Our goal is to have a website that is helpful when designing and developing the user interface of other websites and web apps. We have targeted three distinct audience groups:
- Those who are website design and development professionals,
- Those who are web usability and user experience professionals, and
- Those who are creating their own websites, including bloggers.
These are the primary, secondary and tertiary audiences for this website. The first step in creating the user interface for any website or mobile application is to clearly, and distinctly, identify the target audiences. The better you understand the characteristics of your website or web application users, the better will be your user interface decisions.
We began by trying to identify all of the usability sources currently available on the web that may be useful to user interface developers. This included findingall of the most useful usability tools, identifying the top-selling books on website usability, identifying the sources of good usability research, and finding other information related to the overall user-computer environment.
Usability Software Tools
So far, we have identified over 200 software tools that are available on the Internet. Many of these are free. The most challenging task when dealing with such a large number of usability-related tools was identifying those that would be truly of value to web developers.
We elected to divide all of the tools into categories, such as testing tools, prototyping tools, card sorting tools, display or screen design, and content design, and then to try to determine which were the most popular within each category. The assumption being that the most useful tools, at least for those that had been on the market for a while, would have the most users. This is a form of crowdsourcing. Our assumption was that people who were trying to construct websites with good user interfaces would tend to select software tools that were the most useful for them. Thus, we needed a way to determine which software tools that successful website developers and user interface experts used most.
After considering several different approaches we selected the WebRank Stat, Google Pagerank and Alexa Site Rank. Each of these will be discussed in more detail in future blogs. As an example, the ‘WebRank Score’ assigns a number between 0 and 10 for each website based on several different measures of popularity. The ranking used by all three of these tools is purely ordinal, which means that the tool with the highest or lowest number is more popular (e.g., has more page views, has more unique content, etc.) than the one that is second on the list, which is more popular than the one that is third on the list, etc.
As mentioned previousaly, we organized all of the software tools into five main categories:
- Testing and Evaluation
- Prototyping, Mockups and Wireframes
- Navigation and Card Sorting
- Display (Screen) Design
- Content Design
We soon recognized that some tools appeared to be more popular because they seemed to benefit from better marketing campaigns, others because they had been on the market (in business) longer, and still others because they were part of a company’s successful ‘usability kits’ of software tools. We noted with an asterisk those few times when our popularity metric reflected a group of tools (toolkit), rather than only one tool.
Best-Selling Books on ‘Usability’ and ‘User Experience’
We attempted to identify and list the most helpful and useful books available on usability and user experience. We included the 50 books that we thought were related in some way to optimizing the usability of websites and/or web applications, with the goal of improving the users’ experience. After selecting what we felt were the most useful books for web developers, we used another crowdsourcing method (Amazon’s book sales) to show the relative popularity of each book. Again, this ‘best seller’ list is purely ordinal, which means that the book at the top of the list has sold more books than the one that is second on the list; the second book has sold more than the one listed third, etc.
This ranking changes (usually slightly) on a weekly basis, and for most books remains fairly stable over several weeks. We frequently update this list. The information in these top-selling books are of value to anyone trying to ensure that a website or web application is truly user friendly.
This website attempts to be as research-oriented as possible. Currently, there are two major sources of usability research. First are the research papers contained in professional journals, and those presented and published in the proceedings of scientific conferences. Most of these research articles are ‘refereed’, which means that they are reviewed by other usability professionals, and then changes are made, before they are accepted and published. A second type of usability research articles are those published, usually with little or no outside review, on the researcher’s own website. Both sources of research have value.
Probably the best set of research-based usability guidelines, those that are closely linked to usability research, were published by the U.S. Government (usability.gov). We were involved in the creation of these guidelines, and have referenced them in this site, along with the ability to sort the guidelines according to relative importance and strength of evidence .
Finally, the website contains a small collection of studies concerning the overall user-computer environment. We have tried to include those that are most closely related to good user interface design. This includes the demographics of typical website users, languages used on the Internet, and the most used operating systems, browsers, and search engines.