UIEtips Article: Five Usability Challenges of Web-Based Applications

Jared Spool

November 7th, 2006

UIEtips 11/7/06: Five Usability Challenges of Web-Based Applications

For years, we’ve been touring the world talking about designing web sites. At every presentation we’ve given, someone approaches us and asks the tough question: “Does this apply to web-based applications?”

It’s a tough question because the answer is Yes and it is No. Yes, good design practice is good design practice and it applies no matter what you’re designing. You need to know who your users are, what they are trying to do, and how they expect to do it. You need to watch the users work with the designs you create, so you can learn where the
designs are working for them and where they are failing.

But, No. Designing for web apps is a different type of animal. It lives in a browser, it has complicated activities and edge conditions, and little things can have big implications, especially when they go awry. You need to know different things when designing for web apps than when designing for any other type of interaction.

Then again, that’s what makes design fun. Understanding the problem and fitting them into the constraints is the fun part of design.

In today’s UIEtips, I talk about five usability challenges that web-app designers face. While these are not unique to web apps, designers will find themselves dealing with problems and constraints they’ll rarely see other places.

Read today’s UIEtips article.

What challenges have you faced when developing web-based applications? How have you overcome these? We’d love to know. Share your thoughts with us and join the conversation in the comments below.

[Overcoming the challenges of web-based applications is exactly why we’ve put together the UIE Web App Summit, in Monterey, CA on January 21-23, 2007. We’ve assembled an amazing team of speakers, all of whom have overcome some significant challenges in some very creative ways. You don’t want to miss out. See the summit website for more details.]

2 Responses to “UIEtips Article: Five Usability Challenges of Web-Based Applications”

  1. shankar Says:

    Regarding introducing new features, Yahoo introduced a new yahoo mail beta that is not supporting my browser, which I found out after I chose to sign up for the beta. Now every time I log in it says my browser is not supported and asks me to upgrade it. This is a nuissance, they should have some link or button to make this nuissance message disappear and take me to the old yahoo mail.

  2. Andreas Says:

    The biggest challenge is to design a visual layer upon a pre-established grid thought by the developers. They just sometimes seem to have a weird mind which is unable to grasp the importance of order, hierarchy and detail – that which makes up application interface design.


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