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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Usability Check: Browse in a Foreign Language

Web design is all around you if you are online a large part of the day. What becomes hard after a while is understanding web usability, because you are so used to finding your way around anyway. Or rather, it becomes hard to trust your understanding of usability. Surely, you know enough about web design that you can bend the rules (say, take away underlines from links, or use a low contrast layout) – and to possibly even break some of them.

One way to clarify to yourself what usability means is browsing sites in languages you do not understand. This way, you suddenly pay much more attention to issues such as link colors, headlines, bullets, and other tools which enable web authors to express their page structure.

How important is it when a link is not blue or underlined? How much are you confusing advertisement and content? Can you navigate back to the homepage?

If you do not understand Chinese, is a good start as any. Try to navigate around the site. Try to find a feedback form. Related links. Try to get around ads. Search the site. Explore it, but pretend you’re on a mission. Fight pop-up windows. Do not click on the same article twice. In short, make the site work for you – with no way to cheat, relying on good-old usability techniques alone.

Can you do it? If not, what does the site lack? Does this say something about your own site? Give the AltaVista Babelfish a try as well, and let it translate your site into Chinese (or if you understand Chinese, another language which you do not understand). How easy did you make it for others than yourself?

Give and Get Gmail Invitations

A straight-forward way to give out your Gmail invitations, and get invited, is the Gmail Invite Spooler.


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