Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Comber, T 1995, 'Building usable web pages: an HCI perspective', in A Ellis & R Debreceny (eds), AusWeb95, innovation and diversity : the World Wide Web in Australia, proceedings of AusWeb95, the first Australian World Wide Web Conference, Ballina, NSW, Norsearch Ltd, Lismore, NSW, pp. 119-124.


New web pages are being added to the World Wide Web at a rapid rate. Consulting a list of new web pages such as Yahoo! on any day will show growth rates of up to hundreds of new pages a day. Most web page authors are experienced progammers or know how to program, [Second WWW User Survey] and yet many web pages present usability problems despite the number of guides to writing html. Each of these guides refers to some aspects of usability such as suggestions to date pages and place the author's name on the page but the articles mostly concentrate on the mechanics of marking-up documents. It is important to remember that "...there is a limit to how well users can adapt to a poorly designed interface" (Smith & Mosier 1986). This paper offers specific guidelines to writing usable web pages by concentrating on those aspects of web page design that affect usability: learnability, efficiency, memorability, errors and satisfaction (Nielsen 1993, Lindgaard 1994). Guidelines are presented under the headings of information content, visual appearance, navigation and testing and a brief summary is given. References are made to HCI research where applicable.

A number of potential research questions are indicated: What are the time limits before a reader will cancel a download? Do users need verbal as well as visual cues to follow links? What is the best way to provide navigation aids within a web system? What are the best means for indicating the authority of the document? How should icons be laid out? A web page is defined as the information retrieved by invoking a single URL and is often referred to as a document. I prefer to call it a web page so as to highlight that a document published on the web is not the same as a paper document. A web system is defined as a collection of web pages that is controlled by one person or corporate identity.