On Aesthetics and Usability in Design ()

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In all facets of design, we’ve seen many variations on the notion of accessibility. While one medium evolves from the roots of another, certain ideals persist and others vanish. Sometimes, tradition impedes advancement… at others, ambition clouds solutions easily delivered through tried methods.

The Internet is a tangle of opinions on such issues. Even “standards” seem to suffer from differences. Fortunately, there are those whom have traversed multiple mediums and can speak to these issues from experience. Kimberly Krause Berg of UsabilityEffect.com, took a break from the standard SEO chat at Search Engine Strategies to discuss issues of usability with the WebProNews crew.

Berg asserts that “This [usability and accessibility] is not an afterthought.” Few would argue… yet it seems that many fewer heed such advice.

On iconic examples, such as site navigation patterns, she’s quick to point out flaws in the “norm.”

“Most sites will say ‘products,’ ‘services,’ ‘about,’ contact.’ This tells you absolutely nothing about what they do. If you add ‘about my company…’ ‘about me…’ ‘about usability services…’ you being to get an idea about what the product or services are about.”

Sounds minuscule, even pointless to some… yet even the smallest tweaks can deliver stunning improvements.

“[This] can be as simple as changing a link label.”

In all it’s glossy, round-cornered, gradient-laden, glory… certain aspects of usability seem to escape the larger “Web 2.0” trend. At its core, web design is not about aesthetics. When presented with clients’ designs, Berg is very specific on this.

“I need to perform a task on that site. Then I can accurately tell them ‘I was successful at this,’ ‘I wasn’t,’ ‘Here’s where I had a problem,’ or ‘I didn’t have a problem.’ It’s not my idea of what’s beautiful or not. Who cares what I think… but it does matter if I can find what I want.”

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