I visited two websites: Virtual Jamestown (http://www.virtualjamestown.org/page2.html), and Reddit (http://www.reddit.com). Although both sites were relatively simply and easy to navigate, Reddit was, bar none, the superior website, for the following reasons:
Krug’s Laws: One, Don’t make users think. “According to Krug’s first law of usability, the web-page should be obvious and self-explanatory. When you’re creating a site, your job is to get rid of the question marks — the decisions users need to make consciously, considering pros, cons and alternatives.”
Reddit obeys law one without fail. The headlines are there in bold, for the user to see; underneath, you can see how many comments have been made, how many “up” or “down” votes it has received, and so forth. The Jamestown Site is slightly more complicated, and the links are misleading—for instance, “Jamestown Interactive” is simply a series of links to pages of text about Jamestown, with a map that you can’t click on. After many, many clicks, you eventually end up at an admittedly cool “virtual” tour of Jamestown, but it is like digging for gold. It is not interactive, and hardly intuitive.
Two, don’t squander users’ patience. “The less action is required from users to test a service, the more likely a random visitor is to actually try it out. First-time visitors are willing to play with the service, not filling long web forms for an account they might never use in the future.”
The comments form in the Jamestown site is fairly straightforward. The Reddit registration is a snap: username and password are all that is required.
Three: draw user’s attention to certain parts of the web site. “The less thinking needs to happen behind the scenes, the better is the user experience which is the aim of usability in the first place.”
There are no clear focal points in the Jamestown site. The headlines are the focal point in Reddit—you can read through them quickly, or you can go to a subReddit, and organize the headlines according to “new,” “hot,” “rising,” etc.
Four: Make use of features, such as “visually appealing 1-2-3-done-steps, large buttons with visual effects etc.” While some may lambast the use of these features, “from the design perspective these elements actually aren’t a bad thing. On the contrary, such guidelines are extremely effective as they lead the visitors through the site content in a very simple and user-friendly way.”
Reddit has several large buttons, such as “submit a new link” or “submit a new text post.” There are very few such features on the Jamestown site. The link buttons at the top are bland, at best.
Five: Get right to the point, without using cute, fluffy language, or technical jargon, or company lingo. Instead, talk business. For instance, if you describe a service and want users to create an account, “sign up” is better than “start now!” which is again better than “explore our services”.
Neither site using much in the way of jargon or company lingo.
Six: Keep it Simple
Jamestown site is a bit cluttered looking, while almost Reddit never is.
Seven: White space is your friend. “Complex structures are harder to read, scan, analyze and work with. If you have the choice between separating two design segments by a visible line or by some whitespace, it’s usually better to use the whitespace solution.”
The Jamestown site occasionally makes marvelous use of whitespace, but more often than not, it is cluttered with text and links. Reddit knows how to use whitespace to maximum effect.
Eight: Use a visible language to communicate with users.
Organize: clear and consistent conceptual structure. Consistency, screen layout, relationships and navigability are important concepts of organization.
Economize: do the most with the least amount of cues and visual elements. Four major points to be considered: simplicity, clarity, distinctiveness, and emphasis. Communicate: match the presentation to the capabilities of the user.
Reddit uses a very conventional typeface, which it uses throughout the website. The size does not vary. Bold text is used to draw your eye to headlines, while regular text is used for articles. Jamestown site uses different fonts, which can be somewhat distracting.
Nine: Conventional designs are the best. “In fact, conventions are very useful as they reduce the learning curve, the need to figure out how things work.” Go with what users already know and expect.
Reddit uses a highly conventional design, with a simple white background and black text. It is one of the most simple designs out there. The Jamestown site is highly variable—sometimes, it uses a familiar background, other times it goes with an unusual-looking, bearskin background.
Ten: Test Early, Test Often. “This so-called TETO-principle should be applied to every web design project as usability tests often provide crucial insights into significant problems and issues related to a given layout.”
Sounds like a good idea!