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Back to the User: Creating User-Focused Web Sites

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Back to the User: Creating User-Focused Web Sites


  • Sorry, this book is no longer in print.
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  • Copyright 2002
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-7357-1118-6
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-7357-1118-1

Back to the User integrates Web design, navigation and content considerations with effective branding and marketing guidelines. By teaching those that create websites how to think like the people who use them, this book enables web marketers and developers to create sites that people want to, and can successfully, use.

The authors offer their readers an approach to engaging target users in the development process early on and in a meaningful way so that the very premise of a site is driven by the needs and desires of its users. The book provides countless examples of common mistakes that even the best websites make and offers solutions that are geared to get everyone on a web development team, from CEO to programmer, viewing the site from the user¿s perspective.

This book is intended for:

  • Senior management of companies, large and small, who are about to build or rebuild a Website
  • Web designers, developers and information architects
  • Web marketers and consultants
  • Advertising agency creatives, planners and account executives
  • Anyone else in an organization who is involved in creating Websites

Sample Content

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Your Homepage Is a 30-Second Window of Opportunity: Don't Be Shy!

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Table of Contents



1. Why Your Web Site? For That Matter, Why Our Book?

How to Engage Target Users in the Development Process. Who Are We, Anyway? We Thought You Would Never Ask. How We Organized This Book.

2. Use Research, Make It Actionable, Then Act on It While It's Hot.

Why Do Research Anyway? The Benefits of Web Development Research “What's My ROI?” I've Bought into the Idea, Now Tell Me What I Need to Know to Make Research Pay for Itself.


3. Your Homepage Is a 30-Second Window of Opportunity: Don't Be Shy!

Show Them What You Have to Offer. Strut Your Credentials, Particularly Where They Matter. Don't Have Credentials? Beg and Borrow (But Don't Steal) 'Em! Use Your Real Estate Wisely. Make Sure Your Design Is in Service to Your Concept. Your Homepage Should Serve Your Strategic Goals. The More the Merrier Figure Out Who Your Customers Are and Welcome Them. Tell the Truth Up-Front Bad News Is Worse in the Check-Out Aisle!. A Few Hard Questions.

4. Understanding How Users “Bucket” Your Space Better Use Their Language, Because They Are Not There to Join Your Company.

And This Site Would Be About…? I Love Your Org Chart... Too Bad I'm Not Looking for a Job. What Fascinating Categories You Have! Each One a Mystery Unto Itself. I Know the Web Is a Creative Place, But You're Losing Me. From Russia with Love and the Limited "Role" Russian Dolls and Rollovers. I Don't Want to Put Myself in That Category Either, and Don't Call Me a Baby-Boomer! Confronting the Unfamiliar: Start by Looking Outside Your Organization. Just Because Every Department Wants a Button on the Homepage Doesn't Mean They Need One. And Don't Forget to Ask: “Are We Offering What Target Users Want and Expect?” The View from 30,000 Feet. A Few Hard Questions.

5. It's Okay to Be Different: Just Make Sure People Know What You Offer.

Loved the Show, But Save It for Broadway May I Please See My Checking Account Balance Now? Knock It Off, Picasso! Art Is for the Walls. Designers Work in Mysterious Ways Iconography Is Only Compelling in Church. Bells and Whistles Can Sink Your Anchors. Go Iconoclastic! But Navigate at Your Own Risk. Make Sure the Site Is in Sync with the Brand. The View from 30,000 Feet. A Few Hard Questions.

6. People Don't Read: Don't Make Them!

If They Want to Read a Novel, They'll Buy One. Let Your Pictures Do the Talking. Pictures Don't Have to Say a Thousand Words, But They Need to Say Something That Makes Sense. An Image Can Be Worth a Thousand Words... But Not If It Whispers. Images Often Work Harder Than Words. People Are Just as Literal with Words. First Things First Begin with Important Features. Tell People—Briefly—What You Want Them to Do. Save People from the Garden Path. If Your Mom Can't Read It, the Print's Too Small! The View from 30,000 Feet. A Few Hard Questions.

7. Just Because the Competition Does It That Way, Doesn't Mean It's Right.

Jump Off the Bandwagon! Model Online Processes After Offline People Design with Logic That Is Easy to Follow. Don't Reinvent the Wheel Online, Either! Call Us Crazy, But We Think the Left Nav Bar Should Be Left Where It Is. People Just Want to Go Home! Don't Count on Your Logo to Get Them There. Two Kids, a Dog, and a Split Level. The View from 30,000 Feet. A Few Hard Questions.


8. A Frustrated User Is No User at All: Don't Let Him Leave Your Site!

Hitting the Wall Strategies for Recovery. Death by Frustration Who Will Save the Day? The Customer Is Always Right Rules of Thumb for Managing Error Conditions. Users Aren't Programmers:Don't Assume They Know What You're Talking About. Absolute Power Is a Good Thing Don't Mess with the User's Control. The View from 30,000 Feet. A Few Hard Questions.

9. Adventures in Downloading “…But Do I Have To?!”

Plug-Ins!!! Plug-Ins??? So You're Ready to See My Site? Not So Fast, Mr. User. Download a Plug-In? The Only Thing I'm Downloading Is Confusion! What Does This Stuff Do, Anyway? Another Burning Question: “Why Should I?!” Help, I'm Lost! And Where's That Download? Déjà Vu All Over Again The Same Concerns to the Power of 10. A Download Kind of Crowd? Finding a Starting Point. Branding a Download and Downloading a Brand Be Consistent! The View from 30,000 Feet. A Few Hard Questions.

10. When I Need Your Assistance, Believe Me, I'll Ask! Getting Information, Directions, Help, or Anything Else.

Thanks for the Great Directions, But I Already Know How to Do That. Next Steps Can I Please Have a Hint? By the Way, What's in It for Me? I'm Not Going into That Room Until You Turn a Light On. It's 10:00 p.m.: Do You Know Where Your Users Are (and Vice Versa)? Searching and Advanced Searching I Know There's a Quicker Way to Get There, But I Want the Scenic Route. I Don't Have Time for "War and Peace" Notes on the Content Pages. Thanks! Just When I'm Starting to Have Fun, You Tell Me It's Illegal. Is It an Ad or Is It Information If It's Not Useful, It's Pollution. The View from 30,000 Feet. A Few Hard Questions.

11. Hieroglyphics Are Only Interesting When You Are Visiting the Pyramids Icons and Language.

Offline Metaphors Don't Always Translate Well to the Web. Each and Every Icon or Button Can Have One—and Only One—Meaning. “What's Clickable?” Is NOT a Trick Question. The Many Sides of Online Meaning. If Your Icons Need a Legend, You're in Trouble. The Design of a Site Is in and of Itself a Metaphor. The Web Is About Putting Control in the Hands of the User. The View from 30,000 Feet. The Hard Questions.


12. Give the People What They Want (and More), or They'll Find Someone Who Can!

Content: You Know, That Stuff You Usually Have to Read. Oh Yeah? Says Who? A Simple Rule of Thumb: Why Is It Here? Established Brands I Trust You, But Don't Disappoint Me. The Double-Edged Sword Do I Want Content from This Brand? New Brands Why Should I Believe What You Have to Say? Third-Party Content A Judicious Solution. Is the Hype Machine in Operation? Overcoming User Skepticism of Articles and “Objective” Viewpoints But I'm a Commerce Site, Right? Do I Even Need Content? Providing Product Information and Reviews First, the Challenge. And Now the Opportunity. Another Solution Content as Community Through User-Generated Content. Are Other Users Always Credible? Delivering Content The Power of Letting the User Opt In. The View from 30,000 Feet. A Few Hard Questions.

13. Functionality Don't Just Lie There, Give Me Some Interaction.

People Like to Play Games, Even When They're Not on a Game Site. The Dell Configurator The First Lesson in the Value of Interactive Features. Self-Tests Why Do You Think Horoscopes Are So Popular? Self-Tests Can Also Help You Connect Prospects to Your Products. Interactive Tools Another Variation of the Self-Test. Polls Also Pull Them in, as Long as the Results Are Instant. Screensavers and Other “Give-Aways” Also Invite Return Visits and Build Your Brand. The View from 30,000 Feet. A Few Hard Questions.

14. Whiz! Bang! Boom! Graphics in Service to Content and Functionality.

The First Rule: The Web Is a Visual Medium Users Want Some Color. Users Expect Consistent Use of Graphics and Color Throughout the Site. Users Don't Want to be Delayed by Graphics. A Guiding Principle: If It's Not Needed, Get Rid of It. Lose the Clutter:White Space Works. Another Big Question: Is This Little Picture Actually FOR Anything? A Final Caution: Are You Sure the User Is in Control of the Experience? The View from 30,000 Feet. A Few Hard Questions.

15. Search When to Keep Them in Your Playpen and When to Open Them Up to the Universe.

Don't Assume Search and Browse Are Mutually Exclusive. Lose the Boolean Logic Nobody But Statisticians Cares About Probability. Spelling Don't Be So Picky—This Isn't English Class. You Say Tomato, I Say…. Was That “Lemon” Candy, Candles, or Body Lotion? Understand How Your Users Want to Search. Advanced Search Your Last Resort…. Beware Multiple Fields Relationships Are Assumed Where They May Not Exist. Inside the Playpen or the Whole Web? Search Results How Much Is Too Much? The View from 30,000 Feet. A Few Hard Questions.

16. Navigation You Know You're in Trouble When Users Look for Your Site Map.

Let Your Homepage Be Your Guide. Be Persistent in Your Navigation. A Trail of Bread Crumbs. The Customer Is Always Right “Invalid Entry” Is Not an Option. This Isn't Print Use Anchor Links to Provide Quick Access to Multiple Choices. Silos Are for Hay, Not Web Sites Don't Make People Go Back to Go Forward. Use Images to Show People the Way. Offer Critical Instructions in Such a Way That They Cannot Be Missed. Don't Force People to Commit Before They Are Ready. Scroll at Your Own Risk! The View from 30,000 Feet. A Few Hard Questions.

17. E-Commerce If They Can't Find It, They Won't Buy It.

Understand Current Buying Behavior. Don't Assume a Standard Approach to Shopping in Your Category. Use Shopping Metaphors That Make Sense. People Want to Know What They're Buying Use Pictures and Descriptions. Track with the Buying Process. Offer Incentives. Can I Take It Back? Life Is Mysterious Enough…. Use the Fulfillment Process to Cross-Sell. Shipping and Handling? Don't Try to Hide It. Stay Consistent with Your Brand. The View from 30,000 Feet. A Few Hard Questions.


18. The Challenges of Transferring an Established Brand to the Web Top 10 Considerations.

Users Expect Your Site to Look Like You. Your Site Should Be Organized, Just Like You. What Language Do You Use with Customers? Use the Same on Your Web Site. Sweat the Details (Down to the Last Tool). Sweating More of the Details Don't Forget Site Quality. The E-Commerce Question: “How Does the Web Fit with My Other Channels?” Account Access Encouraging Repeat Visit. Don't Disenfranchise Your Customers Make Service and Technical Support Useful. Consider Adding Premium Services for High-Value Customers. Leverage Your Marketing Messages, But Don't Make Your Site a Commercial. The View from 30,000 Feet. A Few Hard Questions.

19. Business-to-Business Challenges and Opportunities.

Understand How Your Customers Do Business. Remember, Company Rules Exist for a Reason. Your Client List Is Your Credibility. People Stick to Their Own Kind: Make Sure They Know You Are One of Them. What's in It for Me? Look for Allies Before Attacking a Market. Don't Forget That Your Customers Have Customers. Leverage Your Brand and Stick to Your Core Competencies. Be Careful Who You Set Your Sights On. Know the Difference Between End Users and Decision Makers. The View from 30,000 Feet. A Few Hard Questions.


20. Step Out of the Shadows and into Their Shoes The Power of Listening.

Why Listen? Isn't the Answer Already Obvious? The User Dialogue Establishes the Foundation for Your Site. Checking the Oil: Creating an Ongoing Dialogue. You Can't Test in a Vacuum New Features Versus the Whole Site. No Matter How Sophisticated Your Site, Don't Underestimate the Role of the Offline World.

21. Just When You Think You Know Everything, It Changes.

Adoption Patterns Do Not Remain Consistent. User Needs Grow, and Sites Grow with Them. The Role of a Function Can Shift and Mature. Morphing: First Web Sites, Then Complementary Technologies. Parting Words in the Form of a Reminder.

Appendix. A Crash Course in Web Development Research.

Which Method Do I Use? Focus Groups: What They Are and What They Do. User Experience Research: What It Is and How You Do It.



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