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"ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion)" <[log in to unmask]>
Keith Instone <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 25 Jul 1997 09:05:43 +0000
Merryanna Swartz <[log in to unmask]>
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Magnet Interactive Communication
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Keith and I met Jared at CHI last spring and enjoyed his SIG.  However,
he evaluated what I consider to be text-based information sites (C\NET,
Edmund's, etc).  In these types of sites it's not unusual for users to
forgo extraneously placed GIFs that do little to support the content
which is priimarily text.

Jennifer's article speaks about the design philosophy we are currently
crsytalizing here at Magnet.  We blend information and visual hierachies
in our designs for sites like Nissan, Paymentech (commercial banking),
and others under development.  Our strength is in joining forces between
cognitive psychologists, UI and graphic arts designers to exploit
graphics in support of organized content that guides users through
complex information structures.

One of my students just bought Jared's book.  He states that users don't
apply mental models as they navigate through a site.  While an
interesting concept, I'd say two things:  show me more results to
supoort that one study's claim, and even if true, that finding should
not negate the importance of organizing content into structures that
support users' understanding of the domain knowledge in some site.
Soundly developed information architectures and cognitively valid
organization principles are essential design components for usable
sites.  The addition of visual organizing principles makes a site's
organization, and the resulting navigation through the content, that
much more salient for users.

But yes, there are bandwidth issues!  Keeping GIFs small is a challenge!

I think we'll test visual hierarchies in our next usability test....we
clearly need more of it to guide our work.

Keith Instone wrote:
> The debate this week at Web Review is whether graphic design matters
> in terms of usability on the Web.
> I start off by presenting some of Jared Spool's results from his user
> testing of 9 Web sites. One of his findings is that the graphics did
> not appear to help users find what they were looking for.
> Jennifer Fleming offers a counterpoint with examples where graphics
> can provide a visual hierarchy to improve usability.
> So, what's really happening? Is the current state of graphic design on
> the Web just so bad that the benefits are hard to see? Are bandwidth
> limitations making it impossible to use graphics well? Was Jared's study
> flawed? Does anyone really have a clue what is going on?
> Join the debate. Web Review is at <> and the
> feature introduction is at
> <>.

Merryanna Swartz, PhD
Director of Human Factors/ UI Design

Magnet Interactive Communications               [log in to unmask]
3255 Grace Street, NW                   202-625-1342, ext. 275
Washington, DC 20007