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Web Content – Navigation and Usability November 18, 2009

Posted by Ben Smith in Uncategorized.
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In an introduction to online journalism, we covered the navigation and usability of web content. These two elements are important because to have a successful site, you need to understand how people consume it’s content.

We looked at the F-shaped pattern, a theory by Jakob Nielsen for how people read web content. The theory explains that users do not read content thoroughly, but instead scan it in a pattern throughly resembles an F-shape. To ensure that the most important parts of an article are read by the user, they must be placed at the top of the shape.

This practice is similar to print, but is even more crucial for the web as the average user only spends 30 seconds on a web page. On the web, the user can browse a vast amount of content extremely quickly, so it is important to hold their attention. In print however, a reader will buy a paper and having made that investment want to read it’s content. In this instance the pressure to hold their attention is less. We learned that sub heads and bullet points are a useful technique for attracting attention to information, particularly as they sit at the left hand side of a page, where the reader will look first.

It was a useful exercise to look at various websites and the different methods of navigation and their usebility. This is because it allowed us to analyse how they were or were not successful. Failblog is an example of a concept purpose-built for the web. It could only exist there as it relies on user submitted content, but this interactiveness makes it perfect for the internet. Users can also vote on the material.

Flickr is a photo sharing site that is extremely user-friendly. It has categories, search, tags and even lets users vote on organisation. The BBC site has clear categories and search, however the categories are at the side which means they are cut off with a smaller screen size. The guardian’s website has chosen to set it’s layout similar to the newspaper with the same categories, but they are clear and simple, set out across the top of the page. The material is authoritive having been written by journalists.

The navigation of a site is usually at the top as this makes it viewable whatever the screensize. Categories must be clear to a first – time reader, abbreviations are best avoided to ensure this. Analysing these methods of navigation will help me to avoid mistakes on my site navigation and to find some useful aspects to include on my site.

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