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IX.3 May 2002
Page: 45
Digital Citation

Shaping web usability—-interaction design in context


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"If there is one book that should be open on every Web designer's desk—this is it! Badre presents a comprehensive guide to the process of designing Web sites, complete with references to research studies, concrete examples, and lots of illustrations of Web pages that work and some that don't work. This is the ultimate cook-book for identifying user requirements for Web sites, doing user-centered Web site design, and performing usability evaluations on Web sites.

Badre notes that there are many differences between designing graphical user interfaces and Web sites that make Web site design more challenging. He focuses his book on two topics: designing the user experience and designing for context.

Badre talks about designing the user experience—not just concentrating on performance and errors but optimizing the user's comfort, preferences, and enjoyment with a Web site. He presents the Userview Process that produces four documents: a discovery document; a user culture document; a set of guidelines specific to this Web site; and a usability plan for evaluating the Web site. A discovery document outlines the projected functionality of the site and the goals of the site. Why are users visiting this site? What are their expectations? Informal use scenarios can be used to generate the discovery document that contains a statement about the services the Web site should provide. These requirements fall into functional and non-functional requirements. Functional requirements are the description of the actual services that will be provided while nonfunctional requirements are the constraints and standards that will apply to the Web site. Badre notes that this document can be used as a contract between the developer and the customer. A second document describes the user culture—who the user is, why they are visiting the site, the range of Web experience the users may have, the diversity of software and hardware platforms, etc. The third document that follows from these two is the set of specific Web design guidelines that will be used in the design and development of this Web site. The sections on context explain how Web site specific guidelines can be derived from the discovery and user culture documents. How the specific guidelines are derived from the first two documents is explained in the sections on context. The fourth document details the plan for evaluating the usability of the Web site.

Context is broken down into five hierarchical components: the Web environment, the user, the genre of the site, the Web site itself, and the actual Web page. Each component is discussed in a chapter of the book. Each of these components compromise the specific context of a Web page and each component contributes various guidelines and constraints that a Web developer should consider when developing a Web site. For example, consider the qualities that distinguish a news site from a shopping site. News sites need to present textual information to the user while shopping sites contain more photos, short product descriptions, and transaction forms. Therefore, there are high-level guidelines concerning these different genres. For each level of context, Badre presents generic guidelines and gives suggestions to the developer as to how to obtain Web site specific guidelines, including many issues that should be considered.

The chapters discussing Web site context and Web page context cover more material than the normal set of design guidelines. In the section on Web sites, Badre discusses techniques to use for gaining information about structuring the content of Web sites. In addition to Web site navigation, he talks about security and privacy concerns and guidelines for presenting a satisfactory user experience in these areas. Guidelines for maintaining quality of Web sites are also given.

In the section on Web page context, Badre divides the discussion into three sections: home pages, content pages, and transaction pages. He gives general guidelines for each of these types of pages. In addition, he includes a section on aesthetic and explains how to balance artistic expression with the usability principle of simplicity to add to the user experience. Badre says "art should be consistent with the visitor's web experience."

An additional section on designing Web sites for handheld devices gives some specific suggestions for optimizing the user's experience and performance when using small screens.

Badre gives specific guidance on how to tailor general testing methods to methods needed to test specific Web sites. He notes how usability evaluations of Web sites differ from traditional usability testing and suggests ways to modify traditional methods to overcome this. He also suggests questions that are specific to the Web that should be probed in usability evaluations. For example, is the content organized efficiently, is the functionality of the site visible, does the home page serve as a gateway to the site? He includes measure of usability, techniques for selecting participants for usability studies, when to use interviews versus surveys and other helpful hints for those getting started in usability testing their Web sites. He proposes an iterative process of designing and testing and discusses what types of information can be obtained from testing at the different stages of design.

Badre has done a wonderful job of organizing the questions that a Web designer must ask to produce a Web site that yields a rewarding user experience. The hierarchy of context in this book and the resulting guidelines are an excellent way to show the relationship of the multitude of design guidelines. There is an abundance of material in the book—all of which should be of value to the Web site designer. The examples and illustrations help to ground many of the guidelines and make for easy reading. The book is a must for those new to Web site design. For those experienced Web site designers I recommend the book as a way to clearly structure your work and process. The book should also be helpful to those who are doing usability testing on Web sites. The organization of the book could prove useful in structuring and presenting your process to management as well.

—Jean Scholtz

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Addison Wesley Professional, 2002
ISBN 0201729938

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©2002 ACM  1072-5220/02/0300  $5.00

Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. To copy otherwise, to republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or a fee.

The Digital Library is published by the Association for Computing Machinery. Copyright © 2002 ACM, Inc.

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