Usability Institue Logo- A bolt that can be fastened with any of 4 tools
Usability Consulting, Specializing in Schools and Non-Profits
Reducing Training to Its Sensible Minimum: Zero
Home Page- List of All Content Home Page- All content, in date order Resources: page describing tools you can use Morsels: just our short articles and blurbs Just our Before&After Articles Just our Before&After Articles About: details on who I am and what I do Address, phone, number,  and so on
Contact me for a FREE usability review! See a Sample

Website Review of http ... Is Flashy Friendly?

This is a very modern, personal site of and by a web expert. Does that mean it stands up well against my usability criteria? Read on and see. (It's a simple site so not all of my criteria apply.)

Congratulations! This is a free usability review from "Usability" refers to how easy and effective it is to use a Web site. Although it involves how a site looks (graphic artwork), it is primarily concerned with how a site works, what you click on, what happens, and whether the site does its job.

  • Perhaps this review is all you need to improve your site. If that's the case, great. Please mention if you talk with others who need help with their site.

The following three sections provide a general analysis of your website from a relatively quick review. Although Web design is still perceived as a highly creative endeavor, there are many aspects of it that call for standardization and compliance with widely established conventions. Implementing even a few of the ideas below can really improve a site.


  Part 1: Content Basics
    This first section is intended for typical public web sites (for products and corporate information), but also applies for the most part to intranets and software applications that run in a browser. We've been advocating many of these ideas—in the context of general software—since our 1997 book, Computers Stink, but they've been beautifully enumerated for WWW purposes in Steve Krug's book, "Don't Make Me Think."
      Click for explanation State of the Art, a Model for OthersGreat Work!Does the JobI Can HelpUndetermined/Not ExactlyNot Applicable
Hover for explanation
  1. Logo in top left, linked to home I Can Help It's linked, but to a page that I don't consider the home. In fact, on further inspection I couldn't figure out what page it was. In other words, no other navigational link got me to that page.
  2. Tagline Not Applicable This is a tough one for personal pages, since it's a "selling" line and one might not be selling anything.
  3. Welcome blurb I Can Help Yes, but it's on the About page.
  4. Plain wording Does the Job  
  5. No 'happy talk' Does the Job  
  6. Concise wording Does the Job  
  7. Visited pages are distinguished by link color-coding Not Applicable It appears to be a one-level, six-page site so it's not a factor.
  8. "Utilities" are easy to find Does the Job Yes, but trivial... Contact page.
  9. Search on all pages, with box and button Not Applicable No.
  10. "You Are Here" indicator Does the Job  
  11. Breadcrumbs' as links Not Applicable No. (Then later, spotted them on just one area.)



Students and Professional Developers:
Designing a serious software application in a browser? Don't spend time and money designing the look and styles... there's more than you think involved! Instead, use GenericUI, shareware CSS and artwork that's free for non-commercial use and indefinite trial use.

Part 2: Visual Design: Fonts, Colors, Layout, Basic Interaction Design, and Accessibility
As we read in a graphic artist's ad, "Technology makes it work but art makes it sell," and you should take heed. We're not graphic artists here at Uinst, but we know good art when we see it and the common denominators that separate good pages from bad are clear. Look at the top sites and you'll see they spell out the following criteria.
  Click for explanation State of the Art, a Model for OthersGreat Work!Does the JobI Can HelpUndetermined/Not ExactlyNot Applicable
Hover for explanation

Sans-serif fonts

Does the Job  

Appropriate background color

Does the Job  
Appropriate color hues State of the Art, a Model for Others Yes, compelling art in general.
Visual representation of the information hierarchy Great Work!  
Conservative quantity of colors State of the Art, a Model for Others Not just conservative, but creates a strong, lasting impression through continuous theme and sophisticated graphic treatment.
Text sizes are "relative" I Can Help Not a big deal for me, since my eyes are still good. Does that mean it's not a big deal to the rich, poor-sighted CEO who's surfing for a designer? You decide, Amit.
Anti-aliased graphics Great Work!  
Graphics' file size doesn't slow navigation Great Work!  
"Alt tags" used well Undetermined/Not Exactly Some yes, some no. Not sure it's a significant issue.
Links don't just say "Click Here" Does the Job Yes.
A style sheet (CSS) is used Does the Job  


Do your hands ache after a day at the keyboard??? This review sponsored by...


Part 3: Genuine Value: Useful Content & Critical Interaction Design

And now for the hard part. If all of good Web design were as clear-cut as parts 1 & 2, above, you wouldn't need much judgment and there would be a lot more good sites. But the easier the decisions are, the less significant the thinking and effort behind them... and the easier it would be to provide useful content. This section is where you make or break your rapport with the visitor. If you provide real value and give folks enough tools to get to it, they will push past the basic omissions and ignore even the most amateurish art.
  Click for explanation State of the Art, a Model for OthersGreat Work!Does the JobI Can HelpUndetermined/Not ExactlyNot Applicable
Hover for explanation
1. Questions are answered Does the Job  
2. Search results get the job done Not Applicable  
3. Effective 'click tree' Does the Job  
4. Conceptual flow from upper left to lower right Does the Job  
5. Simple, outline-like site map Not Applicable  
6. Primary navigation is obvious Great Work!  
7. Secondary navigation is obvious Not Applicable  
8. Contact information easily accessible Does the Job  
9. Links are clear I Can Help Yes. The body (inline?) links don't pop out at the visitor, having the same text color and only a slighlty darker blue background. This one is fairly significant.
10. Intro panel or animation not excessive Does the Job  
11. Graphics used only for core message Great Work! Yes. Great examples of work.


Summation & Next Steps

Overall Rating: Strives / Survives / Great Work! Thrives

Overall, a high quality user experience needing only minor fixes. Remember this is a superficial review, so for fundamentally sound sites, it tends to be a little forgiving since I don't dig very deeply into genuine user experiences.


  1. Establish what the real home page is and link it to the logo.
  2. If work is being solicited, say so on the home page in the welcome blurb. The credentials are clear, from the site itself.
  3. Make the links stand out more (light blue/gray text?). Personally, I'm not a fan of using the background color as a differentiator. From a graphics perspective I don't like the blockiness of the rectangle highlight.
  4. I don't have a checklist item for "Doesn't change scroll bar colors," but if I did it would be a negative item on this site. Inside the Contacts page, one uses the default and another doesn't. The colors are decent (see Links page) but on Designblog, its on the whole page and you start to see my objection. The scroll bar is just too much of a "primitive" to 'fiddle with.' I recommend not changing it at all.

Hope this helps and let me know what you think,
Jack Bellis,


"My interest in usability arose from the pain and tears of patching the wounds of suffering interface designs with the inadequate bandages of help files and user guides." — Daniel Cohen
Contact me for a FREE usability review!

© 2002,   All Rights Reserved
Any and all content may be reused without prior consent if you simply acknowledge the source,