Dr. Bob Bailey at Human Factors International has posted his 56 do’s and don’ts for Human Computer Interaction based on the past year of research. He has some very, very interesting conclusions based on the research.
33. Do design Web sites using a “Fluid” layout, because:
- Users believed that the “Fluid” layout was best for reading and for finding information, and
- There were no reliable performance differences among the methods (left justified, centered or fluid).
36. Do design Web sites with the links in a frame on the left margin, because users preferred the frames rather than having the links scroll off the page.
It is good to see that the research is supporting the current design trends. I have long argued that fluid layouts were better. My research and usability tests have always shown that users preferred these layouts but I had not run enough user to experimentally justify the design.
I know that most users use Microsoft Windows, and perhaps because I am a Mac OS X user, I am a little confused by the following recommendation:
24. Do design Web sites primarily for use with the Microsoft’s Windows operating system, unless different (more specific) information about the operating systems being used by the target audience is available.
Maybe it is my zealous nature, but I disagree with this guideline. While most users have Microsoft Internet Explorer, it is important to understand the context of usage and the changing technology environment. Designing for Windows only defeats many of the benefits of good design. Understanding the web sites and applications are viewed/used by people who currently use Microsoft Internet Explorer is important. It was only about 5 years ago that Netscape Navigator controlled our view to the World-Wide Web and the Internet. As more platforms (Danger Hiptop, Sony Playstation 2, Nokia 7650, Replay TV, and others) become Internet enabled the value of supporting open standards will be come more apparent. The Wired News Redesign documents many of the benefits to supporting open standards including XHTML and CSS.
"to bring consistency, predictability, and accessibility to both Web browsers and the content produced for viewing in those browsers. Competition between Netscape and Microsoft during the late 1990s forced the browser companies to jump ahead of Web standards claiming unique support for their own features. Web developers had to code separate versions of pages that could work in specific browsers, or even worse, restrict the functionality of their site to only one browser. This required a huge amount of extra engineering and development time, and continues to fill pages on the Web with code optimized for one browser or another."
Supporting open standards will help ensure that your code and your design is forward compatible.