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  •  Pam Joseph

    Know Your Users

      Babyboomer and older users like to take linear navigational routes to information, i.e., static lists of links.

      The typical E-Generation users like quick, nonlinear routes (quick drop-down boxes, clickable image maps). They are too impatient to read a list of links.

      If your target users include both, try to include both forms of navigation on your site

    Know Their Mannerisms

      Users do not read web pages as they do books and even less than they read a newspaper. They tend to quickly browse or skim the page for bold text or links that may seem to lead them to their destination. Remember, that large amounts of links should be subdivided down into main categories and then into smaller categories.
      Users feel more comfortable and stay longer on pages that identify with themselves. Therefore, identify your target user, use pictures of them, use their language, identify their likes and dislikes.
      Identify yourself to the users. Bring some personal touches into your pages to relate to the user who you are and how you relate to them. Show pictures of what your company/college looks like along with the people they may see there. A website without pictures is like listening to a computer generated message on the phone; no personal connection. Pictures of buildings alone are too impersonal.

    Know Their Eye/Hand Movements

      The normal flow of browsing a web page is from the top, left side to the bottom right. Therefore, any important information on a page should be located in the top, left corner., i.e., your logo.

      Eye movement generally moves through the largest text first, bold or brightly colored text next, then to normal text last. Long lines of text are harder to read than short lines. Like a newspaper, keep your long text in an easy to read narrow column(s) about 30-70 characters long.

      Users navigate a website according to established navigations on other sites. Like driving a car, they get used to controls in specific areas. Major navigation aids should be on the top or left, or both. Alternate links are kept at the bottom of the page. General e-mail addresses are kept at the bottom of the page.
      Do not underline your text. Users associate underlined text on a web page as being a link.

      Don't lead them to a dead-end. Many users may come into your page from a search engine, not directly from your home page. So, it's important that they know what site their on and how to get to the home page from your page.

      Make sure if you're leading your user through a process that you also lead them to the solution. For instance a sentence "Complete Immunization Form" would leave the questions of "who completes" and "where do I get this form - web, email, office?". Use the basic "who", "what", "where" question tests and link every question to its solution.

    Know Their Lingo

      Users don't know your company's/college's department structure. They will look for links that apply to their vocabulary. So, for instance if you have a link to your job openings, a link to "Employment" or "Jobs" will be better suited than "Personnel Department" or "Human Resources".
      Keep it simple. Use simple words in your text and for your links. Difficult or vague words are not easily understood by international users or new visitors. Write using the vocabulary your target users understand.
      Be clear and concise in your content. Bring important information to the top of your page. Emphasize or bold important points.

    Know Their Abilities/Disabilities

      Some people's solutions may be other's problems. If you want a lot of bells and whistles on your pages to impress your savvy users, make sure to also include an optional link to the same page rendered in simple text. Those using text-to-speech browsers will find these pages extremely helpful

      Test your pages on every browser available. Although every option won't work in every browser, make sure that important information is accessible. Identify your target browsers to develop your pages. Ours are Internet Explorer (IE) 6.0, IE 7.0, and Firefox 1.5 at the present time. Then, develop your pages to those targeted browsers. But, before final posting, test your pages on a Mac, and other browsers to iron out the bugs. Note: Macs will display text 2 to 3 times smaller than a PC, so it is recommended to test the OS with javascript and attach the required css style sheet. More information on style sheets...

      Use plug-ins with caution. Make sure that plug-ins that you include in your pages are necessary. Test your pages on computers that don't have the plug-ins installed to see how they handle the page. If it creates a hassle for the user to download, install, restart, etc, -- forget it!

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