When considering websites with different content types, there are several places on the web I could have gone to. The internet is, literally, an endless source of content.
Whether or not you "subscribe" to the use of deliverables in UX design depends a lot on the methodology you practice as a designer. Where one designer might find it useful, or even mandatory, to produce a deliverable for every stage of the design process, another designer might work within a team that lives and breathes Agile.
Being able to visualize a concrete solution to your problem is at the heart of design, (Goodwin, 2009). Solutions themselves range from finished, tangible products (such as a building or a new piece of technology), or they could be products that provide an "experience" to the user.
There is the danger of the UX designer focusing too much on their deliverables - and becoming disengaged from the larger project as a whole. Diagrams are great when they contribute to the production of the website, diagrams for the sake of making a diagram does nothing to help the ultimate goal. If the document does not contribute to the project, team, or final product, the document has been utilized inappropriately.
Kim Goodwin, "Designing for the Digital Age," (2009).
The Golden Ratio is closely related to both the Fibonacci Sequence, and a ratio of 1:1:61. It can be found in nature, architecture, and art. Using the Golden Ratio is a helpful tool for designers to implement both attractive and functional sites that help guide the user in a natural way. An easy way to think about the Golden Ratio when designing, is to remember the Rule of Thirds - dividing the area equally into three sections both vertically and horizontally. You can then sub-divide these sections into further equal sections.
Being mindful of equal proportioning does not mean that as designers, we are held to symmetrical designs as the end-all-be-all of site design. Asymmetrical design can be challenging to implement, but working with balance and movement, and emphasizing motion and color, can make asymmetrical layouts visually appealing. The grid will still need to be in play - if anything, grids will be even more of use to the designer when working with asymmetrical layouts.
Layouts that violate principles of good design are numerous on the web - just search for "examples of ineffective layout design" and you'll receive several hundred hits with listicles extolling the menace of bad design. If you were a user of the web in the 90s, you probably remember the unspoken principle of web design that seemed to state, "If it can be added, add it." Flashing site titles, moving text and images, strobe-like effects, and busy, loud backgrounds underneath busy, loud content seemed to be the norm. For the good of all, we have evolved beyond those times. Continuing to use the Golden Ratio and grids can help us continuing to evolve toward better user experience on the web.
Most adults read automatically - taking note of key words or phrases, but inherently taking in the shapes, lines, and colors of text effortlessly, and using the "leftover" space in our minds to mull over the implications of the words we are reading. Language is an innate human ability - when exposed to other conversational humans, we will learn to speak and communicate as we grow and learn. Reading, however, is a learned skill, not unlike learning how to use a computer, or how to play a musical instrument. Early childhood is an ideal time to expose a new reader to letters, shapes, words, and sounds, the ability to read develops easily as the brain develops and language acquisition takes place; by adolescence and early adulthood, a new reader will require increased effort in order to build to an advanced reading level, (Johnson, quoting Sousa (2005), 2010).
Learning to read is equatable to training our visual system to understand how lines and shapes build to form "patterns of characters" (Johnson, 2010), or morphemes. Morphemes can be combined to form recognizable clusters that we know as words; words combine together in various ways to form phrases, idioms, and sentences, and sentences merge together to form texts of larger meaning, such as paragraphs, from which we can learn to extract nuanced symbolism and meaning.
Johnson (2010) describes the eye patterns (saccades) and how they flow across pages of text, picking out the important words, that our brains then extract further meaning from. He also goes on to explain the distinctions between feature-driven ("bottom-up") or context-driven ("top-down") reading approaches that determine whether a reader has to analyze the subtle differences in line and shape, like, for example, in ideographic scripts such as Chinese, or if the reader is learning a foreign language, or if the reader is able to quickly glance at a line of text and gather the meaning, even if the words are obscured or misspelled.
All of this careful consideration of language quickly becomes moot in the online environment when reading is disrupted through texts that are too small or two large, the use of all caps, undecipherable fonts, and unfamiliar vocabulary. Even strong readers can become frustrated by loud or bright fonts, especially overlaid onto "noisy" backgrounds, with excessive and unnecessary blocks of text. Even the use of centered or right-aligned text can disrupt the automatic eye movements that allow readers to scan text easily from left to right. Poor readers can become even more discouraged, and the ultimate conclusion would be to minimize the need for excessive, difficult reading. Designers should "support reading" and understand the flow natural linguistic processes of how we read and take in information, "not disrupt it", (Johnson, 2010).
Designers should ensure the use of controlled vocabularies, and, whenever possible, plain or natural language; avoid distracting flaws such as difficult to read text sizes and fonts, indecipherable colors and noisy backgrounds, excessive use of blocks of text, and center and right-aligned text; create formats that allow for natural visual hierarchies, making text easily scannable and, (Johnson, 2010).
Johnson, J. (2010). Designing with the Mind in Mind: Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Rules. Amsterdam: Morgan Kaufmann /Elsevier.
The Gestalt principle of Proximity stipulates that the distance between objects in a display affects our perception of whether and how the objects are organized into subgroups, (Johnson, 2014). A website can making meaningful attempts to organize information into groups and subgroups for ease of navigation, but can fail in implementing this principle by including massive amounts of unusable, and useless information that can confuse the user by making them wade through endless number of sub-categories for the information they need.
One usability test that would be beneficial in a scenario where the user is flummoxed with an overload of information to sort through, would be to test exactly how long a user is willing to weed through useless information in order to find what they are looking for. How much time, energy, and patience is a user willing to sink into an information retrieval session before they either give up and try and new tactic, or persevere until they are successful? My untested hypothesis would be that the longer a user searches without successful retrieval of information, the likelihood of that user returning to your website (at least with a recent positive experience in mind) goes down.
Users who experience successful retrieval of information, or who had a positive experience on a website or application with minimal frustrations, are more likely to continue their patronage of a website. On the other hand, a user who feels their time has been wasted, or who did not achieve their desired outcome, might result in that user leaving with an undesirable impression of the website and/or company. The Atlantic magazine forces the user to call their service line in order to obtain the education discount for students and teachers, while The New Yorker magazine allows you to sign up for their education discount quickly and easily simply by inputing your .edu email address. If brand loyalty has not yet been established, which magazine would more likely encourage a new subscriber?
Johnson, J. (2014). Designing with the Mind in Mind: A Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Rules. Amsterdam: Morgan Kaufmann /Elsevier.
As we complete our first week of classes, several key points have stuck out to me, namely revolving around our class discussions, chapter one of Don Norman's "The Design of Everyday Things," and chapter two of Jesse James Garrett's "The Elements of User Experience." Our class discussions were an insightful look into who my cohorts will be for this program, as well as their backgrounds and future career aspirations. I feel lucky to be able to share a classroom with a group of such accomplished critical thinkers. There seems to be a well-rounded mix of traditional and non-traditional user experience practitioners, which will bode well for discussion and collaboration.
Good design is much less obvious than bad design, (Norman, 2013) often because when design fits into our life easily and efficiently, it becomes part of our daily experience, without the user having to give much thought to manipulating the device to suit their needs. Bad design, however, can cause disruption at best, and chaos at its worst, requiring complicated and multi-faceted workarounds to perform a simple task.
Good design is not just about the site appearing aesthetically pleasing, despite UX being mistakenly synonymous with UI, interface, and visual design. UX is much more than a pretty face - it is about understanding the user and their information seeking behavior, consistent and thorough usability testing, and making sure your site is structurally sound, not just visually appealing. Garrett (2011) discusses the importance of quality content, and the ability for users to find and use that content. Users do not visit a site to experience the "joy of navigation" (Garrett, 2011), but they will be turned away by the inability to find what they came searching for. It is imperative to consider how the content will be cataloged, tagged, and indexed appropriately for improved search results.
Garrett, J. J. (2011). The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web and Beyond. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.
Norman, D. A. (2013). The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books.