potential customer CAN spend money or time on their computer (a 'free' browser download that take an hour to download and 3-5 hours to get working for the people who don't know the 'obvious' solutions is NOT free!) doesn't mean they will. The only time this is a truly safe bet is when you're selling software for the net--and the last time I checked, most retouchers were selling fixed images, not software.

Who is your customer? What is it safe to assume they own/use? What do they want from your site? Those are the key questions.

Last edited by Kevin Connery; 08-28-2002 at 03:23 PM.
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  #21  
Old 08-28-2002, 03:16 PM
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Kevin makes a good point. Just as a passing comment I would suspect that designing a site to be quick loading, not full of fluff and feathers thus allowing folks to easily and quickly gather the info they need would be the way to go...but I could be, and probably am wrong...Our connection speeds up here are mostly in the 19k range and sites that take too long to load just dont get looked at....I am darn near totally Web ignorant so forgive me if what I just said does not make sense.... Tom
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  #22  
Old 08-28-2002, 04:39 PM
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What it comes down to is what risk you are willing to take. If you are a professional web designer, it is about making the site as compliant as possible for what your client wants, and if they even care if some people can't view their site. Some of them don't even want to bother - the want what they want on the site regardless of who is able to view it.

As for photo retouchers with their own businesses, you take a risk of loosing a customer with each enhanced feature you put up without an alternative. If you want an ugly, brochure-ware site, with basic information and text, then have at it - you might gain some customers that you would have lost, but you also might loose some that you would have had with a nicer site. Personally, a company's site is a huge factor in whether or not I use their service or buy their product - not the only factor, but a significant one.
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  #23  
Old 08-28-2002, 07:13 PM
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Is it possible to have a "Nicer" ( I assume you mean attractive, eye catching, interesting) without loading it up with items which take a long time to download or require the instillation of special software to enable viewing? I am not being snide here...I have little web experience, no HTML knowledge, just a perspective which originates from having very slow Internet service and hating to sit watching the "fuel gauge" display creep along slower than paint drying. Remember ,not everyone lives in Urban areas with high speed internet access. Shouldnt the goal be to catch the widest audience possible while making the site as user friendly and interesting as possible? Tom
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  #24  
Old 08-28-2002, 07:46 PM
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Kevin Connery Kevin Connery is offline
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Quote:
Shouldnt the goal be to catch the widest audience possible while making the site as user friendly and interesting as possible?
Very close, and certainly usable, but not entirely correct.

The goal is to catch and keep the best qualified audience.

Sometimes that's high-tech users, sometimes it's not. (net software tools vs, well, most anything else)

Sometimes it's people who are very much concerned about presentation, sometimes it's not. (art vs accounting f'rinstance.)

If you don't know who your potential customers are, then 'widest audience possible' IS correct. But most companies have some information about their intended/expected customers, and for most of them, it's not the universal widest. (ABC, NBC, airlines, newspapers, sure. Most people...no.)
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