Moffitt, Director of University Online Communications
I just returned
from a conference in South Padre where I spoke about web
site usability for news and information sites. I spent
several months reading and rereading all of the web
usability books that I could get me hands on including: Homepage
Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed by Jakob
Web Usability : The Practice of Simplicity by
Jakob Nielson, Usability:
The Site Speaks for Itself by Kelly Braun, and Shaping
Web Usability: Interaction Design in Context by
Albert N. Badre.
The following list of usability
recommendations kept showing up in all of the
books. I bet I know what you will think when you
read through the list. Probably something like this
stuff is just common sense. I agree. A lot of the
recommendations do make sense but they are
not as common as you might think when you
begin looking at UNT web sites.
Help Your Audience Find Site
an easy to remember web address for your site.
This means that the web address should be easy to
remember for your main audience not just that it
is easy to remember if you are already familiar
with UNT. Long acronyms and initials used in the
names of web sites are not always remembered
sure that your main site is registered with the
major search engines. Believe it or not many
people think that Yahoo or Google IS the internet
and will not try your direct URL first.
your sites web address in your staffs
e-mail signatures and on your letterhead and
faxes to remind your audience of your web
Help Your Audience Return To Your Site
the audience to create usable browser bookmarks
the page succinctly so that important
information shows at the beginning in a
browsers favorites or bookmarks
the title with a logical descriptive or
key word such as the university name or
initials (allows the user to quickly
locate your site in the browsers
bookmarks or favorites since IE orders
the bookmarks alphabetically instead of
in the order created like Netscape).
include the word home page in
the page title this takes up room in the
bookmark or favorite for no real reason.
Help Your Audience Contact You
sure that contact information is prominently
located on your site.
a real persons e-mail address if possible.
Generic e-mail address such as firstname.lastname@example.org were
perceived to be less likely to be answered
promptly by audiences.
Help Your Audience Find What It Wants
top right or left hand corners of the page are
the most common spots where your audience expects
to see a search link or search box.
the search button search or
go (most used labels for search boxes
on the web) instead of trying to be original or
a large entry area for the search box (25-30
characters wide) in case the searcher types in
larger search entries.
Use Fonts and Colors Effectively
sans serif fonts for text heavy pages to increase
readability. Serif fonts do not display as well
as on paper because monitor resolution is not as
sure users can use the browser settings to adjust
sure that there is high contrast between
background and foreground colors of a web page
and to ensure proper printing on black and white
printers (white text on dark backgrounds might
not print in the default print settings in
and fonts should be used to create visual
hierarchies and to showcase content in order
and colors should be used to standardize the look
of the pages within the site.
Organize and Display Your Sites Content
and purpose of site should be prominent on the
top of the home page with the site name
repeated at the top of each page within the site.
your site for a resolution of 800x600 (the most
popular screen resolution with 1024x768 coming in
sure additional content on the right-hand side of
the page is not missed by those using the lower
640x480 monitor resolution.
critical content placement to take advantage of
audience reading patterns from left to right and
top to bottom (Z design).
important information should be above the
fold (visible in the window without the
audience having to scroll down).
important content should centered on the page
(left, right and top margins are expected to be
navigation, site name or advertising ).
Use Links Effectively to Promote Navigation
links to have visited and non-visited colors to
give the audience a history of their
should be succinct and should lead with
information bearing words to promote scanning.
There is no need to start every button image or
navigation link with UNT.
clicking a link is going to do something other
than open a html page warn the user in the link
(for example clicking the link will launch a real
using a link for e-mail, type out the entire
e-mail address in case the web browser is not
configured to send mail and the user wants to
write down the address for later.
Create Effective Headlines and Leads If You Have News
should be short to promote scanning.
should act as the link to the actual news release
or story (standard in the news web site genre and
reduces the space needed for an additional link
at the end of the lead) .
should include actual information for the
under the headlines shouldnt automatically
be the first paragraph of the story. Depending on
the first paragraphs content, sometimes the
leads should be rewritten to communicate the
stories main message and provide better
Use Images Correctly
images for thumbnails so that the image portrays
thumbnails of images instead of displaying big
images at the smaller size. This will reduce the
overall download time of the page.
overuse images in the visual design of your site,
only use them if they allow you to convey
alt tags for accessibility with a brief
description of the image (if the image is
Please take a moment to look at a couple of Kenn's
previous Benchmarks Online articles. They
could prove to be very helpful to you. - Ed.