Usability Techniques
Ten Guidelines for User-Centered Web Design

by Aimée Truchard, editor, and Raïssa Katz-Haas, content author.
Reprinted from Usability Interface, Vol 5, No. 1, July 1998

Most users don’t really read Web pages. Instead, they scan text for specific pieces of information in a process called information retrieval. With user-centered design (UCD), you can improve the usefulness (relevance) and usability (ease of use) of Web sites by considering information retrieval and other factors.

After answering these questions, you can begin developing, designing, and testing your Web site. In UCD, your development cycle includes stages for both usability design and testing. Be sure to get user feedback throughout development and don’t settle on a final direction or design too soon. Usability testing is the only way you can know if your particular site meets these users’ needs.

In a paper discussing UCD and Web development, Raïssa Katz-Haas offers the following ten guidelines for Web-page design (Katz-Haas, 1998).

1. Visibility—Make important elements such as navigational aids highly visible so users can determine at a glance what they can and cannot do. Visibility helps users predict the effects of their actions.

2. Memory Load—Make screen elements meaningful and consistent across the site to reduce memory load. In this way, users don’t have to remember what the elements mean from one page to another. Relate new items and functions to ones the user already knows.

3. Feedback—Provide immediate feedback when a user performs an action. For example, when the user clicks a button, something on the screen should change so the user knows the system has registered the action.

4. Accessibility—Users need to find information quickly and easily:

5. Orientation/Navigation—Help users orient themselves by providing the following navigational clues:

Use frames sparingly, if at all. Frames confuse many users because the Back button, printing, and bookmark functions do not work like they do on non-frames pages. Approximately 60% of Web users employ the Back button as their primary means of navigation. Usability issues surface when the Back button doesn't work the way they expect.

6. Errors—Minimize user errors by avoiding situations in which users are likely to make mistakes. Also try to accommodate incorrect actions by users so they can recover quickly. For example, if you anticipate that users might look for certain information on one Web page that actually appears on another, you can include descriptive links to the page they need.

7. Satisfaction—Make your site pleasant to use and view. Users’ satisfaction with the interface influences their

8. Legibility—Make text easy to read. When developing online documentation, use

9. Language—You can improve usability by incorporating the following stylistic elements:

Because the Internet crosses cultural and national boundaries, be careful with ambiguity. The following stylistic elements can be misinterpreted easily:

10. Visual Design—The aesthetics of your interface play an important role in communicating information and tone to your users effectively. As you develop your site, consider the following visual design strategies:

Additional References

Go to STC Society Web Site