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Using Web widgets wisely, Part 1
By Jodi Bollaert - 2004-03-17 Page:  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Other Web widget usability tips

  • Avoid refreshing the screen every time a user makes changes to a widget value. Unexpected refreshes can be alarming and confusing.
  • Make sure users know which fields are required up-front. Two techniques used to indicate required fields include bolding the field label or adding an asterisk to the end of the field label. The Society for Technical Communication (STC) created their own unique required field symbol in their online membership application (see Figure 18).

    Figure 18. STC required fields
    STC required fields

  • When users encounter Web widgets, sometimes they need a little help understanding what to do. In such cases, providing context-sensitive help can help clear up any confusion. In the "Build Your Durango" wizard at Dodge.com, the designers chose to provide help next to the Web widgets where they thought it would be needed (see Figure 19). When the user clicks on the help image, a small secondary window appears with the associated help content.

    Figure 19. Dodge context-sensitive help
    Dodge.com context-sensitive help

  • Finally, to be sure you are using Web widgets wisely, conduct a few guerilla usability tests with 5-6 users (see Resources). The test results will bring attention to any problems you weren't able to predict and prevent.

Conclusion

Wow... for a few simple HTML-only Web widgets, there are a lot of usability guidelines to keep in mind. If you think this was heavy, wait until you read about scripted Web widgets!



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First published by IBM developerWorks


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