Book Review: Web Bloopers
by Jeff Johnson
How To Avoid Common Web Design Mistakes
In an effort to help Web designers avoid making 60 of the most common and critical Web design mistakes, computer and Web guru Jeff Johnson delves into the usability issues that haunt many Web pages. Offering designers solutions to their problems while tackling the challenges and trade-offs associated with them, Johnson covers content, task support, navigation, forms, searches, writing, link appearance, graphic design, and layout issues. Web Bloopers presents solid advice on how designers can avoid and fix these pervasive problems.
Johnson is interested in quality. Throughout Web Bloopers, he offers crucial lessons in quality control, and provides the details that can help any Webmaster make usability a feature of his or her Web site so the average person can log on and rely on it for everyday information, communication, commerce and entertainment. To do this, he has written a book that is filled with screen images of example Web pages, indicator arrows that point to problem areas, and comment boxes that include the site's address, the date it was recorded, and an explanation of all that is wrong, or right, with the Web page. Along with these features, he also outlines the underlying problems he sees while providing the solutions that could correct the bloopers he describes.
Poor quality and low usability are Johnson's enemy, and he roots them out wherever they lurk. Although he writes that every Web site has bloopers, he also admits that each one has good features as well. He is an equal opportunity critic, so sometimes a site he chooses to exemplify a blooper is also used to demonstrate how another blooper was avoided. Here are a few of the most frequently seen Web Bloopers he addresses:
Where Am I?
- Blooper 1: Home Page Identity Crisis. Many Web sites fail to identify the site we are in or the page we are on. Johnson points out the inefficiency of vague home pages that do not state clearly who the company is or what it does. To solve this problem, he writes that a Web site can place the organization's name prominently, provide a brief textual summary of the organization's purpose, use a picture to illustrate the organization's product or service, and help outsiders understand its content by using straightforward language instead of industry jargon and abbreviations.
- Blooper 2: Confusing Classifications. Johnson explains that one of the most important aspects of Web content is how it is organized for the end user. He tells Web designers that they should avoid arbitrary, subjective categories as well as placing items in lists that do not fit, or incomplete lists. He tells designers that content categories should be independent, mutually exclusive, exhaustive, nonarbitrary and organized hierarchically. Companies should test their Web sites before they are released to the public to help them test for usability.
- Blooper 3: Unhelpful Descriptions. Misleading descriptions help no one. The information accompanying an item should allow people to determine whether products or services are what they want. Also, when multiple items seem relevant, the information provided should help users choose between them.
- Blooper 7: Unfinished Content. Some sites are missing crucial content because they are obviously unfinished. This can lead to misleading information when information boxes contain zeros, Latin filler text, or no useful information at all. To avoid this blooper, Johnson explains that Web sites should not go live until they are absolutely ready, old Web sites should be kept up until they can be replaced with complete sites, and unfinished pages should be omitted instead of being left blank.
Task Support Bloopers
- Blooper 9: Requiring Unneeded Data. Web sites that ask for the same data more than once are sites that ask for data they don't really need. When a site asks for a company name when registering a purchase even though the purchase is not made for a company, or asks for a unique ID number and a name, or treats all data fields as required even though they should be optional are annoying to users and push them away.
- Blooper 42: Speaking Geek. Because many Web designers come from programming backgrounds, they use technical jargon that is hard for the rest of us to understand. "Domain," "field," and "drop down" should be avoided and replaced with more commonly used words.
Why We Like This Book
Web Bloopers is a fun read that points out all the annoying problems every Web user has faced and articulates it with clarity and purpose. Johnson is a smart Web user who has our best interests in mind, and offers many useful suggestions to Web designers that can make their work more usable and accessible while helping the companies and organizations represented online get their messages across better. His great humor makes his technical points easy for even the layperson to digest.
Copyright © 2003 Soundview Executive Book Summaries
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