Pedants, your attention please :)

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Kirrily 'Skud' Robert

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May 1, 1998, 3:00:00 AM5/1/98
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'Ullo :)

I've been mouthing off a bit lately about useability issues, so I
thought it might be interesting to call on my fellow pedants to take a
look at my site, which can be found at:

http://w3.cc.monash.edu.au/~krobert/

It's just a personal homepage, but it contains a fair amount of
information - it's certainly larger than some of the commercial sites
I've done.

The site is implemented in HTML 4.0 Transitional with style sheets;
this means that anyone with an older browser won't get presentational
markup, just plain old semantic HTML. I'm aware of this, and I don't
really want to see comments like "I'm using Netscape 2.0 and it looked
really dull". Likewise, I don't want to hear anything about using
images, javascript, etc etc to spice up the site.

What I *am* particularly interested in are the following issues:

* navigational information at the top of each page - do you like it?
Is it useable? Do you think it interferes with the rest of the page
and should be placed elsewhere, like perhaps at the bottom?

* footers on each page - like, hate, indifferent?

* structure - is the structure of the site and of individual pages clear?
Are pages too long, too short, too messy? Does the anchor text on
links suitably describe the pages to which they point? Can you find
information easily?

* If you stay for a while, you'll notice that my style sheet changes
the colour of hypertext links regularly (every 10 minutes). I did
this largely for gimmick value, and I kind of like it, but I'd be
interested to know whether you think it detracts from the useability
at all.

* And on the topic of hypertext links, do you find that the colour
differentiation is sufficient on visited links, or should it be
more obvious? How do you feel about the absence of underlines on
those links? How about the font-weight attribute which makes them
bold?

* whatever else you think is necessary...

Thanks in advance. I'll be looking forward to your feedback.

K.

--
Kirrily "Skud" Robert (sk...@monash.edu.au)
http://w3.cc.monash.edu.au/~krobert/
The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new
discoveries, is not "Eureka!" but "That's funny ..." -- Isaac Asimov

Nic Hughes

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May 1, 1998, 3:00:00 AM5/1/98
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Kirrily 'Skud' Robert wrote:
>
> 'Ullo :)
>
> I've been mouthing off a bit lately about useability issues, so I
> thought it might be interesting to call on my fellow pedants to take a
> look at my site, which can be found at:
>
> http://w3.cc.monash.edu.au/~krobert/
>
> It's just a personal homepage, but it contains a fair amount of
> information - it's certainly larger than some of the commercial sites
> I've done.
>
> The site is implemented in HTML 4.0 Transitional with style sheets;
> this means that anyone with an older browser won't get presentational
> markup, just plain old semantic HTML. I'm aware of this, and I don't
> really want to see comments like "I'm using Netscape 2.0 and it looked
> really dull". Likewise, I don't want to hear anything about using
> images, javascript, etc etc to spice up the site.
>

So you're not actually interested in the design of the site at all
then? Strange ng to be posting on ;-)

> What I *am* particularly interested in are the following issues:
>
> * navigational information at the top of each page - do you like it?
> Is it useable? Do you think it interferes with the rest of the page
> and should be placed elsewhere, like perhaps at the bottom?
>

Its fine, I generally prefer a navigation tool to 'stand out' more to
make it immediately obvious (before actually reading the text on the
page) that its not just another part of the text. But as you're not
interested in the design at all.....

> * footers on each page - like, hate, indifferent?
>

No problem. Some of the pages are long enough that repeating it at the
bottom would be worthwhile. It does go slightly pear-shaped when you
have a page called "Skud's Homepage -> geek -> code -> index.html", I
suggest you have a wander round and eliminate any dodgy filenames from
your site navigation.


> * structure - is the structure of the site and of individual pages clear?
> Are pages too long, too short, too messy? Does the anchor text on
> links suitably describe the pages to which they point? Can you find
> information easily?
>

Dunno, I wasn't looking for information.

> * If you stay for a while, you'll notice that my style sheet changes
> the colour of hypertext links regularly (every 10 minutes). I did
> this largely for gimmick value, and I kind of like it, but I'd be
> interested to know whether you think it detracts from the useability
> at all.
>

Thank goodness I got out of there in time :-)
That sound like a nasty nasty gimmick. OK it could be kinda fun but
from a usability POV it just has to be a disaster. Whether that's a
problem for a home-page is another question, who really goes to
homepages to find information or for any practical reason at all?

> * And on the topic of hypertext links, do you find that the colour
> differentiation is sufficient on visited links, or should it be
> more obvious? How do you feel about the absence of underlines on
> those links? How about the font-weight attribute which makes them
> bold?

Personally I dislike the underline - especially on links embedded into
text - so I didn't miss it. It might confuse a few people but its
quite a common sight now so I suspect most people will manage fine.

--
Nic Hughes nic.h...@bigfoot.com
http://freespace.virgin.net/nicolas.hughes/
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity,
and I'm not sure about the former." -- Albert Einstein

Alan J. Flavell

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May 1, 1998, 3:00:00 AM5/1/98
to

[content reorganised to make a point]

> Kirrily 'Skud' Robert wrote:

> > What I *am* particularly interested in are the following issues:
> >
> > * navigational information at the top of each page - do you like it?
> > Is it useable? Do you think it interferes with the rest of the page
> > and should be placed elsewhere, like perhaps at the bottom?

(and many other usability issue questions)

On Fri, 1 May 1998, Nic Hughes wrote:

> So you're not actually interested in the design of the site at all
> then?

This shows up a commonly repeated piece of narrow-mindedness about what
"design" means in relation to a web page or site.

Would you commend the design of a razor that looked beatiful, if it
couldn't actually shave? A coffee-maker that couldn't make coffee?

> >* structure - is the structure of the site and of individual pages clear?

...

> Dunno, I wasn't looking for information.

So you're not interested in actually reviewing the site, but only in
airing your own prejudices? You might at least _pretend_ to be using
the site, if you're going to post any kind of review of it.


Nic Hughes

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May 1, 1998, 3:00:00 AM5/1/98
to

Alan J. Flavell wrote:
>
> [content reorganised to make a point]
>
> > Kirrily 'Skud' Robert wrote:
>
> > > What I *am* particularly interested in are the following issues:
> > >
> > > * navigational information at the top of each page - do you like it?
> > > Is it useable? Do you think it interferes with the rest of the page
> > > and should be placed elsewhere, like perhaps at the bottom?
>
> (and many other usability issue questions)
>
> On Fri, 1 May 1998, Nic Hughes wrote:
>
> > So you're not actually interested in the design of the site at all
> > then?
>
> This shows up a commonly repeated piece of narrow-mindedness about what
> "design" means in relation to a web page or site.
>

Sheesh, hard day at the office Alan? Spot the smiley (yes I know you
snipped it for everyone else's benefit, but it *was* there). The
wording of the request was semi-lighthearted and so was my reply. Nuff
said.

You will notice that I answered the specific points you quote above.
Relax, smile, make the world a happier place.

I did query whether usability is the be-all and end-all of design for a
homepage, given that people rarely visit them in search of that vital
bit of information they need. I also pointed out a possible usability
issue that derived from the design.

> > >* structure - is the structure of the site and of individual pages clear?
> ...
>
> > Dunno, I wasn't looking for information.
>
> So you're not interested in actually reviewing the site, but only in
> airing your own prejudices? You might at least _pretend_ to be using
> the site, if you're going to post any kind of review of it.

No, I was reviewing the site, not looking for information. I did not
run any kind of usability test on the site and I said so. I await your
more complete and helpful review with baited breath.

More to the point I questioned whether 'looking for information' is the
likely purpose people will have in visiting a personal homesite at all.
Form follows function and most homesites (that have any function
whatever) have a function closer to entertainment than information
provision, from the material I saw in my brief look that seemed to be
true of this site also.

Kirrily 'Skud' Robert

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May 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM5/3/98
to

In article <3549C3ED...@bigfoot.com>, Nic Hughes wrote:

>Alan J. Flavell wrote:
>
>> > >* structure - is the structure of the site and of individual pages clear?
>> ...
>> > Dunno, I wasn't looking for information.
>>
>> So you're not interested in actually reviewing the site, but only in
>> airing your own prejudices? You might at least _pretend_ to be using
>> the site, if you're going to post any kind of review of it.
>
>No, I was reviewing the site, not looking for information. I did not
>run any kind of usability test on the site and I said so. I await your
>more complete and helpful review with baited breath.
>
>More to the point I questioned whether 'looking for information' is the
>likely purpose people will have in visiting a personal homesite at all.
>Form follows function and most homesites (that have any function
>whatever) have a function closer to entertainment than information
>provision, from the material I saw in my brief look that seemed to be
>true of this site also.

Far from it. I very seldom tell people "hey, look at my homepage,
it's really fun." Rather, I tend to say "Party details? they're on my
homepage." or "The documentation for such-and-such is on my
homepage.." or "I wrote a story about that - it's on my homepage."

I expect to be able to tell people that they can find information on
my site without having to spell out the full URL(s) for them. I
consider my personal homepage to be a respository of information
about or by me, and hope that anyone who's looking for that
information will try to find it there.

K.

Real World: A bizarre dimension in which the standard dress is shirt
and tie and in which a person's working hours are defined as 9 to 5.

Nic Hughes

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May 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM5/5/98
to

Kirrily 'Skud' Robert wrote:

>
> Far from it. I very seldom tell people "hey, look at my homepage,
> it's really fun." Rather, I tend to say "Party details? they're on my
> homepage." or "The documentation for such-and-such is on my
> homepage.." or "I wrote a story about that - it's on my homepage."
>
> I expect to be able to tell people that they can find information on
> my site without having to spell out the full URL(s) for them. I
> consider my personal homepage to be a respository of information
> about or by me, and hope that anyone who's looking for that
> information will try to find it there.
>

In that case I guess I would only rate it as partially successful; if
you told someone there was a story on your website you would also have
to tell them where it was in the heirarchy. If you did tell them then
it works fine, if not then there is no way for them to locate the
information without browsing around.

The links are clear enough, the problem is more that your visitors will
not always know how you have chosen to organise your information. This
is usually the case with websites and you cannot expect people to be
able to immediately find information 2 or 3 clicks away without some
guidance. The only suggestion I can make is to consider whether your
organisation is going to be well fitted to the way your visitors are
going to try to navigate your site. If you tell them "hey I wrote that
story up, its on my web-site" then a first level option of 'Stories'
would be the most obvious thing for them to look for. If the story is
under 'geek stuff' (or whatever) did you tell them you thought it was a
geek story?

I think there are two reasonable ways you can address this issue; you
can allow access to a given document from two or more parts of your
navigation heirarchy (so a geek story would have a link from the geek
page *and* from the story page), or you could have a search facility
which is handy if they know the names in the story (and only if not all
your stories are about the same people). Personally I'd go with the
'more than one way to access the information' solution, it makes your
menus a little longer at each level but then that top one is pretty long
already.

And if the purpose of the site is really to give people information then
don't mess around with link colours :-)

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