Battletech Live

Online, Turn-Based Battletech – Development Logs

Positive and Negative Site Design

A while back, I came across an article that talked about various web design methods and how certain practices should be avoided, and with the modern state of the Internet, some things work better than others.

  • Visitors should not be made to wait.  There is nothing wrong with a website being robust and informative, but the content should be scaled in such a way that the visitor can begin interacting as quickly as possible.  Conventionally-built websites are often divided into multiple pages so that the site can be loaded in segments.  If a user doesn’t have an interest in a particular page of the site, don’t make the visitors wait for it to load.
  • Site navigation should be intuitive.  If menus are used, the tree depth should be as shallow as possible and labels should match the content to which they lead.  Opening a menu should never obscure content elsewhere on the page.
  • Websites should not require complicated installers in order to function.  While some sites rely on technologies such as SilverLight or Flash, but once these services are present on a computer, the website should just work.  Visitors should not be required to download and install new updates in order to activate new features.
  • Eliminate browser navigation.  Visitors should not need to use the back, forward, or refresh buttons, ever.  New content should be delivered automatically and invisibly.
  • Save, Update and Apply buttons suck.  When a visitor adjusts preferences, settings should take effect immediately.  There’s no sense in making a visitor click an extra button for changes to take effect.  Changes should take place at the moment they’re selected, or in such a way that the changes are invisible to the visitor.
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Email Inbox

In Operating Systems as well as websites, I really dislike configuration panels that appear over the content of the page and require me to click a separate button to close them.  Although some configuration panels are necessary, they need to be as unobtrusive as possible.

The application is set up so that every five minutes, it checks for new mail.  Even if the email panel is not visible, the application will notify the user of new messages.  It contacts the server, checks for any message addressed to the user as well as any message from the user so that it can populate all incoming and outgoing boxes.  Messages are segmented by folder type such as Inbox, outbox and others.  From that point, they’re sorted by age so that when the user clicks on the Inbox, they have a selection for messages received today, yesterday, this week, last week, this month and older.  The next time it checks for new messages, it sends a list of the message IDs and the folder in which they reside so that it can compare with the server.  If nothing changed, no new messages are retrieved.  Only when there’s a difference, does it retrieve changed and new messages.  It then replaces the existing changed messages so that everything stays in sync.  When a message is deleted, it gets sent to deleted items as a system should but when the deleted items is cleared, the messages get sent to a special table type that holds onto them until the next mail synchronization.  At that point, they’re flagged on the server as trashed and no longer get updated to the host computer.

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Email Preference Pane

Buttons along the top of the page provide for compose, reply, forward, delete as well as others, which enable the appropriate options.  Clicking on Preferences or Help, narrow the width of the reading pane and fade in the selected panel to the right.  In Preferences, for instance, the user has the ability to enable POP mail, forwarding email to the configured email address.  The user must then add the users from which they wish to allow forwarding, or select an option of allow all.  Another available option is to flag certain users as spammers, automatically sending messages from those people to the junk mail folder.  Mail filters will be put in place that will allow users to send messages with certain keywords to folders they specify.  When each selection is made, the changes take effect immediately and they can leave the preferences pane open in order to monitor the effects.  When they’re satisfied that everything is working, they simply click the same button used to open the panel and it closes, returning the reading panel to full width.

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February 27, 2009 - Posted by | Project Development

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