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DESIGN USABILITY

More Website Knick Knack


In our second article about useless clutter on websites, Chris Heilmann focuses on websites that try to reinvent the wheel, features that offer a quick "wow" and little else, and more. Are you guilty of inflicting website knick knack on your visitors? Take a look at the included check list and find out.

Author Info:
By: Chris Heilmann
Rating: 2 stars2 stars2 stars2 stars2 stars / 77
December 13, 2004
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
  1. · More Website Knick Knack
  2. · Why to stick to the tried-and-true
  3. · The site in the site
  4. · The Russian doll symptom
  5. · Changing the cursor
  6. · Baring it all
  7. · Forewarned is forearmed

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More Website Knick Knack - The Russian doll symptom
(Page 4 of 7 )

Ever since CSS and DOM support allowed developers to show and hide elements, this feature was used for some good but also for a lot of evil. It can be nice for visitors not to have to see all the elements of a page, but it is easy and tempting to overdo the hiding. If a visitor needs to guess which elements of the site expand into more and more options, or needs to find out by hovering the mouse around, then something went wrong. This is especially the case with so-called “dynamic” or “clever” forms.

Let’s face it – filling forms online is a drag and probably the biggest reason for visitor frustration. If every selection in a form triggers more and more options to be filled, visitors can easily get fed up with it halfway through. Let’s give the visitor a chance to fathom how much content there is or how much data we need her to provide before we send her into the depths of our products. A simple indicator that this is step 3 of 7 to fill out can prevent a lot of frustration.

If we want to hide a lot of page content and have the visitor expand and collapse it, we should also provide a chance to store the current settings to avoid losing the current state when the page gets reloaded.

Fly my pretties, fly…

DHTML layers moving erratically around the page were quite an eye opener when browsers of the fourth generation came to be. Snowflakes falling down the page and words trailing the cursor were the bee’s knees and gave our websites a “Wow” effect. However, the third and fourth time we visited the page, they became more of a “Grr,” since they are there for their own purpose, and do not give the visitor anything of value. Technically impressive though they are, it is better to keep them in the drawer labeled “amazing feats of the past.” Why exactly would one need a clock around the cursor when the operating system provides one in a more convenient spot?

That being said, there are uses for DHTML layers that do make sense. One would be to use them to display images without loading them in another browser window, or displaying the information provided in a title attribute in a nicer way (http://www.kryogenix.org/code/browser/nicetitle/ ).


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