Designing the user experience

Once analysis has determined the information needs of the site, the site can be designed. Design is critical to a successful web site since it will determine the quality of experience users of a site have; if they have a good experience they will return, if not they will not! A 'good experience' is determined by a number of factors such as those that affect how easy it is to find information: for example, the structure of the site, menu choices and searching facilities. It is also affected by less tangible factors such as the graphical design and layout of the site.

Achieving a good design is important before too many web pages are developed since, if time is taken to design a site, less time will be wasted later when the site is reworked. Large sites are usually produced by creating templates comprising the graphical and menu elements to which content is added.

As mentioned previously, design is not solely a paper-based exercise, but needs to be integrated into the prototyping process. The design should be tested by review with the client and customer to ensure it is appropriate. The design of site layout, navigation and structure can be tested in two different ways. First, early designs can be paper-based -drawn by the designer on large pieces of paper - or 'mock-ups' can be produced on screen using a drawing or paint program. This process is referred to as 'storyboarding'. Second, a working, dynamic prototype can be produced in which users can select different menu options on-screen that will take them to skeleton pages (minus content) of different parts of the site.

Since the main reason given in Table 7.6 for returning to a web site is high-quality content, it is important to determine, through analysis, that the content is correct. However, the quality of content is determined by more than the text copy. It is important to achieve high-quality content through design. To help in this it is useful to consider the factors that affect quality content. These are shown in Figure 7.8. All are determined by the quality of the information.

Design phase

The design phase defines how the site will work in the key areas of web site structure, navigation and security.



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