Website Design Errors

 

Treating the web as a brochure
Structuring a site to mirror corporate organisation
Creating cool web pages that doesn’t translate
Writing in the old linear style
Not linking to other sites
Write for scannability. Short sections of text.
I could have used more hyperlinks to split into multiple pages.
Paid too much attention to making the website look good and usable forgetting that Web pages should be dominated by content of interest to the user.

Accessibility

Not to be confused with usability which is used to describe how easily an entity (e.g., device, user interface) can be used by any type of user. This aspect of accessibility specifically asserts that designs should be usable by people of diverse abilities, without special adaptation or modification. As time went on, it was clear that many required adaptation could benefit everyone.

How I made my website design accessible:

Using W3C Consortium, accessibility took into consideration barriers on the web for disabilities.

WCAG 2.0 principles

My website design was premised on 4 traits, is it: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust?

WCAG 2.0 (Principle 1)
Text Alternatives: Text alternatives for any non-text content was provided.
Adaptability: Content was presented in a simple layout without losing structure.
Distinguishable: website design employed made it easy for users to see content by separating foreground from background.
Time-based Media: Alternatives for time-based media was provided.
Screen reader and keyboard users made aware which link is currently in focus in the navigation menu through highlighting.

WCAG 2.0 (Principle 2)
Keyboard Accessible: website made functionality available from a keyboard.
Seizures: website did not make use of content in a way that is known to cause seizures.
Navigable: website provided ways to help users navigate content easily.
Accessible Slide show: People browsing the website with screen readers would be able understand where they are and how to navigate between carousel items.
Users who are distracted by movement would be able to pause the slide sow while reading the website.

WCAG 2.0 (Principle 3)
Readable: website made text readable and understandable.
Predictable:website’s web pages would operate in a predictable manner.

All in all, I think I made some progress, but there is more to be done.

Why I find PHP useful

The static vs dynamic website debate

PHP – Hypertext Preprocessor. PHP is a widely-used, open source scripting language. It is a tool for making dynamic and interactive Web pages quickly.

I found PHP useful for a number of reasons: PHP code can be embedded in HTML. The PHP code will be run each time the web page is requested.

1 PHP can generate dynamic page content;
2 PHP can create, open, read, write, and close files on the server;
3 PHP can collect form data;
4 PHP can send and receive cookies;
5 PHP can add, delete, modify data in your database;
6 PHP is free
7 PHP runs on various platforms (Windows, Linux, Unix, Mac OS);
8 PHP is compatible with almost all servers used today (Apache, IIS);
9 PHP supports a wide range of databases.

Prototyping/Wireframing

I’m currently doing a website design project and just wanted to blog about my experience with prototypes.

I learnt that creating a model of a system is not just for evaluation and testing. It allowed me to refine my ideas and evaluate alternative designs. I used an iterative user-centred design process going
through subsequent design cycles which means I have to keep refining and developing prototypes of the system being designed. My prototype was low fidelity in form of wireframes no functionality but conveyed a sense of what the interaction would be like. I found the whole process fulfilling as it encouraged reflection in design.

Principle of Design

Fry’s Readability Formula

There are lots of readability formulas out there to help designers create prose with a specific level of readability. Flesch Formula, Dale-Chall formula, Farr-Jenkins-Palerson formula, Kincaid Formula, Gunning Fog Index and Unsear Write Index.

I recently used Fry’s Readability Formula in my website assignment to make sure that the writing style is at the approximate reading level of the targeted audience. In this case University reading level. However, I fell into the trap of writing for the formula and not as a as a guide to verify after I have written. E.g., I wrote more sentences per paragraph which may be more appropriate for lower level readers, but may hinder readability for advanced readers who are my targeted audience. So I had to balance simple language without being overly simple to avoid obscuring meaning.

Selecting the right tool for Web development

I’m aware that there are other tools for web development apart from Dreamweaver, even though Dreamweaver has grown in popularity with professional Web developers since its release in 1997. I understand there is a thriving competitive market for the casual web developer. An example is NetObjects Website Design Software. This understanding has made me question whether making Dreamweaver the de facto web authoring tool is good for every web developer. Although Dreamweaver has its advantages. Going forward I compare these tools to determine which is right for me, I will keep my options open as tools continue to evolve focusing on helping developers develop and deploy robust,secure Website quickly. I have no doubt that big & small tool vendors will continue to improve their offerings in an effort to beat the competition with better, more usable tools

Principles of Design

Readability V. Legibility

These principles of design are starkly different but they concepts which I must admit I mix up a lot of times.

If a document or text is legible doesn’t mean it is readable and vice versa. In common language the two concepts are used interchangeably and there lies the confusion.

Readability focuses on the information, that is extent of comprehension based on the complexity of words and sentences while legibility focuses on the way and manner information is presented.

Another area of confusion is ‘clarity’. Clarity applies to both readability and legibility. Clarity in terms of readability can be omitting needless words and punctuation, avoiding acronyms and using active voice etc. Clarity as it applies to legibility can clarity of text (Anti aliasing, Aliasing) size, typeface, contrast, text block, and spacing.

End Is Nigh For RoboHelp?

I have heard of Madcap software before now, but I have never used it. For me, my experience using Madcap flare solidify in my mind at least that RoboHelp is dying a slow death.

There have been transitions before, such as RTF to HTML in the late 90s. Then RoboHelp followed suit and changed with the times. Having used Madcap and RoboHelp back-to-back for comparison, I feel RoboHelp is way behind the curve and it has stagnated. I still like RoboHelp don’t get me wrong but I get the sense it has been upstaged by newer help authoring tools such as ePublisher Professional (ePub), AuthorIT.

Going forward, I will decide what help authoring tool to adopt based on these criteria:

Fit
Mental model
Technical ease of use
Vendor Criteria

Not yet ready to pass a judgment yet on Madcap, we shall see

Usability

It is true that the connection between Technical communication, usability & UX dates back to the ’70s. I have met usability professionals from cognitive science backgrounds and I have always thought how a usability professional from technical communication is different from one from a cognitive science background.

From a personal experience, usability experts all share the desire of enhancing the user experience and making things more usable but their backgrounds to a degree dictate their approaches to usability.

Having a usability professional colleague from a cognitive science background, I know that he is well vast in a controlled laboratory research environment thereby traditionally emphasizing the human brain and how users process their information. He has experience in computers and he focuses on mobile devices, wearables, video game consoles. I realised he gravitates toward quantitative data approaches like mouse clicks, error rates, eye tracking and all that stuff that can be statistically quantifiable.

On the other hand, usability expert from technical communication have experience in user centred approaches, cultural, social & human factors in the use of technology & ethnography which generally means that they are vast in quantitative approaches as well audience analysis, content analysis, visual analysis etc. So I for example, from a technical communication background discovered that I tend to focus a lot more on the audience or user and approach usability testing from a user perspective and use the think aloud testing and heuristic testing more.

So in a nutshell, they complement each other. Recently companies such as Microsoft have been have been recruiting usability professionals from technical communication, ethnography to complement their cognitive science professionals. So a usability expert from a technical communication background is not inferior and no one background is superior either, it all depends on the target users, their experience with technology, the context and the test object itself.

Collaborative project

Final post about the collaboration project

My impression of working in a virtual team has been a good one.

According to a piece originally published the The Wall Street Journal: CIO Journal on October 24, 2013 by Mary Hamilton, Alex Kass and Allan E. Alter:

“Collaboration technology is like the Olympic competitor with a slew of silver medals: a high achiever that has yet to achieve its highest aspirations”.

So as technology improves, benefits from these tools increases as well.

The most valuable things I learnt from doing this project

Lots of asynchronous communication which I expected because of time zones but I was prepared for at least one real time/synchronous communication which didn’t happen. I liked the flexibility asynchronous communication afforded me but I like immediacy more closely aligned with a face-to-face.

Another thing I learnt is that most important collaboration was in the idea generating phase, not so much in the solution phase.

New skills I developed during the course of the project.
I have learnt how to adjust to indirect interpersonal interaction. There are some awkwardness involved which I had to adjust to.

I learnt to give & receive constructive feedback without feeling bad about it.

Leadership structure in my team and an evaluation of how effective the team leadership was

Michael took the leadership role and I facilitated discussion. The interesting aspect is we didn’t assign the roles, it came about naturally and it worked. Organizational leadership became self-managing, and thus more adaptive and agile to circumstances.

Things I would do differently in future projects

Definitely find time for at least one synchronous or face-to-face communication.