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How sites complies with common standards

According to Jakob Nielsen, "much of the Web is like an anthill built by ants on LSD." Websites are too difficult to use because they deviate from expected norms.

Comparing two studies, Jakob has estimated the extent to which web designs complies with common standards:
- 37% of design elements were done according to the same way by at least 80% of the sites
- 40% of design elements were done the same way by at least 50% the sites
- 23% of design elements were done in so many ways that no single approach dominated

Jakob argues that we must move as far as possible into the realm of design conventions, because people become accustomed to the prevailing standards. They assume that every site will work the same way as other sites they know.


  • The article The Need for Web Design Standards

Henrik Olsen - September 13, 2004

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Usability dwells in the details

According to Larry L. Constatine, successful interaction design for e-commerce sites and web- applications requires meticulous attention to detail, because the smallest matters can ruin the user experience. The ones to blame are the usability professionals failing to pay attention to details and not telling programmers that these tings matter.

In his opinion, it is possible to make your way more or less directly to good design, by following principles of good form and interaction. In the article, he list six broadly focused design principles to follow and explores them by examples.


  • The article Devilish Details: Best Practices in Web Design

Henrik Olsen - March 25, 2004

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The ten most violated Jakob Nielsen design guidelines

Jakob Nielsen has made a top ten on usability principles from his book Homepage Usability which are most frequently violated:

1. Emphasize what your site offers that's of value to users and how your services differ from those of key competitors.
2. Use a liquid layout that lets users adjust the homepage size.
3. Use color to distinguish visited and unvisited links.
4. Use graphics to show real content, not just to decorate your homepage.
5. Include a tag line that explicitly summarizes what the site or company does.
6. Make it easy to access anything recently featured on your homepage.
7. Include a short site description in the window title.
8. Don't use a heading to label the search area; instead use a "Search" button to the right of the box.
9. With stock quotes, give the percentage of change, not just the points gained or lost
10. Don't include an active link to the homepage on the homepage.


  • The article The Ten Most Violated Homepage Design Guidelines

Henrik Olsen - November 15, 2003

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See also: Home pages (2)  Site design (8)  Research (88) 



Web design and usability guidelines

Department of Health and Human Services's National Institutes of Health in partnership with the National Cancer Institute has published the book Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines. It provides guidelines for improving web design, navigation, and functionality. Each guideline is rated by "Strength of Evidence", based on findings from web design and usability studies.

The book is based on the guidelines, which has been available at for some years. It can be downloaded for free in PDF format.


  • Downloadable version of the book Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines
  • The web design and usability guidelines at

Henrik Olsen - November 01, 2003 - via WebReference Update Newsletter

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ISO Standards for HCI and Usability

The International Standards Organisation publishes standards related to Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and Usability.

These standards are categorised as primarily concerned with:

1. The use of the product (effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a context of use)

2. The user interface and interaction

3. The process used to develop the product

4. The capability of an organisation to apply user centred design


  • The HCI-related ISO list (and summaries) provided by Serco (TRUMP project)
  • Search and buy the reports (Paper or PDF) at the ISO site

Pieter-Jan Pruuost - January 07, 2003

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56 Rules to Design By

Bob Bailey's December newsletter should be required reading by all. It consists of 56 design guidelines, all backed by quality research, with references!


  • Dec'02 UI Design Update Newsletter

Ron Zeno - January 07, 2003

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Palm OSŪ User Interface Guidelines

This online book describes how to design applications for Palm Powered(TM) handhelds so that they conform to Palm, Inc's user interface guidelines. Read and use it if you are an interaction designer, application designer, or a developer and you are considering creating applications that run on Palm OSŪ.

It is well know that the Palm OSŪ UI Guidelines are established through extensive fieldwork, and therefor some of these insights may provide you solutions and concepts that resolve typical problems in designing web sites and webbased applications that run on PDA's in general.


  • Table of Contents

Pieter-Jan Pruuost - December 06, 2002

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14 Principles of Polite Apps

Human react to computers in the same way they react to other humans. If we want users to like our interactive designs, we should create them to behave like likeable persons. They should be polite and humble servants to us.

Alan Cooper has listed 14 principles to create accommodating designs. Some of his requirements for the polite system are:
- Be interested in me, recognize me, and know who I am and what I like
- Be deferential to me
- Keep me informed about what's going on but don't bother me with your personal problems
- Be self-confident - don't not pass responsibility off onto me
- Do not force choices on to me
- Don't be stubborn, be flexible
- Give instant gratification
- Be trustworthy and dependable

Cooper claims that polite designs are no harder to build than impolite ones. I don't agree with that. It takes effort to be polite and accommodating – just like in real life.


  • The article 14 Principles of Polite Apps

Henrik Olsen - November 20, 2002 - via iaslash

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Should we abandon usability guidelines?

In the article "Evolution Trumps Usability Guidelines", Jared M. Spool calls web usability guidelines into question.

In his opinion we can't assume that following guidelines will result in more usable sites if they haven't been tested properly in various contexts. Following such guidelines can even harm the usability of a site:

"This means that following untested guidelines is like drinking water from an unidentified source. It might quench your thirst, but it could also make you very ill."

The problem with guidelines is an old one in interface design and has been discussed intensively in the literature. Some of the most important conclusions here is, that usability guidelines has proven very useful, but they should be used with caution:

- Never use a guideline without considering its relevance in the context it will be applied to
- Never base your design choices solely on guidelines - use other methods to verify its usefulness
- Study how users interact with you designs


  • The article Evolution Trumps Usability Guidelines
  • Lyle Kantrovich's comment to the article

Henrik Olsen - October 01, 2002

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Apple and Microsoft's Official User Interface Guidelines

The official interface guidelines from Microsoft and Apple are not only useful when designing software applications. They both describe general and proven concepts of interface design that every Interaction Designer can benefit from. And they become more and more useful for Web Interaction Designers as Web user interfaces become more and more complex.

Both Apple and Microsoft's guidelines are available online.


  • Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines
  • Microsoft's Official Guidelines for User Interface Design

Henrik Olsen - February 22, 2002

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