I’ve always been somewhat interested in usability. I took a couple of courses at the university and I’ve read a few books on the subject. Even my graduation paper touched usability issues. The paper was not my proudest moment, though. Interesting fact in life: Other things than my grades have landed me jobs.
But I digress, let’s get back on track. What is usability anyway? Google has a lot of suggestions, but in the context of web sites and the interweb I like this one:
The degree to which a software application or a website is easy to use with no specific training.
Short and sweet. My web site designs have always been plain and minimalistic and I like to think that it’s because of the little I know of usability that makes me embrace KISS. No, not the band, rather Keep It Simple, Stupid. Another possible reason is that I know nothing of web design whatsoever. Lately I’ve been working on somewhat subtle changes to the way links are displayed on this site. For instance, I’ve never before cared about make visited links stand out, or rather fade away. But when you think about it, they are not that important anymore because you’ve already visited whatever site they link to. If there’s a lot of links on a page, it would be interesting to be able to visually remove the links that you’ve already visited. So now, visited links will be greyed out and there will also be a little “check”-sign appended to the link if you’ve got a browser with good CSS support. Come on, click a link and give it a try. But please come back soon, because there’s more to read below.
Some internet users, in particular so-called “power users” tend to be a little paranoid about their surfing. Because of that, it’s very interesting for some people if a link will take them to a new site, or if the link is to another page on the same site. To visually show that a link points to a new site, there’s now a tiny icon appended to each external link. Unfortunately, you’ll not see it in old browsers and I was not able to tag every link in the archive easily so only links in new entries will be marked. Also, I should probably get a better icon, but it’ll do for now.