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We Need Textual Healing - Practices

How can you create an intuitive website or web application? What are some common follies to stay away from? How do we keep users coming back for more? And how is designing a website like cooking chicken? This article describes some guidelines that can help you as a programmer or designer to channel your creativity, and design a user-friendly, ergonomic web site. These guidelines range from site structure to wording and imagery, this is the whole package!

  1. A User-Friend Interface: The DOs and DO NOTs of UI Design
  2. Guideline #1
  3. Lost in Space
  4. We Need Textual Healing
By: Justin Cook
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April 19, 2004

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The guidelines around decorating kind of lead nicely to an understanding of how to treat text. Do not clutter! Learning a "for" loop in server-side programming is the only time we should use 10 different font sizes! Fight that tendency to use h1 through to h5!

To accomplish this, we should set some standards for ourselves at the outset. In our stylesheet, define the body font size, maybe redefine h1 (and maybe h2 if critical), and then perhaps a smaller font for footer and photo captions. Then leave it at that. If at all possible, keep them all the same color, and make sure it's a nicely contrasting color with the background you've chosen.

Don't forget though, that more important than the look of the text is the actual content itself. We should be writing the content around the users. This will aid in both search engine positioning, and in users actually understanding what the heck is going on! Always explain things in plain English (or your language of choice, just keep it plain). Remember, most of your users are not programmers, so they don't all understand geek-talk. This is a good thing! I mean, think about it, if they were all programmers, we'd be out of work!

One last guideline around avoiding text clutter, is just to omit needless text. For example, take the sentence "if you want to see pictures of the vacation we took in Timbuktu, click here to proceed to the photo album," and shorten it too "here are some pictures of our Timbuktu vacation." Feels as refreshing as a nice haircut, doesn't it!

I read some research done by one firm, and they found that the pages with the highest retention rate never exceeded 600 words of content. Keep that in mind!


This is not necessarily an exhaustive list of to-do's in website design and usability. These are however, a list of some of the more common mistakes people make. This is especially the case when the programmer is given the additional responsibility of doing the UI design.

Remember, these are tried and true, and you will reap the rewards of a user-friendly website if you implement them! No salmonella here, just people begging for the recipe!

>>> More Practices Articles          >>> More By Justin Cook

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