4 Reasons Why You Should Not Use Flash to Build a Website

intel flash website

This article is contributed by Robert Fisher.

Have you decided to use Flash to build your website? If yes, you should rethink and change your decision. It is true that Flash based websites are really attractive and cute.  See the examples to the right and below of what is possible.  if you are planning to build a heavily animated website or one that offers many online games, then it is OK to use Flash. But, if you are building a website to improve your business by increasing traffic to your site, then Flash is not the right choice. Continue reading

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Evaluating Website Design Alternatives – A Counter-Intuitive Approach

Your visitors may not see your website as you do.

Choosing a website design is one of the most difficult decisions for any business owner to make. That’s because the only approval of the decision that counts is that of potential visitors to the website. Will they stay on the site? Will they find what they are looking for? Will they enjoy their visit? Jared M. Spool of UIE (User Interface Engineering) is an expert in Usability, which is involved in trying to make those predictions.

In a slightly technical paper, he surprisingly suggests A Counter-Intuitive Approach to Evaluating Design Alternatives. It may not be the obvious way, but what he proposes makes eminent good sense. The case study he describes is as follows:

The company team is about to redesign their home page and navigation. They have three home page design alternatives and five navigation alternatives, created by an outside firm who didn’t do any evaluations of the designs. To help figure out which design to pick, the team has (finally!) received approval for their first usability testing study. While their site has been around for years, they’ve never watched visitors use it before now.

The obvious way might have involved a large number of users looking at all these different possibilities. The method that Spool proposes is much leaner than that and extremely practical. One critical step is the following:

Recruit from 2 User Groups
We recommended the team recruit both loyal and new users as study participants. The first day of testing should be loyal users of the site and the second day should be new users to the site. The loyal users would help figure out what the important tasks are. The new users will help determine what’s important for people new to the site, such as how they figure out the basics.

He describes much more detailed methodology, but the summary above brings out the essence of choosing between website designs. You must have a clear view of what you would like your visitors to do when they visit you. You must then make sure that your design functions well. Remember that you have the most tenuous of holds on a visitor who has clicked to your website. They can easily click away if they find the experience frustrating.

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World Usability Day 2007

Did you miss World Usability Day?

My friend, Kim Krause Berg, reminded us all that today, November 8, is World Usability Day. As the official website proclaims, “World Usability Day was founded to ensure that the services and products important to life are easier to access and simpler to use.” Looking back over the last two years since I last blogged on this, to be frank I don’t think the message is getting across. Companies still produce products and services that they believe will be right for us, and so often they clearly were never tested by real life prospects before they were released.

That’s perhaps why Kim in the Cre8asite Forums started a thread entitled, Are We Designing For The Human Experience? It was triggered by a post about DUX 2007. This is a conference for designers working on better user experiences. As Bob Jacobson of Total Experience wrote “A great conference, but fundamentally off the mark“. The forum discussion was most interesting but unfortunately seemed to confirm that UX (user experience) is not being handled in a very effective way.

A key concern is whether there is anything going on that will allow us to celebrate significant success by World Usability Day 2008. I’m not optimistic.

Related: World Usability Day 2005 – Making It Easy!

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Sphinn Doctor

.. and what exactly is a sphinn doctor. I believe it’s pronounced ‘spin doctor’ and for that, a partial definition from Google reads as follows:

In public relations, spin is a usually pejorative term signifying a heavily biased portrayal in one’s own favor of an event or situation that is designed to bring about the most positive result possible.

Since Sphinn is a new social media website launched by the very well-respected SEM guru Danny Sullivan, clearly the above is all a bit over-the-top. However my mind did wander that way when reading another post from my friend Kim Krause Berg entitled SEO with Usability: What The People Want. If anything I would go even farther than Kim. Websites are built to achieve certain goals. For commercial websites that usually means making sales. To do that well, websites must be

  • suitably visible on the web,
  • instinctively attractive when visited,
  • easy to navigate and
  • persuasive in closing the sale.

SEO plays an important part in that but it’s by no means the most important part.

Kim took issue with Sphinn when it appeared since there was no mention of Usability. That has been corrected but it’s instructive to see how it’s been done. This should not be seen as criticism since each of us has our own perspective on the online world. Sphinn clearly is about search engines and the associated marketing implications.

As illustration, the key navigation menu on the Sphinn Home Page includes the following topics in this order:
Google / Yahoo / Microsoft / Search Marketing / Social Media / Online Marketing / Searching / Other
Up front are the major search engines and Online Marketing is towards the end of the parade.

If you then explore the Online Marketing tab, you find the following subjects in this order:
Web Analytics / Contextual Ads / Affiliate Marketing / Display Advertising / Usability / Domaining / Other Online Marketing
Usability tags along after all the ways of making and spending money through advertising.

Perhaps one shouldn’t read too much into this. However unfortunately it so often reflects how much attention is paid to Usability in the website design process. Perhaps if those of us who care keep mentioning it at every opportunity, eventually more people will smell the coffee.

Related: Bell Canada Website Usability

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3 Non-blog Reasons Why Newspapers Are Dying

There’s another flurry of ‘Newspapers Are Dead‘ posts this weekend. Dave Winer seemed to have triggered this by his post on the troubles at the San Francisco Chronicle. Robert Scoble has taken up the theme as he did some months ago. Even the Google Guys and Dave Barry have voiced the same views in the past.

News papers must change to survive.

Mark Evans takes the opposite tack in proclaiming that Scoble is wrong. However he suggests that circulation figures show that newspapers are growing. He then seems to spike his own argument by mentioning that this is largely explained by the growth of free newspapers. Doc Searl takes a more helpful line in suggesting a number of different ways the newspapers can avoid their untimely fate.

So often this ongoing conflict is represented as the battle of the journalists versus the bloggers. However I believe there are more fundamental reasons why the newspapers are finding it difficult to move with the times. It’s because newspaper publishers have a long tradition spanning centuries of producing printed newspapers. They’re good at it but they, like many others, assume the Internet is merely an alternative communication channel to transport their wares. Developing an effective website on the Internet is fundamentally different. Here are three principal reasons why newspapers are having problems.

  1. Graphic Design is fundamentally different from Web Design. A viewer looking at a printed page is going through a very different experience from a reader looking at a web page. Not the least, he or she is probably willing to look at only 25% of the content that might be acceptable on a printed page.
  2. Given that most people find things with Google, Yahoo! or one of the other search engines, an effective website must be search engine visible. Online newspapers are often not set up with this intent.
  3. Moving around any website must give a pleasing user experience or the visitor will click away to more welcoming websites. This is what is called Usability and it requires special attention. Trying to mimic the printed version on the Internet will be disastrous.
An effective online version is the solution.

Any newspaper that can accept this different mindset can develop an effective online presence. In turn this can be supportive of the printed version and may even encourage readership. Only a few newspapers are showing they understand this Digital Divide that must be crossed.

Related:
Can Graphic Designers Do Website Design?
Newspapers Are Dead Scrolls
Newspaper Design Awards And Usability

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