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User Interface Design

This area of Web development refers to how well the content is organized from the viewers' perspective and how easy it is to navigate. One needs to have gone through the planning stages covered in Site Architecture in order to be able to implement this part of the site's development. Product design has much the same requirements by integrating Human Factors (or for computers, Computer Human Interaction) to solve a user's interaction with the equipment.

Creating Intuitive Design

UI Design starts the conceptual phase of web or product development. In both cases, the objective is to make the site, application, or product intuitive to use. Please... "Don't make me think."
- Steve Krug
So easy, in fact, that the best solutions do not require the user to think about how to interact with the product or site at all. For those not familiar with this topic, a good starter book for Web development is "Don't Make Me Think", by Steve Krug. For some designers, this translates into creating many links to the same page. Our experience is that only confuses the end user. The fewer the links, the fewer the choices, the less the viewer has to think about which is the "right" link. This is not as easy as it sounds. The solution is very often not that obvious. Even if one does user testing, the testers may not understand what is intuitive.

Choose a Category Type

So how do you organize all those links? A helpful approach is to think about the site's function. Is it a change management site where there are specific actions the viewer must step through? Or is it an informational site that would depend more on a thematic categories? The purpose of the site determines what the main categories are. Another rule of thumb is to limit the number of categories to no more than seven. The fewer the categories, the less likely the end user will go down the wrong path. It might seem counter-intuitive, but the viewer barely reads even the category titles. They head for familiar real estate on the site and click as they're reading. There isn't a severe penalty for getting it wrong, but it's more rewarding for the user if they get it right the first time.

Make It Scalable

If you know that the site will grow over time, it is worth taking extra time to plan how the site will grow without changing the navigation's architecture. Once the viewers have learned the navigation, they are not happy about learning a new system just so the navigation can add another level. So make sure to plan ahead.

Related Links

Featured Books:

SIGCHI Conferences

Usability Week Conferences

UseIt.com, Jakob Nielsen

Assoc. for Computing Machinery

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