Archive for the 'Usability' Category

Importance of web page look ‘n’ feel

The look ‘n’ feel of your website is important. BUT, it is less important than the text-based content. In most commercial websites, the role of the traditional graphic designer is relatively minor. The role of the information architect is central

This article focuses on look and feel.

  • “To look good is to be good - that’s the primary test when people assess a Web site’s credibility” B.J. Fogg, Ph.D (Stanford University 2002) [link]
  • “Uniformity an inherit part of a usable web site design” – Sigma Infotech [link]
  • “Complex and beautiful may win awards, but ugly and simple might just win the marathon.” – Gerry McGovern [link]
  • “Consistency is one of the most powerful usability principles”, “users spend most of their time on other websites.” – Jacob Nielsen [link]
Figure 1 – Scott Adams ‘Dilbert’ on web design (lifted from here)


  • Ensure page layout and content style is part of the design
  • Decide on tone, phrasing and naming conventions for all language used on the site  
  • Decide on the page flow and use the same flow for all pages
  • Template as much of the layout as possible (e.g. Master page)
  • Use cascading style sheets (CSS)
  • Create reusable page components (e.g. User Controls / Server Controls)
  • Seek the advice of an imagery expert when using graphics / icons


  • Design as you go
  • Implement each page with no regard to how other aspects of the application work
  • Recreate components that have already been written for other parts of the application
  • Use inline styles, unless there is a good reason
  • Confuse the user with poor use of language / symbols
  • Resize, stretch, crop or distort images when displaying them as part of your application (unless this is the purpose of the application)

There are several other key elements that shouldn’t be neglected in the design phase of a project.

  • Ensure consistent feedback is given to the user (in terms of error, success messages)
  • Adopt the keep it simple stupid (KISS) approach to design
  • Ask non developers to test your application – usable web pages don’t require a manual to operate them
  • If you need to use a picture, get it sized and formatted for web site usage

Further reading:
9 Essential Principles for Good Web Design


Creating your SharePoint sites without having to use the rat*

*Rat - a term used by one of my university lecturers many years ago to refer to the ‘mouse’ peripheral. It made me laugh at the time, and it kinda stuck! The point I’m trying to make is that it seems to create a site with some customisation is an endless loop of point and click (In most cases where templates are not appropriate).

Hi there, it’s been a while since my last post, mainly due to the fact I seem to be working on so many different technologies, perhaps I am becoming a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’. Anyhow, I quite like the challenge of having to work with so many different technologies, and make them all work together!

So today I’ve been thinking about producing SharePoint sites through code. Its very easy to do this using K2 [blackpearl], but this project requires the bare minimum of custom install and set up.

farhanfaiz’s Weblog provided a good overview of how easy it is to create sites using C#. I’ve blogged on a previous occasion about site creation and maintenance in PowerShell, but as I need to do the creation inside a dot net application, I figured C# would be the best thing to use, since I know it better than PowerShell, and the rest of my team could perform maintenance on it in the future.

Here is a method you could use in your dot net applications

public static bool CreateSharePointSite(string parentURL,
                    string siteURLnode,
                    string siteTitle,
                    string siteTemplateName)
    bool successStatus= false
    using (SPSite siteCollection =
            new SPSite(parentURL))
        SPWeb parentWeb =
        SPWebTemplateCollection Templates =
        SPWebTemplate siteTemplate =
        parentWeb.Webs.Add(                    siteURLnode,
                    siteTitle, "", 1033,
                    siteTemplate, false, false);
        successStatus = true;
    return successStatus;

In fact, if you are going to be using the SharePoint Object Model for a medium to large size project, I would really recommend you order the Mindsharp SharePoint 2007 poster pack. It’s written by many experts and MVP’s we know and love! You need to become a registered member of their site before you can order the posters. I’m UK based and it took a few weeks to arrive, but the office is now covered in useful material to aid the developers navigate their way through the object model, an example shown below in Figure 1. These posters are FREE if you live in the US or Canada!


Figure 1: an example Mindsharp poster

I think the good starting point is with Microsoft itself with it’s example ‘Creating a Custom User Site Provisioning Solution with Office SharePoint Server 2007′

Good luck with your development, and please let me know if you have any pointers or best practice for me, and the SharePoint community.


Taking the user to a different habitat

My organisation runs some Linux based applications, and users are generally confused when it comes to the interface and usability.

An interesting experiment has been carried out… let an average user loose on Ubuntu (a particularly popular flavour of Linux…. possibly raspberry)… and compare what they can do in Windows based OS with what they can do with the Linux based OS. You can read the experiment in detail: here

The article shows that Ubuntu is harder to use by the average user, but using unfamiliar software will always be a challenge, for even a hardened IT professional… trust me, I’ve had to submit a time sheet and an expense claim in SAP!…

Well worth a read.


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