Critique35

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foodtrader.org by Ryan Buehl

The Eight Golden Rules of interface design can easily be applied to any human-computer interface, including a web site.

Contents

Consistent Interface and Reduction of Short Term Memory Load

The web site foodtrader.org is a good example of the Eight Golden Rules of interface design. Perhaps the most important of the rules, the first Golden Rule states that an interface should be consistent. This site employs the common practice of surrounding the main page content with a header, footer, and side bar that remain almost completely the same throughout all pages on the site. This feature also reduces short term memory load by shifting focus to just the content area. Use of a pleasant and consistent color scheme is also welcomed, as it does not distract the user and defines spaces. With possible exception of user-generated content, the site contains clear and simple dialog that is professional.

Informative Feedback and Closure Through Dialog

The only notable change in the interface occurs when a user logs in, the result of which is a small indicator that shows the user name and removes the login window. This feedback is also an implementation of two other rules, giving the user feedback and offering the user closure through dialog. It should also be noted that login is secured via both encryption and masking of the password as it is entered.

Cater to Universal Usability

The site also makes use of a limited set of shortcuts designed to give the advanced user more effective control of the content. A beginner user is easily assisted by helpful categorical links on the left sidebar, while a user familiar with the site may choose to go directly to new listings from the front page.

Internal Locus of Control

The foodtrader.org website also caters to users by requiring all tasks to be initiated by the user. The only instance found where the site seemed to prevent the user from directly executing a task is when trying to post a listing while not logged in. Even in this situation, the resultant page clearly explains to the user what happened and provides a dialog to clearly and simply correct the situation.

Prevent Errors and Easy Reversal of Errors

The site’s only significant shortcoming is in handling errors. Although helpful error feedback is given during account creation, feedback is very basic for 404 (page not found) errors. A completely novice user would not necessarily find it easy to find their way back to the main site, as there are no navigational aids present on the error page. Like most errors, however, the browser’s “back” button is the best and simplest way to undo any undesired action, with the understandable exception of account creation.

Conclusion

Overall, foodtrader.org follows the Eight Golden Rules of design interface very well. Of particular merit is the consistency of design, simple color scheme, and the ease with which beginners and advanced users can use the site. The site does need improvement in terms of error handling, specifically 404 errors. User-generated content can be difficult to read and understand, but there are no practical ways to resolve this issue.