One of my co-workers lent me an interesting book recently. Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug. It’s a short and easy read. The basic premise (and hence the title) is that you shouldn’t make the user work too hard to use or understand your website. I think the website I maintain at work, the AA Dept. website, does pretty well in that regard. And even if someone can’t find what they want, we have a link to the sitemap and a searchbox on every page. Hopefully that cuts down on user frustration.
Another usability rule Krug has is “Get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left.” I don’t think we can really apply that to our site. There’s no way to really cut down our explanations of various astronomical phenomena and algorithms.
In the next-to-last chapter, he mentions his three-second accessibility test for websites: increasing the size of the type. And he says almost every site he goes to fails. Ta-da! We don’t. You can increase the size of our type with your browser, no problem! Cool. Must be because I love Cascading Style Sheets to death.