Michael Gaigg: Über UI/UX Design

26Apr0

Top 10 Design Influencers

Posted by Michael Gaigg

Design Influencers

Design Influencers

Designing user interfaces isn't about sexy graphics, shiny buttons or slick navigation (alone).

It's about taking care of the influential factors that make or break the success of a web application or website.

It's a delicate balance of user needs and business requirements, deeply understood and carefully melted into a design that is loved by all stakeholders (the end-user included 😉 )

The sum of all the design influencers are the constraints that will box your design decisions. That's not a limitation, it's liberation!

The Design Influencers are:

User Needs

Whatever it is that you are planning to build, it needs to be useful to somebody and has to solve a real-world problem. This end-user need is the reason of existence, it's the meaning life.

Context

In which context will your users access the site? Is it through mobile devices on the road? Then a shopping cart will be less important than driving directions or store hours and screen elements need to be more prominent.
Do users typically enter your site through search? Then your landing pages need to convey who you are and what you do because users won't have seen your fancy homepage (and probably never will).

Culture

Even though cultural difference across the globe become really important if you build an international site, I rather mean business or sociological culture, i.e. if you plan on building an intranet site but the company's culture doesn't encourage to report failure or spending time helping other employees, then a forum probably isn't the right choice to offer.

Business Needs

While your client is ideally well informed about their end-user's needs, they also have to run a business, satisfy stakeholders, fulfill legal mandates etc. And that's when compromising your perfect usability is sometimes necessary and important.

Technology

What's the available technology? Very often the vendor or client platform of choice dictates the choice of technology, e.g. a Microsoft shop will prefer .NET and Silverlight (oh, long time I haven't mentioned Silverlight so I mention it again) or Flex.

Market Opportunities

If something isn't viable or possible today that doesn't mean it won't be in a year. So think ahead and design your site accordingly, i.e. extensible, modular, maintainable.
What I've found is that sometimes it's worth including an "upsale" item into your mockups, something that the client hasn't explicitly asked for but may open their eyes and hopefully wallets 😉 Mostly you may defer these items to a later phase but it gives everybody a long-term vision and as a side-effect supports designs that are extensible.

Cost

It's been said that anything can be done if you only have enough time and money, but the real world doesn't spin like that. Your design is constrained by a budget - and that's a good thing because it forces you to stay realistic finding the right balance between innovation and familiarity.

Sponsor

If the main sponsor is Esri (my current employer) I better make sure that there is a map on the interface. What sounds like a designer's nightmare is the name of the game.

Lifespan

How long will your design need to stand the test of time? Is it 1 year or 10? A demo doesn't need to be as polished or thought-out as a content-management system that will take over the client's communication platform. It is the classical "let's get it done" versus "let's think about this a last time". I've written a more detailed article about Lifespan as an important Design Decision.

Compliancy

Accessibility is a law and therefore cannot be removed from the equation. Your fancy design elements might just not be (or too expensive to be) compliant with the law. Acquire knowledge about accessibility laws (e.g. section 508 in the US), their implementation specifics and know how that translates into your design.

28Oct0

Best Practices for accessible Links

Posted by Michael Gaigg

It is essential that users can find, identify, and comprehend hypertext links quickly. Even though there are no Level 1 (A) checkpoints associated with links it is pretty easy to fulfill Level 2 and even Level 3. It's definitely worthwhile the little effort with the added benefit that e.g. most browsers render the title attribute as a tooltip.

Basic Rules

See also my Design Guidelines for Links.

  • Contrast link text color and regular text color
  • Underline link text
  • Ensure link text is descriptive of its destination
  • Make visited links change color
  • Limit link text to a maximum of four words
  • Place important words at the front of link text
  • Minimize amount of links to seven (excluding the menu) unless they are presented in a clear structure
  • Use meaningful pathnames when creating directory structure

Best Practices

Level 1

No Level 1 requirements.

Level 2

Level 2 Checkpoints - Section 508 Compliancy Standards
Checkpoint Description W3C 508 Example
Links Clearly identify the target of each link 13.1 n/a <A href="my-doc.html">My document is available in HTML</A>,<A href="my-doc.pdf" title="My document in PDF">PDF</A>,

<A href="my-doc.txt" title="My document in text">plain text</A>

Level 3

Level 3 Checkpoints - Section 508 Compliancy Standards
Checkpoint Description W3C 508 Example
Links Create a logical tab order 9.4 n/a <A tabindex="2" href="link2.txt"">Link 2</A><A tabindex="1" href="link1.txt">Link 1</A>

<A tabindex="3" href="link3.txt">Link 3</A>

Links Provide keyboard shortcuts to important links 9.5 n/a <A accesskey="2" href="link2.txt"">Link 2</A><A accesskey="1" href="link1.txt">Link 1</A>

<A accesskey="3" href="link3.txt">Link 3</A>

Links Include non-link, printable characters (surrounded by spaces) between adjacent links 10.5 n/a [<A href="a.htm">Link A</A>] [<A href="b.html">Link B</A>] or<A href="a.htm">Link A</A> | <A href="b.html">Link B</A>

Templates

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References