Use Case Design for Websites Part 1 - Usability Design and Web Site Layout
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One of the most basic and probably most important aspects of a website is its visual layout on the screen. How links are arranged, where major section links are placed, and how this layout flows across the screen and between pages can be the single largest factor in deciding whether a site is simple to use or difficult to use. This design also implies much about the page-hierarchy of a website, making it extra-important to set out clearly from the very start. Since layout defines so much about how the rest of the site is organized, it is the first area to pay close attention to use-cases when designing.
When sketching out the major design decisions for a specific website, arrange them as hierarchically as possible. Specifically, arrange each of your use-cases by how they may or may not depend on other use-cases. Once you have clearly defined any dependencies among use cases, lock all of those dependencies as specific groups. From this point, logically arrange these groups of use-cases in terms of how close each one is related to others in terms of the type of task (for instance, browsing products, buying products, contacting a company for support, checking status of orders, and so forth). These groups should suggest some sort of logical organization for the major layout items. You can then take these groups of major use-case paths and give titles to them and make these the headings for a top-level menu bar.
Following this out logically, each use-case chain within a main grouping can become the title for sub-menu items. This process aims to keep the menu/link hierarchy as flat as possible while still implying an organization structure. One of the biggest complaints against highly organized websites regards the number of clicks or pages a user must pass through to reach a true action. Use-case design keeps these true action-invoking pages as close to the top of a link hierarchy as possible.
This design methodology also prevents the mismatch of the page’s functions with their actual placement in a link hierarchy. For instance, it prevents a designer or programmer from placing a fairly trivial action page link in a top or high-level link menu, and prevents very wide ranging menus from appearing deep within the page hierarchy. These two problems account for a great deal of confusion among the end-users of Web applications. By performing this type of usability analysis before coding, many of these problems can be avoided in the site’s visual design and page-hierarchy, contributing to a site’s overall ease of use.
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