belindasmilne

Posts Tagged ‘usability’

The Interactive Web.

In Web Design on October 12, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Great Art comes to life on the Web.

As we are all aware, the Internet is all about copying. Images, text and video weave their way all over the Web, without ever leaving home. While this can create problems for some, especially producers of cultural products like music, games and video, it can also open up new opportunities for discovery and exploration through Interactive tools and technologies.

While media producers continue to look for ways to protect their business, it is worth noting the many benefits of the Web. Firstly, the Web allows content producers to reach vast global audiences. These audiences are now able to respond in any number of interesting and unique ways, through YouTube and other forms of Social Media. Instead of looking at mashups and Youtube Videos as a attack on producers, perhaps it needs to seen as a sign of the viewer’s willingness to promote your content by sharing their viewing experiences with others.

Powerful interactive and broadband technologies allow content producers to bring new and innovative experiences to the Web; experiences that would never be possible offline. Galleries and Libraries are already realising the benefits of the Web and are copying and uploading rare and valuable cultural items like paintings and books and making them available on the Web. This enables them to offer better protection for rare and valuable artifacts by reduce handling without limiting access.

Recently, the famous Uffizi Gallery in Italy has brought 6 masterpieces from their own collection and made them available in Ultra-high definition free of charge until the 29 January, 2011. Visitors to the Haltadefinizioni site are able to interact with these masterpieces, to a degree that would simply be impossible in real life.

As designers we can learn from their navigation. Although the main website is written in Italian, the site is made accessible by using familiar technologies and symbols, which make it easy to follow, regardless of the user’s language. Using a series of buttons, online Viewers are able to zoom in and study the finest details of Sandro Botticelli’s Birth Of Venus, right on their own desktop. Users can zoom in and study each brush stroke and examine small details, without any risk to the original painting.

In life, such a close examination would never be possible. First you need to fly to Italy, then pay to enter the Gallery only to stand behind a barrier and look at painting from a distance. By making these paintings available online Uffizi is able to reach a vast new audience of art lovers and generate public and media interest.

Effective using Interactive technologies allows users to interact with online content and each other in ways producers haven’t yet thought of. Our job as designers is to find innovative ways to encourage people to explore.

The Spaghetti Monster that ate your website.

In Uncategorized, Web Design on September 14, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Beware of the Spaghetti Website.

This diagram is the result of a bunch of DoD graduates set loose with a PowerPoint presentation. If you’re already redesigning it your head, welcome to the club, you’re a designer.

There are no shortage of ‘spaghetti monsters’ on the web. It’s a common problem when inexperienced clients and designers get bogged down in the details and ‘design-by-committee’ takes over. Your site might start off fairly simple but then the brief takes over and suddenly you’ve got fourteen people looking over your shoulder and an anxious client who thinks he’s bleeding money and before you know it, the Spaghetti Monster has eaten your website and your left with a feature bloated, ugly, indecipherable mess, which is impossible to navigate and could end up a major headache for you, the client and the poor slob that has to use it.

It’s all too easy for a website project to turn sour and sink under its own weight. The trick is knowing how to keep it all together. As designers, our job is to organise information, not just make it look good. It’s got to be easy to find and easy to understand. Web gurus call it ‘usability’ and it’s big bikkies in webland and very costly if you get it wrong.

Here are a few simple rules to help you avoid the Spaghetti Monster:

1. K.I.S.S.
It’s Keep It Simple Stupid and it’s a basic first-rule no good designer is ever without.

2. Aim to design a website your mother can use.
As the saying goes, if you have to explain a joke, it’s not funny. The same goes for websites. If a site needs a flowchart and an Engineering Degree to decipher, chances are, your mother isn’t going to stick around for rule three and neither will anyone else.

3. What’s it for?
Don’t lose sight of the goal of the website. Decide what the site needs to do and stick to it. If it’s a shopping cart, let it be a shopping cart and if it is, don’t forget to put the prices in. It’s really annoying having the look for them.

4. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
The toys are fun to play with but ask yourself if it adds anything to the usability of the site. If it doesn’t help, it certainly shouldn’t hinder.