Usability (was: Re: Erlang vs Java)

Richard A. O'Keefe <>
Tue Sep 13 05:17:40 CEST 2005


Dustin Sallings <> wrote:
	     1)  He said it's hard to read, but didn't give much of an  
	indication as to how it was difficult to read.
	
Let's be accurate in our quotation, shall we?

	My first comment is that I found it very difficult to read.

that's not a general assertion that it *is* hard to read (which I would
take as meaning the text is bad) but a specific statement that *I* found
it difficult to read (which means that there is a presentation problem).
But there was detail:

	basically all I saw was a sea of black with a few dots of
	colour here and there.

If you want technical detail, the page is very heavy-handed with CSS,
and on one of the pages where I checked, the CSS wasn't quite legal.

But it's surely clear that it's a matter of messing with colours &c.

The reference to http//useit.com  takes you to a link
"Why this site has almost no graphics", which is relevant.
The "Alertbox" link takes you to a page where you see
Read these first:  [Usability 101] and [Top ten mistakes of web design].
In the latter, mistake 5 has the very clear advice

	Respect the user's preferences

and mistake 8, "Violating Design Conventions", is pretty much at the
heart of the issue.

	Jakob's Law of the Web User Experience states that
	"users spend most of their time on _other_ websites."
	
	This means that they form their expectations for your site
	based on what's commonly done on most other sites.
	If you deviate, your site will be harder to use and users will leave.

(It's off-topic, but the "worst example" in mistake 10 is one that has
personally made me very cross indeed with a number of software vendors
including one Prolog vendor.  This guy just has so much good sense.)

At the foot of that page, there are links to other lists, including three
versions of the classic "Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design."  "Non-Standard
Link Colours" was number 8 originally, it's subsumed by the current #8.

	     2)  In a private message, he described what the page looked like  
	to him, and it was not what was specified (``In this year's Mozilla,  
	it prints as pale grey on white.'').
	
That's not how it *looked* on screen, but how it *prints*.
And it prints that way because fancy colours on the screen *usually*
print very badly on a black and white printer.  Anyone who uses CSS
heavily should use the CSS2 @media feature to provide separate
@media print and @media screen rule-sets, because what works well for
one often doesn't work well for the other.
	
	     For #2, this sounds like user error.

What possible user error could there be?
Type
	mozilla "the URL goes here"
on the command line, see page, select File|Print, clicky clicky to make
it happen, the right page appears on the printer.  It's just that it's
a page which uses a lot of CSS that messes with colours and didn't use
@media print to fix that for printing.

	The web page specifically called for a black background, which
	is how it was rendered on my screen.

Setting a black background is in itself a pretty big web design botch.
Over the last week I must have visited about a dozen blogs; this was the
*only* one that tried to impose heavy styling on what is, let's face it,
basically straightforward text.  To repeat the quotation from Mistake 8:

	If you deviate, your site will be harder to use
	and users will leave.

The heavy styhling in this blog is a sufficient deviation that normally
I would just leave at once.

Importantly, though, how a page is rendered on a colour *screen* (which
I commented on for Netscape, and it was clear from that comment that I
*did* get a black background) and how it is *printed* on a black-and-white
printer are two different things.

	In order to get the background to be white, one would have  
	to either be using a browser that doesn't understand web standards,  
	or one would've had to have partially overridden what the designer  
	had requested.

In order to think that it's a user error, you have to misread what the
user actually wrote.  The relevant keyword was *PRINT*.

	     So, in summary, when I said it's not a valid complaint, perhaps  
	I should've said it's not a constructive complaint.

Maybe you should have tried reading it more carefully.




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