20 Do's and Dont's
of Web Usability
by George Prociuk
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Designing a usable website doesn't have to be a
complex process. Often times, it's the little things that make the
biggest impact on a site's usability. However, because websites
are often a form of self expression, we have a natural tendency to create
the most impressive presentation we can. Unfortunately, this often
results in substituting the basics with unnecessary glitz and flash.
As a result, we end up develop sites that are technically impressive,
but lack user friendliness.
For this reason, I
thought I'd share some tips that I hope you can easily use to improve
your site's usability.
- Content should be at
least 70% of a page. Everything else (navigation, ads) should be no
more than 30%.
- Always cross-platform
test your web pages in as many browsers as possible. HTML
behaves differently with different browsers.
- Pages should download
in no more than 30 seconds. (50Kb maximum)
- Always use ALT tags on
- Always include width and
height attributes on your graphics. This will allow browsers
to pre-allocate the appropriate amount of space for each graphic on
your page without having to load the graphic.
- Avoid using the words
"click here" for a link. Links should always be
- Use link titles to
further explain the contents of a link.
- If at all possible, do
not change default link colors. Blue is for unvisited links; purple
is for visited links.
- When using frames, all
hypertext links should have a Target="_Top" attribute in
their anchor tag. This makes the browser clear out the current
frameset and load a completely new one.
- Long documents should
include printable versions. Many viewers still prefer to read
from paper instead of from their monitor.
- Simplicity should be
the goal of all page design. On the web, the KISS (keep it
simple stupid) approach is the best approach.
- When writing for the
web, write in a format that encourages scan ability. Use short
paragraphs and bulleted text and lots of sub-headings.
- Use meaningful page
titles to summarize page content. Keep titles under 75
characters. These are the descriptions that will be used to
bookmark your pages.
- Use high contrasting
colors between the text and backgrounds. This will improve readability
and increase usability. It's incredible how
many web designers break this rule.
- When writing
narratives, text should always be left justified. This improves
readability and therefore, increases usability.
- When writing
narratives, avoid using all caps. Your visitors find it
easiest to read text that is in the standard upper and lower case
- Home pages should
answer the question "What is this site all about?".
- Do not force visitors
to enter your site on the home page. The web allows for entry
to your site on any page. Use this to your advantage.
- Every page on your
site should include your logo. This will help visitors
distinguish between your site and any other site they go to via a
- The most important
question your site's navigation must answer is "Where am